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Journalism 468M Syllabus

The American Press and Issues of Sexual Diversity (J-468M)
(Fall 2003)

Laura Castañeda

Work: 213-821-0762
Home: 323-571-0673
(no calls after 10 p.m. unless it’s an emergency)
Fax: 775-248-7084
Cell: 323-445-7012
E-mail: lcastane@usc.edu or laura@castaneda.net

  Time: Wed 2 p.m. to 5:20 p.m.
Place: ASC 204
Office Hours: Mon., 2-5 p.m., Wed 1-2 p.m., by appointment, in ASC 121-D


The movement for gay rights is one of the most hotly contested issues of the last 30 years. The 1990s saw an explosion of news coverage, talk show discussion and rhetorical controversy over sexual orientation and its social, religious, political and ethical impact. What is the prospect for the new millennium? 

This course will examine the ways in which news (and other) media treat these issues and how that treatment influences public perceptions. It will provide historical and contemporary context through the lens of journalism, while preparing students to evaluate intelligently and dispassionately the issues regardless of what profession they ultimately choose.

The course aims to stimulate critical thinking about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender or intersex issues in the framework of American culture, ethics and public interest. Through lecture, interactive discussion, guest speakers, readings and multimedia it will tackle stereotypes, arming students to wade through claims, charges and rhetoric toward a professional journalistic evaluation of the facts.

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You are required to complete all of the readings from the texts or those that are placed on reserve. Class participation will count as part of the final grade; specifically, preparation, participation in class discussions, questioning of guest lecturers and panels. I place a high value on listening to students’ opinions regardless of what these opinions might be. Learning is a collaborative and social experience, and students learn from each other. Therefore you owe it to your classmates to come and make your contribution to their learning. I hope you are prepared to be challenged and to challenge the readings. I do not personally endorse every reading I have assigned. The views you read are those of the authors.

You will be required to write four papers during the semester. The first three will be between 800 and 1,000 words in length, and focus on media coverage of an issue pertinent to the time period we have covered in class. The final paper, which must be 1,500 words in length, can be on a topic of your choice.

You will be asked to review the role of the media, and how it covered an event by reading, listening or viewing first-hand accounts. Combining those first-hand accounts with readings, class discussions and documentaries viewed in class, you will write your papers. These papers are expected to reflect sophisticated thought and analysis. As you write your papers you should ask: Was it accurate? Was it fair? Why? Why not? Did the country’s sensibilities at the time affect coverage? You will ask these, among other questions, as you read original reportage from previous decades.              

USC libraries have on microfilm copies of the Los Angeles Times beginning in 1881, and for The New York Times going back to 1857. The Washington Post is available starting in 1959, and Time magazine is available beginning in 1923.The One Institute also has old copies of gay and lesbian newspapers, or can help you track them down.

In addition, the Leavy Library has a document known as the Readers Guide to Periodical List. These books – known for their green binding and jackets – list every article every written on a particular subject or news event and the publication in which it appeared and the date it appeared. These documents are available in the Leavy Library’s lower commons area. Please ask the person manning the reference desk for their location.  If you require assistance from a reference librarian, you may contact Kendra Van Cleave, at (213) 740-2334 (X02334 on campus) or e-mail Ms. Van Cleave at kendrav@usc.edu. She has graciously offered to help any student from this class who needs help navigating the USC library system.

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  • "Up from Invisibility: Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Media in America,” by Larry Gross, Columbia University Press, 2001. 


  • "Becoming Visible: A Reader in Gay and Lesbian History for High School and College Students,” Edited by Kevin Jennings, Alyson Publications, 1994.

  • Course reader for "The American Press and Issues of Sexual Diversity." Available in the USC Bookstore.

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Regular scrutiny of local and national print media, online, broadcast news, and other forms of entertainment will be expected, for purposes of analysis and comparison among different publications or programs.

Extra articles will be distributed to students in class or via e-mail. Some required and recommended readings also will be placed on reserve in the Annenberg Resource Center.

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Documentaries, sit-coms or feature films (or parts of them) will be viewed in-class.

