Social media news and information


Social media news and information

Course description

Journalists no longer have the monopoly on journalistic acts. The digital revolution is having a profound impact on the way news stories are researched, reported, edited and distributed. As people turn to social media as a place to share ideas and connect to others, there has been great excitement but also skepticism about the role of these platforms in democratizing information and allowing for more participatory news making. From second screening to trending topics to fake news, the social media universe has deeply permeated our personal and political lives in 2016.    

I want you to be at the center of these conversations as you progress in your academic and professional careers.

This course is at the intersection between journalism, social media and politics. It aims to provide you with a firm theoretical foundation in the current journalism scholarship, while imparting how these theories relate to online networking.

Course objectives:

Survey theory and research on journalism as a profession

Recognize the ways communicators are able to inform and engage the public via social media

Identify the challenges brought by each unique social media platform

Reflect on current conversations around issues of verification, misinformation, privacy and inequality

Learn how to control and strategically plan your own identity on social media



Carlson, M., & Lewis, S. C. (Eds.). (2015). Boundaries of journalism: Professionalism, practices and participation. New York, NY: Routledge.   (Available as e-book at MSU library)

Papacharissi, Z. (2015). Affective publics: Sentiment, technology, and politics. Oxford University Press. 

Office hours

Wednesdays from 10:00 - noon 

Thursdays from 12:30 - 2:30 p.m.

Or by appointment:  (CAS 340)




Participation (30%)

Online ethnography (30%)

Final paper (40%)

Stories are graded in a 100% scale:

4.0 (93%+)

3.5 (87-92%)

3.0 (80-86%)

2.5 (77-79%)

2.0 (70-76%)

1.5 (67-69%)

1.0 (60-66%) 

0 (below 60%)


This is a graduate-level course and your work must be your own. It must be original or properly attributed. Work that is fabricate or plagiarized will receive a zero and will result in an Academic Dishonesty Report about this with the Dean’s Office. I may check assignments by using TurnItIn software.

You can review the School of Journalism’s Code of Ethics here.


This syllabus is subject to change. Last updated: 01/03/2017.




Participation (30%)

I am conscious of myself and become myself only while revealing myself for another, through another, and with the help of another. The most important acts constituting self-consciousness are determined by a relationship toward another consciousness.
— Mikhail Bakhtin, Theory of Socialization

This is a social media course and online and in-person participation are as important as your papers. The class is based on active and reflective discussions and I am committed to what you bring to this course. I expect you to come on time and participate fully.

Each class will be divided into three segments:

First, I will shortly introduce the topics and key arguments of our readings. For this segment, I ask you not to disrupt class with cell phones, social media browsing (the irony!) or side conversations.

Each week, one student will lead the online discussions about our readings on Facebook. By Wednesday, you will share your contributions with others online and we will use this discussion to guide the segment of our meeting time. 

After a short break, we will use the final segment of the class to conduct a lab exercise based on the readings. The lab exercises will be part of your participation grade.

I value the diversity that each person brings to MSU. If your religious holidays require new arrangements for classes or homework, please tell me in advance. If you have a Verified Individual Services Accommodation form, you are welcome to share that with me at least two weeks before the date of the test or project that concerns you. If there is anything I can do to teach better, please tell me.

Midterm assignment: Online ethnography (30%)

In this assignment, adapted from Dr. Serena Carpenter's class, you will choose an online community to observe and participate for at least four weeks. It can be an online game, a Reddit forum, a Facebook group, or transmedia franchises (e.g. Star Wars, Game of Thrones), just to cite a few.

You will pitch your community on the second week of classes and write weekly reports during the first month of the semester. You can either participate meaningfully (participant observation) or be an objective observer (ethnography). You will write down, record and illustrate your key findings. 

When you begin your search, focus on these questions

  • Does this group maintain an active (i.e. multiple times per day) communication source?
  • Do I know enough about this world to be interested in checking in on it daily, but not so much that I can understand all the things they’re saying already?
  • Given the ways I have to access this community (smartphone, computer peripherals, access to the web), can I reasonably expect to be able to follow everything they do all day long, day after day, for weeks at a time?
  • In order to learn to participate in this space, am I going to be able to be myself, or will I need to take on a false identity? (Hint: it’s much easier to be yourself.) 

