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Photograph of John Watson

John Watson Associate Professor Journalism

Ph.D. Mass Communication, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill; J.D. Rutgers School of Law - Newark; B.A. Journalism, Rutgers University - New Brunswick

John C. Watson is an associate professor tenured in the Journalism Division. 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 has been presented at scholarly conferences and published in law reviews and refereed scholarly journals. He is the author of Journalism Ethics by Court Decree< He weighs the merits of licensing journalists.
For the Media
To request an interview for a news story, call AU Communications at 202-885-5950 or submit a request.


Spring 2024

  • COMM-401 Communication Law

  • COMM-601 Communication Law

  • COMM-898 Doctoral Continuing Enrollment

Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities

Selected Publications

  • 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 (

Honors, Awards, and Fellowships

  • Freedom Forum Ph.D. Fellowship 1996 (University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill)

Media Appearances

Research Interests

  • 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


Professional Presentations

  • 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.

Work In Progress

  • Book tentatively titled “Emissary: The Roles and Missions of Journalists of Color in Post-Racial America”


AU Experts

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, police sketches, racial profiling

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).

For the Media

To request an interview for a news story, call AU Communications at 202-885-5950 or submit a request.

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