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Your grade will be determined as follows:

  Paper #1 (800-1000 words)   15 %
  Paper #2 (800-1000 words)   15 %
  Paper #3 (800-1000 words)   15%
Paper #4 (topic of your choice, brief in-class presentation) 25%
Periodic Quizzes on News, Readings 15%
  Class Participation   15%

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There are several Web sites that can help you as you begin researching and writing your final project. They are: Sexual Orientation in the News, especially the “Live Issues” section, at www.usc.edu/schools/annenberg/asc/projects/soin/  ; PBS “Resources” at www.pbs.org/outofthepast/past.html; the ONE Institute & Archives near USC at www.oneinstitute.org; the Society of American Archivists' Lesbian and Gay Archives Roundtable at www.archivists.org/saagroups/lagar/index.htm, the Intersex Society of North America at www.isna.org, and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s Center for the Study of Media and Society at www.glaad.org. In addition, you may want to subscribe to an e-mail listserve that will send you articles about gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered or intersex individuals and issues from around the world. You can subscribe by sending a message to Fenceberry@aol.com.

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Attendance is required for all classes, and roll will be taken at the beginning of each class meeting. Missed classes due to work, travel, job interviews, car troubles, etc., will not be tolerated. If you  expect to miss class due to a family emergency, a medical problem, or a religious holiday, you will only be excused if you contact me beforehand (either send me an e-mail or give me a call). You must also bring a note from your doctor if you miss class due to a medical emergency. Tardiness is unacceptable, even during class breaks. If you expect to be more than 15 minutes late to class, don’t bother coming. More than three unexcused absences will result in failure of this course.

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Late assignments will not be accepted. You must turn in assignments on the day they are due even if you know you will miss class and have contacted me beforehand. You can either give it to another student to hand in for you, leave it in my mailbox with a time stamp from Student Services, or send it to me via e-mail attachment. They must arrive by the beginning of that day’s class session, which is 2 p.m. Wednesday.  

If you miss class, it is up to you to contact someone in the class (another student, not me) to find out what you’ve missed and what’s due next. The most successful students aren’t always the most talented. They tend to be the ones who can manage their time effectively. So plan ahead and work ahead.

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Plagiarism is defined as taking ideas or writings from another and passing them off as one’s own; in journalism, this includes appropriating the reporting of another without clear attribution. The following is the School of Journalism’s policy on academic integrity as published in the University catalog: “Since its founding, the USC School of Journalism has maintained a commitment to the highest standards of ethical conduct and academic excellence. Any student found guilty of plagiarism, fabrication, cheating on examinations, or purchasing papers or other assignments will receive a failing grade in the course and will be dismissed as a major from the School of Journalism. There are no exceptions to this policy.”

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Any student requesting academic accommodations based on a disability is required to register with Disability Services and Programs (DSP) each semester. A letter of verification for approved accommodations can be obtained from DSP. Please be sure the letter is delivered to me as early in the semester as possible. DSP is located in STU 301 and is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

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Students are under a lot of pressure. If you start to feel overwhelmed, contact the USC Student Counseling Services office at 213-740-7711. The free service is confidential.

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I have been a staff writer and columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle and The Dallas Morning News, and a staff writer and editor at The Associated Press in San Francisco, New York and Mexico. I have worked as a freelance journalist, and have written for The New York Times, BusinessWeek Online, Women’s Wire, Solloella.com, and Hispanic Business, Latina, Latina Style, LatinGirl, Online Journalism Review, American Journalism Review and Columbia Journalism Review magazines. I am also co-author of “The Latino Guide to Personal Money Management,” which was published by Bloomberg Press in 1999, and translated into Spanish earlier this year. I hold undergraduate degrees in journalism and international relations from USC, a master’s degree in international political economy from Columbia University, and was awarded a Knight-Bagehot Fellowship in business and economics reporting from Columbia University. In addition, I spent a year as an assistant professor of journalism at Temple University in Philadelphia during Fall 1999 and Spring 2000. I joined the USC faculty in the Fall of 2000.

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Readings are to be done prior to the class on the indicated date. The syllabus is subject to change).

WEEK ONE (Aug. 28) – Intro to Class, Review Syllabus, Watch a short video.

WEEK TWO (Sept. 3) – Historical Overview: Gay and Lesbian History from the 1880’s to Post World War II.

Images of the trial of Oscar Wilde, 1895, in the British and American press. First use of the word "homosexual." Havelock Ellis, Freud and others on homosexuality. The permissive 20s, the repressive 30s. Major changes of WWII, after World War II

Readings: Jennings, Chapters 1 (Understanding Heterosexism and Homophobia), 2 (The Greco-Roman World: Acceptance and Assimilation), 5 (Passing Women in Early Modern America), 6 (Hidden from History: Understanding the Lives of Gay and Lesbian Individuals from the Past), 7 (Karl Henrich Ulrichs and the Beginnings of Gay Consciousness), 8 (Gays and the Holocaust) and 9 (World War II and a New Minority in the United States).

