T5082 – The British Roots of American Journalism

Faculty: Mark Neuzil and Michael O’Donnell
12/31/2018 – 01/25/2019

The course will examine the historical antecedents of American journalism from a base in London, exploring topics such as:

  • ancient texts and the development of written communication.
  • the United Kingdom’s critical role in the development of communication technology, including the industrialized printing press, photography, radio and television.
  • the concept of freedom of expression, its evolution and its repression in Great Britain, and the influence of the British experience on American journalism.
  • landmark examples from the practice of journalism in the United Kingdom that illustrate the role of technology and the evolving concepts of press freedom.

Academic Overview
The first Western newspapers originated in Great Britain; with them came the first attempts at limiting freedom of expression and counter attempt at guaranteeing press freedom.  While the Magna Carta is the document most closely associated with free speech in the land of kings, students will learn it is only part of the story.  These debates by people such as Daniel Defoe and John Stuart Mill worked their way through Britain, into the Colonies and eventually into the U.S. Constitution.

 The United Kingdom also is important in developing the technologies of journalism, starting with early printers such as William Caxton, inventors such as James Watt with his letter-copying machine and his improvement of the steam engine, Henry Fox Talbot with his contribution to photography, and the BBC with public television.

British institutions hold some of the world’s important communication artifacts: the Rosetta Stone, ancient hieroglyphs and papyrus, proto-newspapers and early magazines.  Two museums outside of London are devoted to the Titanic; its sinking was critical to the history of radio.  The National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory charts the role of sea power.  

Program Fee
Program Fee includes:  Transportation and course arrangements as indicated, hotel accommodations in twin and triple rooms, English breakfast daily, two lunches and five dinners (subject to change).

Sophomore standing.

Required Readings

  • Temple, Mick (2008). The British Press (Berkshire, England: McGraw-Hill). Referred to as British Press.
  • Copeland, David A. (2006). The Idea of a Free Press (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press). Referred to as Free Press.
  • Kovarik, Bill (2011). Revolutions in Communications: Media History from Gutenberg to the Digital Age (New York: Continuum Press). Referred to as Revolutions.
  • Other readings in PDF format to be distributed through OneDrive and email.
  • A current paper London guidebook and map. Recommended: Benson’s MapGuides.


  • Attendance, participation, 20 percent*
  • Group guiding, 10 percent
  • Photo journal, 20 percent: Compile 10-20 images with extended captions, including footnotes, that explores one event in British history pivotal in the development or dissemination of a communication medium. All the photos in this journal must be shot by the student on visits to various sites around London.
  • Video documentary, 20 percent: A video of 3-5 minutes about one site or one historical artifact that the student found to be especially significant or interesting. At least one minute of the finished video should have been shot by the student during class visits; archival footage from the Internet, original photos or archival photos, and interviews of people at the historical sites are all allowed.
  • Final essay, 30 percent: An essay of 500-1,000 words, not including footnotes and bibliography, analyzing an aspect of British history relevant to journalism as practiced in the United States today.

* 5 percent will be deducted from the attendance score for each day missed. All assignments will be graded on writing mechanics, including spelling and grammar, as well as content.

Faculty Directors
Mark Neuzil, Ph.D., University of St. Thomas, (651) 962.5267, email: mrneuzil@stthomas.edu
Michael O’Donnell, Associate Professor, University of St. Thomas, (651) 962.5281; email: mjodonnell@stthomas.edu

Description of Faculty Directors
Dr. Mark Neuzil is professor of communication and journalism at St. Thomas.  He is the author or co-author of eight books and a frequent writer and speaker on environmental issues.  He has taught three courses in London and conducted research on the English writer Izaak Walton and British soldier John Enys.  At St. Thomas, he teaches communication history, environmental communications and media ethics.  This is his 4th time instructing a course to London.

Michael O’Donnell is an associate professor and chair of the Communication and Journalism department at the University of St. Thomas.  He worked for 25 years as a reporter, writer, editor and page designer for newspapers such as the Chicago Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press.  Along with Buck Ryan of the University of Kentucky, he is the co-author of “The Editor’s Toolbox”, a textbook on editing.  At St. Thomas, O’Donnell teaches visual communication and design, including website design.   This will be his 2nd time co-instructing this course.

Application Procedures & Deadline
· Select the How to Apply link to start your online application.
· All applications received by your home institutions priority deadline will be sent to the faculty immediately. Applications will be taken after that deadline for programs with space still remaining until the final application deadline of October 1, 2018.

Final Application Deadline: October 1, 2018

For more information on course content, contact Mark Neuzil
On application procedures or logistical information, contact your study abroad office.