Description   |   Syllabus

Juicy, Juicy Scandal: Sex, Power, Cash and the Dynamics of Disclosure
UC Berkeley
Spring, 2012


Juicy, Juicy Scandal:

Sex, Power, Cash and the Dynamics of Disclosure

Journalism 298, Tuesday 3 — 6, North Gate Library

Mark Danner // Michael Pollan

Description. Scandals reveal things about us — our values, obsessions, desires. More than any other type of story, scandal pulls back the curtain on the workings of both journalism and the particular world it purports to cover. During Watergate or Iran Contra or the Monica Lewinsky Scandal, the shifting conventions of journalism, and the press' relationship to political power, stood revealed as never before. Likewise, the Teapot Dome scandal of the 1920's, the S&L Crisis of the eighties, and the Housing and Derivatives Bubble of 2008 threw open the window on the practices not only of business but of the journalists supposedly tracking it. Our course will comprise a history of American journalism as viewed through the lens of four types of scandal, those of power, money, sex, and celebrity. Though we focus on the twentieth century, including Watergate, the Pentagon Papers, Iran Contra, Lewinski and the baseball doping scandal, we will also spend some time looking back to America's formative scandals, including sex and blackmail among the Founding Fathers and corruption and influence peddling during the Grant Administration. In addition to such scandal classics as All the President's MenThe Starr Report, Walter Winchell, and Larry Flynt's One Nation Under Sex, readings will include contemporary press accounts of scandals both recent and distant. Finally, students will report on whatever scandal du jour is unfolding as we work — for, when it comes to juicy, juicy scandal, one always is.


Main Class Requirements: This is a seminar — a discussion class - which means the success of the class depends on student participation. The most important requirements are that students

*Attend all class sessions

*Participate in discussions

*Do all reading and writing assignments

A student's record of attendance and participation in class discussion, together with the thoroughness of his or her preparation, will determine the success of our class and contribute the better part of the grade.

Schedule. Note that all classes but one — the first - will take place on Tuesday afternoons, 3 to 6 p.m., and will be divided at about the halfway point by a fifteen-minute break. We will meet in the North Gate Library. The first class will meet on Monday, January 16, 2012, at nine am.

Reading. This seminar is about both history and the here and now, which is to say, it is about what was news and "what's in the news." Our reading will be draw from a number of books, which can be obtained at Analog Bookstore on Euclid Avenue just north of the campus. Other articles will be drawn from the historic and the contemporary press — newspapers, magazines, television, websites — and you will receive these articles either in photocopy during class or by means of links sent via email. Some readings are listed in the draft syllabus below, but keep in mind that the assignments may shift, depending on ongoing events. 

Writing. Students will be assigned a number of short papers, for which they are meant to draw on the assigned reading and on class discussions.  There will also be a final project. Students will be expected to keep a reading journal, with their thoughts about the assigned readings. To bolster the clarity and vigor of your English prose, we strongly suggest reading two works: George Orwell's essay, "Politics and the English Language" and Strunk and White's little manual, The Elements of Style. The Orwell can be found easily on the internet by googling the author and title. 

Films. From time to time during the term we will be screening video material and also films intended to complement our studies. The films may be screened outside of class at times and places to be announced.

Office Hours:  by appointment. 

Oxford English Dictionary:

scandal, n.

Pronunciation: /!skí¦nd!l/

- Damage to reputation; rumour or general comment injurious to reputation.

- A grossly discreditable circumstance, event, or condition of things

- Offence to moral feeling or sense of decency

-(Religion). Something that hinders reception of         the faith or obedience to the Divine law;         an occasion of unbelief or moral lapse; a         stumbling-block;  = OFFENSE n. 1b. 

-(Law). Any injurious report published concerning another which may be the foundation of legal action.

"A man may be a scandal-monger without being really malignant."

1899 - T. WATTS-DUNTON, Aylwin V. II. 216


January 16, 2011 Scandals as a Window on Journalism

Discussion - Three phases in the evolution of Scandal:

1. Revelation (unearthing of hidden matter, wherein journalists are elevated to prestige and import)

2. Investigation (in which there are moments of reversal and recognition)

2. Expiation (by which society purges wrongdoing, a president resigns, or other

"unbelievable things occur.")

If a scandal is occasion for a cleansing of the body politics, Watergate stands out as a scandal in which journalists play a prominent role in the righting of wrongs. After Watergate, many thought it would be the beginning of a new generation of journalism, but it turns out to have been the end of an era. Now, it is the exception rather than the rule

January 24, 2011 Monicagate, Part I: The Arc of Scandal

"The titillation of the tale is its own reward…

Frank Rich, "Mediathon," Oct 29, 2000

Aristotle, The Poetics - 

Kenneth W. Starr, The Starr Report: The Findings of Independent Council… (Public

Affairs, 1998)

January 31, 2011 Monicagate II: The New Rules of the Game

Discussion centered on where scandals arise from: do they follow naturally from scandalous actions, or are various agendas essential for the scandal to take flight?

