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How do we obtain information about the political world? Aside from family, friends, and school, the largest source of political information—and especially current information—is the mass media. Few people directly observe party conventions, congressional subcommittee meetings, presidential staff meetings, interest group lobbying, or even candidate rallies. Instead they see, hear and read about these events through the eyes of television and internet videos, the voice of radio, or the interpretation of reporters. The fact that for most people the media represent the window on the world of politics means that the media can significantly affect what we think about when we think about politics, what aspects of politics we focus on, how we evaluate political events, personalities and institutions, and ultimately how we act, politically. This pivotal position the media hold between the government and the public also means that the media can significantly affect government action, since its coverage can affect support for government programs. The purpose of this course is to explore the role the mass media plays in U.S. politics by examining how media presentations and interpretation of events affects public opinion and government policy. My hope is that by the end of the semester you will have become more aware of the ever-changing nature of the mass media in the US and of the subtle and not-so-subtle ways that the media influences government, politics and public opinion, especially your own politics and opinions. Required Texts: • • • • • Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death Dagnes, Politics on Demand Wolfsfeld, Making Sense of Media and Politics Baym, From Cronkite to Colbert Miscellaneous other readings posted on Black Board or to be determined
Recommended “Readings”: • • • • • • Jackson and Jamieson, unSpun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation http://factcheck.org/ Internet site of the Project for Excellence in Journalism: http://www.journalism.org/ The Columbia Review of Journalism, http://www.cjr.org/ NPR’s “On the Media”, airs 10 am on Sundays or can be listened to on line at http://www.onthemedia.org/ “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” Course Requirements: The work you will be expected to do for the course includes completing a series of quizzes and exercises, discussing course material in class, writing media observation papers, and a comprehensive final exam. Announced quizzes will be short-answer or mini-essays. I will give you study guides for these quizzes and select the quiz questions at random from these study guides for you to answer in class. Pop quizzes will be short answer questions based on the readings or class discussions. Additionally, I will on a number of occasions ask you to
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observe and collect information on various media outlets, write 1-2 page papers about the outlets and then discuss your observations in class. It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: keeping up with the readings and attending class will greatly improve your performance on the quizzes and exercises, the final, and participation. There will be NO MAKE UP QUIZZES. The weight given to the requirements will be as follows: Participation Group presentation of book Quizzes (announced and pop) & Exercises Final Classroom Protocol 1. Students are expected to attend and be prepared for ALL regularly scheduled classes. 2. Students are expected to arrive on time and stay in class until the class period ends. If a student knows in advance that s/he will need to leave early, s/he should notify the instructor before the class period begins. 3. Students are expected to treat faculty and fellow students with respect. For example, students must not disrupt class by leaving and reentering during class, must not distract class by making noise, and must be attentive to comments being made by the instructor and peers. 4. Instructors will inform students of any special additions. Failure to follow this protocol will lead to whatever grade penalty I deem appropriate. Previous Class Outline and Readings: The course will be structured around three main topics regarding the media and politics: 1) the nature of the mass media and its role in the U.S. political system, 2) media effects on the U.S. political system, and 3) reform of the U.S. political system and media. The topics, goals for each topic, and required readings are listed below. I will tell you in class when we are about to tackle the next topic and when you will need to have the readings done. I also may add readings to the list during the semester. I. Introduction: Understanding the Media in an Ever-changing Media Environment A. Goals: 1. The development of a framework that provides insights into the fundamentals of mass media and democracy that can provide an understanding of the rapidly changing media environment of the 21st Century. Including in the framework will be the consideration of a. the place of the media in the U.S. political system; b. the nature of media organizations; c. the types of media offerings; d. the nature and effect of media forms (the effect of each medium); e. the role of journalism; f. and, the areas of potential media effects. 2. The identification of the problems the mass media pose for democracy in the U.S. 3. An understanding how social science methods are used to study the media. B. Relevant Readings: 1. Making Sense of Media and Politics (all) 10% 10% 50% 30%
2. 3. 4.
Politics on Demand (all) Amusing Ourselves to Death (all) Baym, From Cronkite to Colbert
II. Media Effects: A. Shaping Public Opinion 1. Goals: The development of an understanding of media effects on a. public knowledge of politics and government; b. public opinion on issues and ideology; c. the public’s views of its political leaders; d. and, the public’s views of its government. 2. Relevant Readings a. Iyengar and McGrady, Chapter 8 (on Black Board) b. The PEW Research Center for the People and the Press, “Public Knowledge of Current Affairs Little Changed by News and Information Revolutions: What Americans Know: 1989-2007,” http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?ReportID=319 B. Elections 1. Goals: To develop an understanding of a. the role media play in elections; b. the impact media have on election; c. the way politicians use the media during elections. 2. Relevant Readings a. Gierzynski, Saving American Elections, Chapters 1-4. C. Governing 1. Goals: To develop an understanding of a. the role the media plays in governance; b. how has the media affects the actions of those who govern; c. how government officials use the media; d. and, what the media's role in the political system means for representation and democracy. 2. Relevant Readings: TBD
III. Reform and Future of the Media and Politics in the U.S. A. Goals: To discuss 1. potential improvements to the mass media in the U.S.; 2. potential improvements to the overall political system in the U.S. B. Relevant Readings 1. Gierzynski, Saving American Elections, Chapter 8 and 9 2. Review conclusions of other assigned readings
Date: June 19 June 20 June 21
2012 Summer Reading Schedule (to be updated for 2013) Assigned Reading to be completed by class time: • • • Intro Making Sense of Media and Politics (all) “The State of the News Media 2010,” executive summary, on Black Board
June 26 June 27 June 28 July 3 July 5 July 10
• • • • • • • • • •
July 11 July 12
Dagnes, Politics on Demand no assigned reading Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death all Baym, From Cronkite to Colbert Iyengar and McGrady, Chapter 8 Gierzynski, Prescriptions for a Healthier Democracy, Chapters 1-4. Optional: “Journalism, Satire, or Just Laughs?” ‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,’ examined, on Black Board Gierzynski, Prescriptions for a Healthier Democracy, Chapter 8 and Conclusion Review and wrap up Final Exam