“For Gays, Secrecy in Love, War,” by Patricia Ward Biederman. Los Angeles Times. April 17, 2003.  

WEEK THREE (Sept. 10) – Guest Speakers from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association national convention in Los Angeles. (To be announced).

Readings: Gross, 1 (The Mediated Society), 2 (Coming out and Coming Together), 7 (Journalism’s Closet Opens) and 8 (Breaking the Code of Silence).

Readings: “Suddenly This Summer,” by William Powers. National Journal. Aug. 8, 2003.

“Get Back: The Gather Storm Over Gay Rights,” by Richard Goldstein. The Village Voice. Aug. 6-12, 2003.

“Is the Recent Backlash Against Homosexuality Just a ‘Blip?’” By Cathy Lynn Grossman. USA Today. July 31, 2003.

GLAAD Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Media Guide.

NLGJA Stylebook: Addenda of Gay/Lesbian Terminology.  

PLEASE NOTE: Sept. 13 is the last day to drop a class without a mark of “W.”


WEEK FOUR (Sept. 17) – Historical Overview: the Stonewall Riots, Post Stonewall.

Post-war adjustment, the McCarthy 50s. Beginnings of a gay identity. Media coverage of Stonewall 1969.  Relationship of the black rights movement and its media exposure as precursor of the gay movement. New interest in gays and lesbians by media. Rise of the gay press. Gay movement owes roots to black liberation and anti-war movements.  National gay militancy, gay pride. Anita Bryant, Harvey Milk. Advent of AIDS and media reaction.

Required Readings: Jennings, Chapters 10 (McCarthyism and the Witch-Hunt Mentality), 11 (Harry Hay and the Beginnings of the Homophile Movement), 12 (Before Stonewall: Portraits of Lesbian and Gay Lives before Gay Liberation), 13 (Stonewall and the Dawning of a New Day), 14 (Changing Times, Changing Demands) and 15 (Bowers v. Hardwick and the “Right to be Let Alone.)

Gross, Chapter 3 (Stonewall and Beyond).


WEEK FIVE (Sept. 24) – AIDS through the Media Lens.

Review of press coverage, then and now. The changing story: 1980s, 1990s. Coverage after the protease cocktail. Safe Sex vs. "Sex Panic." Epidemic proportions in racial minority communities; comparing lack of coverage of HIV in gay males in 80s to that of blacks and Latinos today. AIDS coverage sources.

Required Readings: Gross, Chapter 6 (AIDS and the Media) and 9 (Hollywood Under Pressure);

Course Reader: “Straight News: Gays, Lesbians, and the News Media,” by Edward Alwood, Chapters 11 (Responding to AIDS).

Supplementary Readings on Reserve in ARC: Alwood, Chapter 12 (The Experience of AIDS).

“With Fears Fading, More Gays Spurn Old Preventative Message,” By Erica Goode. New York Times. Aug. 19, 2001.

“From Eli Lilly to Front Line in AIDS War,” by Donald G. McNeil Jr. New York Times. July 29, 2003.

“AIDS Cases Again on the Rise,” by Allison M. Heinrichs. Los Angeles Times. July 29, 2003.

“HIV Cases Rise Among U.S. Gay Men,” by Reuters. July 28, 2003.

“A Clue to Why Gays Play Russian Roulette with H.I.V.,” by Richard A. Friedman, M.D. New York Times. Sept. 24, 2002.  

WEEK SIX (Oct. 1) – AIDS and Women, Ethnic Minorities, and Around the Globe (Guest Speakers, TBA)

How has the AIDS crisis affected women, minorities in the U.S., and people in countries around the globe?

Required Readings:

Course Reader: “Double Lives on the Down Low,” by Benoit Denizet-Lewis. New York Times Sunday Magazine. Aug. 3, 2003

Required Readings on Reserve in ARC: “Epidemic Has Only Begun Spreading its Global Devastation,” by Sabin Russell, San Francisco Chronicle.

Supplementary Readings on Reserve in ARC:

 “Gay Latinos Still Live in a World of Conflict,” by Alicia Roca, The Contra Costa Times.

“The Complex War on AIDS in the Black Community,” by Vivian B. Martin. The Hartford Courant. June 14, 2001.

“AIDS Scourge in Rural China Leaves Villages of Orphans,” by Elizabeth Rosenthal. New York Times. Aug. 25, 2002.

WEEK SEVEN (Oct. 8) -- The Underreported: Transgendered Individuals, Cross-Dressers, in the U.S., around the World (Guest Speakers, TBA). 