Powerful political interests, personal grudges and hatreds, and partisan agendas at play in Clinton and Lewinsky scandal


Marvin Kalb, One Scandalous Story: Clinton, Lewinsky and Thirteen

Days That Tarnished American Journalism (Free Press, 2007)

Joan Didion, "Clinton Agonistes NY Review of Books, Oct 22, 1998 agonistes/?pagination=false

"Breaking stories:

Washington Post, Susan Schmidt et al; 1/21/1998 srv/politics/special/whitewater/stories/wwtr980121.htm

Newsweek, "Diary of a Scandal."

By Michael Isikoff Wednesday, 1/21/1998

Additional Material:

Time magazine background news "package":,28804,1870544_1870543


Lewinsky's interview with Ken Gormley, for his book, The Death of

American Virtue; 12/17/2009.

Lewinsky interview with Barbara Walters, March 3, 1999:

"Monica in Black and White," HBO 2002 Special, (in 6 parts)

February 7, 2011 Sex Scandal, the Gutter Press and the Early Republic

Continuation of the sex lives of politicians in the history of U.S. media and domestic political issues. In what is termed the nation's "first political sex scandal," we compared Alexander Hamilton's handling of his personal scandal with how later politicians addressedor evadedallegations against them.

Also important in discussion was the role of media, in this case James Callendar, a pamphleteer journalist known as a "scandalmonger." In his publication History of 1796, he exposed the affair between the married Hamilton and Maria Reynolds, and the subsequent financial blackmail.


Larry Flynt & David Eisenbach, One Nation Under Sex (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)

Burr, Gore Vidal, Vintage 1973

(pp. 204-211 "Memoirs of Aaron Burr Nine")

Ron Chernow, Alexander Hamilton (Penguin 2004) (Chapters 19 & 30)

Other and primary material:

"America's First Political Sex Scandal," Chris Weigant, Huffington Post:


James Callender's pamphlet, Sketches of the History of America (text): vu.txt.

Alexander Hamilton's response pamphlet:


Additional materials on presidential affairs:

John F. Kennedy: affair-john-f-kennedy-jfk.html?track=icymi

Affairs of H.W. Bush, with his secretary: as-george.html

Suggested viewing:

"How Bill Clinton betrayed us: allies speak out on Lewinsky affair," (TV review) Vanessa Thorpe, 2/12/2012 The Observer

February 14, 2011 The Age of the Muckrakers

Scandals of rich men in the industrial age: Does the public respond to non- sensationalist, investigative reporting? How do we effectively frame stories intended to make change? Discussion included how political leaders respond to muckrakers: Is it always good to publish the dirt? We revisit the agenda behind "revealing the truth."

Subjects were railroad monopoly and the South Improvement Company, Standard Oil and John D. Rockefeller, and fixing corruption among city political bosses.

Presentation: Ulysses S. Grant scandals: Railroad stocks and the Black Friday gold scandal of 1869


The Muckrakers (selections); Arthur and Lila Weinberg, eds.,

Ida Tarbell and Lincoln Steffens: Selections: Intro; pages 1-40; 55-67; 119-137; 175-

195; 241-261; 297-307; and 339-359

In Great Issues in American History, Vol. III., Hofstadter, Richard, (Vintage Books, 1969)

- Hofstadter's introduction to Part V: Progressivism

- Walter Lippman, "Themes of Muckraking" (pp. 248-254)

- Woodrow Wilson's speech "The New Freedom (pp. 284-290)

- Roosevelt's acceptance speech (pp. 278-284)


"The Progressive Era: The Great Age of Reform," Sage, Henry J., (, 2010)

The Progressive Movement (

February 21, 2011 The Jungle, Disclosure and the Progressive Era

We are what we eat: gut reactions to stories about meat. Discussion centered on the moving line between fiction and fact, created stories and journalism; "scaring the public as an impetus for action. Upton Sinclair and "aiming for the heart and getting them in the stomach instead." Is it more effective to tell the tale of a scandal through the life of one character? Does journalism need the pathos of vividly drawn human suffering to catch people's attention?