Searching tips

  • When you arrive at a site, immediately look for links to things like “community,” “forums,” or “boards.” Scan through and check dates to make sure the community is active: look for number of posts per member, number of members per sub-forum, etc. You’ll want to make sure that people are there throughout the day, talking about current news items, events, topics, etc.
  • Don’t just search for “cosplay”: search for the name of a particular character like “sendou akira” and add “cosplay” to that. Don’t just search for “star trek fans,” but search for “star trek tv show,” or even better, “star trek 60s TV show fans.”
  • Try to ignore the aesthetics of the sites–often these spaces have been around for a very long time and updating them is a nuisance for users.

Two components: 

- Weekly observations (10%): Notes should be posted on Google Document

- Final report + presentation (20%): 4 pages


  • Summary of site: audience, functions, attributes of the community
  • Communication behaviors and interactions: routines, hierarchies
  • How does the community relate to our class readings
  • Use of this knowledge for your profession or research topics
  • Application to your life personally
  • Examples

essay, literature review or pilot study (40%)

Your final project brings together what you have learned from readings and discussions during this course.

It can take one of these three forms:

a) Future of journalism: predictions for 2018

This paper should be an essay on your predictions for the future of journalism. This is not merely an opinion piece, but it should be grounded in the readings from this course and other sources. It should focus on what do you think will be the next trends in the profession and why

b) Literature review

The second option is a comprehensive overview of the literature on a topic related to the course. This review should not be a simple annotation of references, but instead a focused effort to be used in a research project later. It should flow into developed research questions or set of hypotheses. 

c) Pilot study

The third option is to conduct a pilot study on a phenomenon of your choice. This could be a preliminary content analysis, qualitative textual analysis, focus groups, in-depth interviews, etc. It should have a small introduction, short literature review, research question and preliminary findings. This would serve as the basis of a research project you wish to pursue in the future. 


The paper should be 8-12 double-spaced pages due April 20. I will give you feedback on the paper and the opportunity to do a rewrite (under some specific conditions) due the day of the final. The paper should have a 100-word abstract and consistently use APA style for citations. Papers not submitted on time will result in a 0. 

Midterm and  projects should be posted on Google Drive. 



Jan. 12 

Week 1 – What was the first thing you did this morning? Social media, news and our everyday life  


Answer our class survey
Create Google Drive
Join our Facebook group
What do social networks know about me?
Facebook      Twitter


Online ethnography pitch




Self-presentation on social media




Detective work: Find a story that looks “suspicious” on your social media feed and do some detective work. Is it “fake news”?

a)    Why?, b)    What were the motivations behind it?, and c)  Why do you think your friend shared it?


Develop a fake news story










Plan your personal strategy



Boston bombing exercise

Mid-semester evaluation


Week 8 - Reporting: curation and verification


Verification handbook (Chapters 2, 3, 4 and 5)

Curation Is the Key to Bringing Social Media and Journalism Together

A New Dawn in Social Newsgathering – Alaistair Reid

March 9: Spring Break

March 16

Week 9  - The end of mass communication? Audiences, personalization and participation



Online ethnography presentations





Online ethnography presentations




Self-reflection and how to make online discussions productive

Final project pitches


Lab: Final project individual help



April 6

Week 12 – Dealing with emotions on social media

Papacharissi, Z. (2015). Affective publics: Sentiment, technology, and politics. Oxford University Press. Prelude and chapters 1, 4 and 5.

Anxious Politics: A Conversation with Shana Kushner Gadarian (Podcast) 

April 13

Week 13  – Will the revolution be tweeted? Digital activism on social media

Lab: final project individual help

Gladwell, M. (2010, October 4). Small change: Why the revolution will not be tweetedThe New Yorker; Graham-Felson. (2010, October). 

Beyond the hashtag (Deen Freelon, Charlton D. McIlwain, and Meredith D. Clark) Pages 1-14 and 74-84. 


April 20

Week 14 – The future of journalism

Final paper presentations