NAM-III/VI Media, Information and Democracy 5 ECTS
Period I Period II Period II Period IV
Language of instruction
Type or level of studies
Basic studies
Course unit descriptions in the curriculum
North American Studies
Faculty of Social Sciences

Learning outcomes

The students will familiarize themselves with similarities and differences between the North American and Nordic legal and political systems.

General description

Information plays a crucial role in creating the grounds for and later maintaining the very possibility for democracy. Many credit the information gained through social media for the pro-democracy movements in the Arab Spring. In more mature democracies, information about candidates allows us to make political choices; information about representatives allows us to monitor their behavior. Information about policy alternatives helps us to distinguish among them. All of these can affect our voting behavior. Portrayed in this manner, media is clearly an essential source of information. However, media comes in all varieties and in very different qualities. There have also been recent attacks on the media, and on journalists, in dictatorships and in democracies. This course explores the role of information in democracy in general, how the quality of the media can affect this information, and what types of rules, systems, etc can affect media quality. Much of the material will focus on media in the United States, but the ideas extend to all countries.

Class meetings: The class will meet once a week. Students should complete the reading assigned in the syllabus and the homework before each meeting. Each class period will be devoted to a discussion of the main ideas encountered in the reading and students are expected to fully participate in the discussions.

Missed Classes: I count participation in each class towards the total participation grade. Everyone can miss one class without a problem. Any additional missed classes can be made up by writing a 1 page summary of the readings for that day.

SYLLABUS (subject to revision)

Week 1 (8 Jan) Course Introduction: Media, Information and Democracy

Week 2 (15 Jan) Media Ownership: Constraints, Goals and Needs

Week 3 (22 Jan) How Americans Consume News

Week 4 (29 Jan) Media Bias

Week 5 (5 Feb) Media Effect on War and Elections

Week 6 (12 Feb) Pundits, Humor and News

Week 7 (19 Feb) The Internet and Social Media

26 February – No class

Week 8 (5 March) Information Rights versus Security Concerns - Wikileaks

Week 9 (12 March) Fake News

Week 10 (19 March) New Media as a Force of Change

Week 11 (26 March) Paper presentations

Week 12 (2 April) Paper presentations Final Paper Due

Enrolment for University Studies

Enrolment time has expired


Katri Sieberg, Teacher responsible

Homepage URL


8-Jan-2019 – 2-Apr-2019
Tue 8-Jan-2019 at 10-12, Pinni B4115, No teaching 26 February

Evaluation criteria

Term Papers: 2 term papers will be assigned – one critical review and a final paper. Both will incorporate the concepts studied in the class. Think of each paper as an exam – I do. Make sure that you use them to show what you have learned from the readings and lectures. The final paper is due on the last day of class. Papers may be turned in late, but for each week that the paper is late, 10 points will be subtracted from the final grade.

Grades: Grades will be weighted in the following manner: Participation 30%, 1st paper 30%, Final paper 40%.

Study materials

Assigned reading: The readings will be available on Moodle, JSTOR ( or online. Students should read a broad spectrum of news sources in the US, including The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and local papers. Students should also watch news broadcasts from the US: CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC, Fox News, The Daily Show and the Seth Meyers.