Upton Sinclair, The Jungle (Norton, 2002 [1906]) Including the forward by Eric Schlosser

"Power Steer, Michael Pollan, New York Times Magazine (3/31/2002):

Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (article: Rolling Stone, 9/3/1998; book: HarperCollins, 2001) (In book, chapters 8 & 9: "The Most Dangerous Job," and "What's in the Meat?")


Still a Fast Food Nation, Schlosser (Daily Beast, 3/12/2012) schlosser-reflects-on-10-years-later.html

February 28, 2011 ——Kennedy, Johnson and the Scandals of Poverty and Pollution

Discussion centered on the history of American poverty, both real and perceived. What is the target audience for tales of woe and violence. What must a liberal journalist do to convince people that a problem is a problem? If framed as a scandal, journalists put forth solutions that policy makers can grab onto.

Michael Harrington, The Other America: Poverty in the United States

(Scribner, 1990 [1962])

Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (Houghton, 2002 [1962])\ Chapters 1, 2, 3, 8, 11, 14, 15, 16, & 17

"Our Invisible Poor," Dwight MacDonald, New Yorker 1/19/1963



Edward R. Murrow's "Harvest of Shame," CBS, 1960:


"The Poverty of an Idea," Maurice Isserman, New York Times Op-Ed 3/3/2012

Charles Murray, Losing Ground, Coming Apart

March 6, 2011 The Pentagon Papers and the Revelation of the Secret War

Conversation centered on the Vietnam War, the Presidency, and how the public comes to know about war decisions. Pentagon Papers essentially a scandal of public denial: secret planning and bombing, cynical alliances, and persevering despite recognized hopelessness of military operations. A decision was made, to reveal U.S. military decision-making to the public. The question remains, what effect did the Papers

have? Did anybody read them? What exactly did they reveal? When we expose

government and military secrets, it will always be said that some secrets should be kept. The relationship between the citizen whistleblower and the newspaper editor is tensehow did Ellsberg play his cards when he wanted to get the Papers out there?

Daniel Ellsberg, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers

(Penguin, 2003) (

Abuse of Power (the Nixon Tapes), editor Stanley I. Kutler (Simon and Schuster,



From Papers on the War, essays by Daniel Ellsberg: "Bombing and Other Crimes," and "The Responsibility of Officials in a Criminal War."

Without Fear or Favor: an Uncompromising Look at the New York Times, Harrison

Salisbury, 1980


The Most Dangerous Man in America

(2009) Ehrlich and Goldsmith (directors)

Guest: Daniel Ellsberg

Discussion of Wikileaks and publishing documents during wartime, the personal story of the Pentagon Papers, and the responsibility of journalists to set facts straight.

Additional Material:

"A High-tech War on Leaks," Liptak, Adam, New York Times Sunday Review, 2/12/12 leaks.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

"Ex-C.I.A. Officer Charged in Information Leak," Charlie Savage,

New York Times, 1/23/12 leak.html?ref=waterboarding#

March 13, 2011 The Watergate Scandal and the Secret Government

*Assignment: Ten most useful reporting tips from Woodward and Bernstein

With Watergate, the "smoking gun standard of journalism is born. Discussion centered on sourcing: what does a reporter do when no one wants to talk on the record? We analyzed the crucial role of FBI official "Deep Throat. Watergate becomes the baseline for administration-wide scandals. We discussed the many players, and the unlikeliness of proving the president's criminalitywithout, that is, tape recordings. How important is personalitydo we let the ugly ones fall and the charming ones stay?

Congressional hearings as the final act: men on stage, interrogations, moral indignations, and confessions—all meaningless, however, unless they are broadcast on television.


All the President's Men, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, (Pocket,

2005 [1975])

"How Mark Felt Became Deep Throat," Bob Woodward,

Washington Post, 6/1/2005



All the President's Men, Alan J. Pakula (director), 1976


"The Politics of Distraction: Watergate and Modern Scandals," Saul Landau, Counterpunch 9/11/2009

"I'm the Guy they Called Deep Throat," John D. O'Connor,

Vanity Fair, July 2007

Washington Post news package on Watergate:

Extensive video of Watergate hearings: hearings.html

Alexander P. Butterfield:

Howard Baker vs. John Haldeman:

March 20, 2011 -- Watergate and Iran-Contra: The Watergate that Wasn't

When perpetrators are patriots: the difficulty of inciting outrage when the victims are foreigners. Iran-Contra arises as the most difficult scandal yet—what, exactly is the crime and who, exactly, is to blame. Character again figures centrallyRonald Reagan was no Richard Nixon. Post-Watergate, the bar was raised for proving the unfitness of the President. Can journalists prove what government can't—or won't? Without concrete evidence up the chain of command, can politicians escape get away with "I didn't know anything"? How important is punishment? This time, there were hearings but no individual consequencesno careers destroyed, no money returned, no apologies.

