School of Communication
- John C. Watson is a full-time professor of Journalism. He brings a combination of professional experience and scholarly credentials to the classroom. A journalist for 21 years, he has a law degree and a Ph.D. His research on media law and journalism ethics has been published in law reviews and refereed scholarly journals. He is the author of Journalism Ethics by Court Decree. He has conducted studies that question the ethical propriety of publishing police composite sketches of crime suspects, and weighs the merits of licensing journalists.
DegreesPh.D. Mass Communication, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill; J.D. Rutgers School of Law - Newark; B.A. Journalism, Rutgers University - New Brunswick
- SOC - School of Communication
- McKinley - 313
FOR THE MEDIA
To request an interview for a
news story, call AU Communications
at 202-885-5950 or submit a request.
Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities
- Journalism Ethics By Court Decree: The Supreme Court on the Proper Practice of Journalism (LFB Scholarly Publishing 2008)
- “Justice in the Spotlight” symposium presentation on high-profile trials Published in the Thomas M. Cooley Law Review Vol. 21, No. 3 (2004)
- “Times v. Sullivan: Landmark or Land Mine on the Road to Ethical Journalism” Published in Journal of Mass Media Ethics Vol.17, No.1 (2002)
- “Litigation Public Relations: The Lawyers’ Duty to Balance News Coverage of their Clients”Published in Communication Law and Policy Vol. 7, No. 1 (2002)
- “Defamation by Racial Misidentification: A Legal History of Public Exposure to Hatred and Contempt in the South” Published in Rutgers Race & The Law Review Vol. 4, No. 1 (2002)
- “Free Speech / Free Press: What the First Amendment Really Means” Multi-media presentation available at (http://xserve.soc.american.edu/fsfp/fsfp/index.html)
Work In Progress
- Book tentatively titled “Emissary: The Roles and Missions of Journalists of Color in Post-Racial America”
- Research paper titled “Publishing Composite Sketches in the News Media:An Ethical Assessment” presented at the annual conference of the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics. February 2008, in San Antonio, Texas.
- Survey for Journalists of Color: Emissary book project 2010
- How the law protects and restricts the practice of journalism
- The importance of ethical decision making as an essential and fundamental journalism skill
- Reaffirming the mission and importance of journalism in a properly functioning democracy
- Newsroom diversity as an ethical, financial and political issue
- The need for more extensive and better informed news coverage of the justice system
Honors, Awards, and Fellowships
- Freedom Forum Ph.D. Fellowship 1996 (University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill)
- Interview with Times-Picayunne newspaper on worth of composite sketches distributed by police to capture crime suspects. January 2009 http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/frontpage/index.ssf?/base/news-12/123312396381950.xml&coll=1
- Interview with CNN.com about burgeoning practice in newspapers and other mass media of publishing mugshots of minor crime suspects and celebrities. December 2008 http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/12/08/mugshots.fascination/index.html?iref=newssearch
- Interview with BBCMundo.com about the “Bradley Effect” in U.S. presidential election. October 2008 http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/spanish/international/newsid_7672000/7672979.stm
- Interview for Marketplace/NPR radio news program on “libel tourism”-- libel plaintiffs filing lawsuits in countries that do not provide the same level of protection for journalists as the United States. July 2008 http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2008/07/17/libel_tourism/
- Interviewed for CBS Television affiliate in Washington, D.C. about the factual fabrications discovered in book touted by Oprah Winfrey. January 2006
- Interview for Agence France-Presse, “Jail for Journalists Sparks Fears for U.S. Press Freedoms” Addressed issues raised American journalists who faced jail for refusing to reveal confidential sources to government in Valerie Plame case. July 2005 http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/afp/20050703/pl_afp/usmediafreedom_050703202706
- Interview for Washington Post Sunday magazine addressing college student complaints about grading. “A’s for Everyone” by Alicia C. Shepard, June 5, 2005
Area of Expertise: Journalism ethics, communication law, newsroom diversity, libel, free speech, First Amendment theory, urban issues coverage, privacy, indecency and obscenity, censorship, press coverage of trials and the law
Additional Information: John C. Watson was a top-five finalist for the Scripps Howard Foundation Journalism Teacher of the Year Award (2009) and is the author of the chapter on regulating pornography in Communication and the Law (Edited by W. Wat Hopkins, 2010). His book Journalism Ethics by Court Decree (2008) examines how court rulings are defining the practice of journalism. He is researching the merits of licensing journalists, is coauthor of a forthcoming book that examines the changing role of journalists of color, and has conducted a study that questions the ethics of using police sketches of crime suspects in the news media. He has written "Litigation Public Relations: The Lawyers' Duty to Balance News Coverage of Their Clients" (Communication Law and Policy); "Defamation by Racial Misidentification: A Study of the Social Tort" (Rutgers Race and the Law Review); "Times v. Sullivan: Landmark or Land Mine on the Road to Ethical Journalism?" (Journal of Mass Media Ethics); and was coauthor of "Herman Lynn Womack: Pornographer as First Amendment Pioneer" (Journalism History).
To request an interview please call AU Media Relations at 202-885-5950 or submit an interview request form.
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