Among the newest social movements in the United States are those of Transgendered and Cross-Dressing Individuals. How has the media covered these movements here and around the world?

Required Readings:

Course Reader:  “When Debbie Met Cristina, Who Then Became Chris,” by Sara Corbett, The New York Times Magazine. Oct. 14, 2001.

“A Question of Gender,” by Emily Nussbaum, Discover Magazine.  January 2000.

“Gender Diversity: Cross-cultural Variations,”  by Serena Nanda, Chapter 2 (Hijra and Sadhin: Neither Man nor Woman in India).

Required Readings on Reserve in ARC: “Normal: Transsexual CEOs, Crossdressing Cops, and Hermaphrodites with Attitude,” by Amy Bloom, Chapter 1 (The Body Lies: Female-to-Make Transsexuals) and Chapter 2 (Conservative Men in Conservative Dresses: Heterosexual Crossdressers).

“The M/F Boxes: Transgender Activists May Force us to Rehink Basic Assumptions About Sex,” by E.J. Graff. The Nation. Dec. 17, 2001.

“Assembly Passes Bill to Protect Transsexuals,” by Nancy Vogel. Los Angeles Times. April 22, 2003.

WEEK EIGHT (Oct. 15)– The Underreported: Intersex Individuals in the U.S., around the World (Guest Speakers, TBA)  

Intersex individuals are people who are born with both sex organs, and used to be commonly referred to as hermaphrodites. What kind of coverage, if any, do the intersex get in the U.S.?

Required Readings: Jennings, Chapter 4 (The Celebration of Difference: The Institution of Berdache Among Native Americans.).

Course Reader: “The Unkindest Cut,” by Katherine A. Mason, The Advocate Magazine. Aug. 14, 2002. 

Required Readings on Reserve in ARC:  “Normal: Transsexual CEOs, Crossdressing Cops, and Hermaphrodites with Attitude,” By Amy Bloom, Chapter 3 (Hermaphrodites with Attitude: The Intersexed).

Supplementary Readings on Reserve in ARC: “Bisexuality is the Wildcard of Our Erotic Life,” by John Leland, Newsweek magazine.

“About a Boy, Who Isn’t,” by Benoit Denizet-Lewis. New York Times Magazine. May 26, 2002.

“For These Transvestites, Still More Role Changes,” by Jane Perlez. New York Times. July 24, 2003.


WEEK NINE (Oct. 22) – Religion and Issues of Sexual Diversity (Guest Speakers, TBA)

Which religions embrace the GLBTI community, which don’t, and why? How are these stories framed in the media?

Required Readings on Reserve in ARC: “Gay Bishop Wins in Episcopal Vote: Split Threatened,” by Monica Davey. New York Times. Aug. 6, 2003.

“Episcopal Church Leaders Reject Proposal for Same-Sex Union Liturgy,” by Monica Davey. New York Times. Aug. 7, 2003.

“Debating Faith and Sexuality: Religions, Guided by their Particular Views of Scripture, are Grappling with Whether Gays and Lesbians should be Accepted, Condemned, or Something in Between,” by Larry B. Stammer, The Los Angeles Times.

Supplementary Readings on Reserve in ARC: “Homosexual Men and Women Who Embrace Islam Struggle to Find a Place Within Their Faith,” by Saeed Ahmed, The Atlanta Constitution.

“Religions Divided Over Gays in Clergy,” by Marsha King, The Seattle Times.

“Exploring Issues, Answers and Beliefs: A New Willingness to Listen,” by Larry B. Stammer, The Los Angeles Times.

  WEEK 10 (Oct. 29) – Sexual Abuse, Pedophilia and the Catholic Church

How has the media covered the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal? Critics of the coverage say that Gay men have been characterized as “emotionally disturbed” and that the Gay community has been linked to pedophilia.

Course reader: “Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church,” by the staff of the Boston Chapter 8 (Sex and the Church).

Required Readings on Reserve in ARC: “Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church,” by the staff of the Boston Globe. Chapter 2 (The Cover Up).

“$55 Million Offered by Church to Settle Suits,” by Elizabeth Mehren. Los Angeles Times. Aug. 9, 2003.

Supplementary Readings on Reserve in ARC: “The Priest Scandal: How Old News At Last Became a Dominant National Story … and Why it Took so Long,” by Carl M. Cannon, American Journalism Review Magazine.

“Open Letter to the News Industry on the Coverage of Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church,” by Robert Dodge, NLGJA Web site.