Iran-Contra Summary:

Presentation: Jayson Blair: How the New York Times handled the lies of a bipolar, coke-addicted, talented young reporter.


"Hearing Nothing, Saying Nothing," moderator Lewis Lapham,

Harpers Forum, February 1988

Theodore Draper, New York Review of Books

"Reagan's Junta" (1/29/1987)

"Rewriting the Iran-Contra Story, (1/19/1989) "Iran-Contra, the Mystery Solved, (6/10/1993)

"Iran-Contra Secrets, (5/27/1993)

"Reagan's Band of True Believers," Frances Fitzgerald,

New York Times Magazine (5/10/1987) believers.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

Tower Report: R%20EXCERPTS.htm

Walsh Report (special prosecutor):


Lawrence E. Walsh, Firewall: The Iran-Contra Conspiracy and Cover- Up (Norton, 1998)

"Memoranda on Criminal Liability of Former President Reagan and of President Bush (25th anniversary of Iran-Contra)," National Security Archives, Peter Kornbluh and Malcolm Byrne:

"The Iran-Contra Scandal: The Declassified History (Review), Saul Landau, ent;col1

Iran-Contra's Untold Story, Robert Parry and Peter Kornbluh

Foreign Policy, No. 72 (Autumn, 1988), pp. 3-30;(Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, LLC):

Stable URL:


Youtube: "Testimony of Oliver North at Iran-Contra Hearing, 1987

Frozen Scandals: Wall Street, WMD, & Torture

April 3-10, 2011 Finance by Scandal, Business by Bail Out: The S & L Crisis to the 2008 Collapse and its aftermath

When system-wide malfeasance is legal, who is responsible for the chaos? A conversation with Michael Lewis helped us discern legal versus moral failure, and whether financial scandals are the result of greed and contrived indifference to the future, or blindness and stupidity. Wall Street's scandal and the fallout provide us with another example of the scandal that wasn't. Everybody knew, but no one was to blame.


"Chronicle of a Debacle Foretold," L.J. Davis, Harper's Magazine September 1990

The Big Short, Michael Lewis, (Norton 2010) Film: Inside Job, Charles Ferguson, director

  Guest: Michael Lewis

April 17, 2012 WMD and the Iraq War: The Scandal That Wasn't

Newspapers as a tool of power: when your sources feed you wrong information. We discussed the possibility of reporters and editors handling the weapons issue a different way. What should Judith Miller have said or done? How does a newspaper question the Executive Branch? We discussed ways to edit out biasterrorism's impact on coverage and accuracy standards.

Conversation centered on how the media framed the lead-up to the Iraq war, focusing especially on New York Times coverage of the hunt for weapon's of mass destruction in Saddam's Iraq. We analyzed the WMD scandal—before and after the invasion— through the lens of 9/11 and focused on the language used by leaders to persuade the public and the press that the war was justified. How did media dissect, or fail to dissect, the arguments put forth for the invasion? Was the scandal that certain voices were quashed, or was it that the President knowingly lied? What kind of aftermath is appropriate once the Chief has spoken?

Presentation: The Valerie Plame affair; government leaks and the CIA


Craig R. Whitney, The WMD Mirage (Public Affairs, 2005) (Selections) New York Times Coverage of WMD

"U.S. says Hussein Intensifies Quest for Bomb," Michael Gordon and Judith

Miller, New York Times, 9/8/2012

"Illicit Weapons Kept Till Eve of War, Iraqi Scientist Is Said to Assert," Judith

Miller, New York Times, 4/21/2012

The Times and Iraq: A Sample Of the Coverage: l?_r=1

Apologies from the News: ml?pagewanted=print&position=


"Mass Destruction or Mass Distraction," Public Editor, New York Times Week in Review; 5/30/2004


Bush's "mushroom cloud" speech in Cincinnati on October 7, 2002:

Colin Powell's speech to the UN Security Council, February 5, 2003:

Bush's press conference on March 6, 2003: Real Player Video (linked on right of screen):




President Bush's speech to the nation on March 17, 2003.


The Downing street memo:

"The Secret Way to War, Mark Danner,

New York Review of Books 6/9/2005


"Now They Tell Us," Michael Massing, NY Review of Books, 2/26/2004 us/?pagination=false&printpage=true

"Source of the Trouble (on Judith Miller), Franklin Foer,

New York Magazine 5/21/2005

"September 11th Reckoning, Bill Keller,

New York Times Magazine 9/11/2011


"How Chalabi and the White House Held the Front Page," James Moore, The Guardian, 5/29/2004

"Reassessing Miller," Jack Shafer, Slate, 5/29/2003



Mark Danner discussion with Howell Raines, editor of New York Times Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley, 11/18/2002


April 24, 2012 - Frozen Scandal: Abu Ghraib and the Permanence of Torture

What do we do when everything is revealed, but nothing happens?

In a frozen scandal, a "scandal that wasn't," the results are very different from those of Watergate. There were few reports, and the issue of torture played no role in the next presidential election.

- No authoritative investigation, no congressional hearings.

- No one is punished, and the images eventually go away.

- Officials will continue to publicly endorse the behavior at the heart of the scandal. New administration does not approve in theory, but takes no action to repair the past.

Media is front and center of the public, asking the shaming questions, reporting them, or withholding them. (John Yoo is challenged, in a debate, "Can the president order the crushing of the testicles of a child?")

Presentation: The "tweeted scandal of Congressman Anthony Weiner


Seymour M. Hersh, Chain of Command: The Road From 9/11 to Abu

Ghraib (Simon and Schuster, 2004)

Jane Mayer, The Dark Side (Doubleday, 2008)

Mark Danner, Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib and the War on

Terror (New York Review, 2004)

"U.S. Decries Abuse but Defends Interrogations," Dana Priest and Barton Gellman,

Washington Post 12/26/2002


"Torture at Abu Ghraib," Seymour Hersh, New Yorker, 5/10/2004

"The Logic of Torture," Mark Danner,

New York Review of Books, 6/24/2004 torture/?pagination=false

"Abu Ghraib: The Hidden Story," Mark Danner,

New York Review of Books, 10/7/2004 story/?pagination=false

"The Black Sites," Jane Mayer, New Yorker, 8/13/2007 Page=all

"Voices from the Black Sites," Mark Danner

New York Review of Books, 4/9/2009 the-black-sites/?pagination=false

The Red Cross Report

The Taguba Report

May 1, 2011 Celebrity Scandal: From OJ to Barry Bonds to the Scandal Industry

We analyzed the specificity of outrage, and discussed exactly why widespread use of steroids was a scandal. Personal characteristics again play a key role: was Barry Bonds a scapegoat for the way the game of baseball had change?

How do we find out about scandals, and how do we think independently about news we are forced to interact with?

Final class, what was the takeaway? Are there common traits of all scandals or is scandalousness an imagined story, concocted for us by journalists responding to powerful people?

Presentation: Penn State football and the child sexual abuse scandal


The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, Daniel Boorstin, (Vintage, 1992 [1962]) (Introduction and pp. 1-73)

Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, Balco and the Steroid Scandal that Rocked

Professional Sports, Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada, (Gotham, 2006)


"Baseball Without Metaphor," Grann, David, New York Times Magazine, 9/1/2002 metaphor.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

Final project

Option #1: The Scandal Pitch. Write a pitch memo, addressed to your editor or executive producer, making the case for your media organization to devote substantial resources to investigate and expose a scandal you believe you have discovered. In a piece of ten to fifteen pages - 2500 to 4000 words - lay out what you think the story is and what you will need to nail it down - that is, what would allow you to prove the case, whether that would mean turning up a smoking gun (specify it), securing a well- placed source's testimony (hypothesize it), or coming up with some other critical and necessary discovery. To persuade your stingy and skeptical boss that she or he should devote substantial resources to your investigation, you will need to put your scandal in the context of previous ones, explaining specifically how it is like and unlike some of those we've studied. Your story should be "real" -- at least in the sense that it is plausible or likely. You don't need to "prove" it in the memorandum, but you need to come up with a reasonable hypothesis and describe some smoke that would support. One direction to take might be to take as point of departure some potential but as yet unproven historical scandals that have been suggested in class: did Nixon order the assassination of Governor Wallace, for example? What circumstantial evidence could you find to support this hypothesis in the Watergate tapes? What more would you need? How would you go about getting it? You get the idea.

Option #2: The Scandal Essay. Write an essay pulling together what you've learned to make an argument of some kind: something you've observed about the nature of scandal, what it tells us about the evolution of journalism, and the public's interests and appetites. We expect you to refer to several of the scandals we've explored, and to demonstrate a synthetic understanding by connecting some of the dots we've introduced over the course of the semester. You might work up a definition or theory of modern scandal, with some attention to how scandal has changed over the last century or two, or how it is different in American than elsewhere, and why. You could also deploy your now-extensive understanding of scandal to make an argument about the state or history of journalism. Don't think of this piece as an academic paper but as a publishable column or commentary such as you might find in the pages of Harper's or the NY Times Sunday Book Review.

© 2021 Mark Danner