“The Gay Purge: Scapegoating Homosexual Priests,” by Cheryl L. Reed. Salon. March 27, 2002.

WEEK 11 (Nov. 5) – Entertainment and Gays: On Film, TV, and Advertising to Online, Comics Music and Outings (Guest Speaker, TBA)

How has Hollywood and Television covered GLBTI issues?

Readings: Gross, Chapters 4 (At the Movies), 5 (Television Takes Over), 8 (Breaking the Code of Silence), 10 (Hollywood’s Gay Nineties) 11 (Beyond Prime Time), 12 (Morning Papers, Afternoon Soaps). 

Required Readings on Reserve in ARC: “Gay-Themed TV Gaining a Wider Audience,” by Bernard Weinraub and Jim Ruttenberg. New York Times. July 29, 2003.

Supplementary Readings on Reserve in ARC: “A Comic Book Gets Serious on Gay Issues,” By George Gene Custines, The New York Times.

“Queer as Folk,” by David Hajdu. New York Times Magazine.

“In New TV Commercial, Orbitz Has Gay Travelers in its Sights,” by Jayne Clark. USA Today. Aug. 1, 2003.

WEEK 12 (Nov. 12) – Gay Marriage

Gay marriage is one issue at the cutting edge for the gay movement, and for politicians.  

Required Readings: Gross, Chapter 14 (A Niche of Our Own).

Course Reader: “Same-Sex Marriage: Pro and Con,” edited by Andrew Sullivan, Pgs. 118-124; 146-154; 274-277.

Required Readings on Reserve in ARC: “Justices, 6-3, Legalize Gay Sexual Conduct in Sweeping Reversal of Court’s ’86 Ruling,” by Linda Greenhouse. New York Times. June 27, 2003.

“Sodomy Fuels ‘Culture War,’” by Mitchell Landsberg and John M. Glionna. Los Angeles Times. June 27, 2003.

“President Moves to Define Marriage,” by Lawrence McQuillan. USA Today. July 31, 2003.

“Foes of Gay Marriage Find New Momentum,” by Elizabeth Shogren. Los Angeles Times. Aug. 1, 2003.

“Canadian Leaders Agree to Propose Gay Marriage Law,” by Clifford Krauss. New York Times. June 18, 2003.

“Analysis: Gay Marriage Around the Globe,” by Steve Sailer. UPI. July 16, 2003.

Supplementary Readings on Reserve in ARC: “Gay Unions Affirmed by Reform Rabbis,” by Larry B. Stammer, The Los Angeles Times.

 “Law Gives Gays Right to Marry,” by Associated Press.

“Gay Couples do Wedding March to Vermont,” by Elizabeth Mehren, The Los Angeles Times.

“N.Y.Times to Print Same-Sex Unions,” by Mark Jurkowitz, The Boston Globe.

“Sodomy Law Upheld in Texas,” by Kristen Hays. AP. March 15, 2001.

“Vatican Exhorts Legislators to Reject Same-Sex Unions,” by Frank Bruni. New York Times. July 31, 2003.  

WEEK 13 (Nov. 19) – Gay Adoption

Adoption issues are now at the cutting edge for gay movement and for press attention. How has it been covered in the media?

Course Reader: “Same-Sex Marriage: Pro and Con,” edited by Andrew Sullivan, Chapter 7, Pgs. 239-272.

Required Readings on Reserve in ARC: “Court Oks Adoption by Unwed Pairs,” by Monte Morin and Erika Hayasaki. Los Angeles Times. Aug. 5, 2003.

“Judge Backs Florida Ban on Adoptions by Homosexuals,” by John Thor-Dahlburg, Los Angeles Times.

 “Sex Change Complicates Battle over Child Custody,” by Dana Canedy, The New York Times.

“Parents Sexual Orientation Matters, Study Finds,” by Sarah Tippit. Reuters. April 27, 2001.

Supplementary Readings on Reserve in ARC: “Court Rules Schools Must Fight Gay-Bashing,” by Henry Weinstein. Los Angeles Times. April 9, 2003.

PLEASE NOTE: Nov. 15 is the last day to drop a class with a mark of “W.”

Paper # 3 IS DUE TODAY!

WEEK 14 (Nov. 26) – No Class. Happy Thanksgiving!

WeeK 15 (Dec. 3) – Brief in-class presentations of your final papers due today.

Dec. 5 – Classes End

Dec. 6-9 – Study Days


Dec. 18-Jan. 11 – Winter Recess  

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