COMM 3320.1  POLITICAL COMMUNICATION

In this course, you will learn about the major areas of research in political communication, connecting this scholarly work to insights from leading political strategists and journalists, and to contemporary trends and issues. We will focus on the varying ways that campaigns, news, advertising, and entertainment shape political perceptions, emotions, and behavior and what this means for our democracy. Drawing on relevant scholarship we will critically examine current debates over the impact and performance of the press; the future of the major political parties and related social movements; concerns over free speech and dialogue on college campuses and in public life; and a variety of efforts to overcome extreme political polarization and to promote collaboration on behalf of urgent problems.

COURSE REQUIREMENTS

Class Participation (10%): You are expected to attend every class unless you have an excused absence. Please email me in advance if you will not be in attendance. You are also expected to actively participate in class, to do the reading in advance, and to share readings, news articles, and examples that you encounter outside of class that may be relevant to discussion.

In Class Exam #1 (20%) & In Class Exam #2 (20%):  You will be completing two in-class essay exams that test your understanding of key theories and concepts and your ability to apply these principles to political communication strategy.

Annotated Bibliography (15%): In consultation with me, you will be choosing a final research topic related to political communication and compiling an annotated bibliography of 10-15 scholarly sources on the subject to inform your analysis and writing. More details on this assignment will be provided.

Class Presentation (10%): Based on your annotated bibliography and progress on your paper, at the end of the semester you will be giving a 25 minute powerpoint presentation to the class. More details on this assignment will be provided.

Final Paper: (25%): Drawing on the sources from your bibliography along with recent news analysis and popular articles, you will be researching and writing a 10-15 double-spaced final paper. More details on this assignment will be provided.

DUE DATES

  • Oct 16 — First In Class Exam
  • Oct 26 — Annotated Bibliographies Due in Class
  • Nov 13 — Draft of Final Paper Due in Class
  • Dec 4 — Second In Class Exam
  • Dec 13 — Final Paper Due in Class

ON LEARNING STRATEGIES

There are challenging readings and topics in this course. It won’t be easy. Yet there are a few strategies that are likely to bring success. One of the best ways to understand any subject is to actively try to make connections between a new topic and information you already have stored in memory. The more you can make connections between the new material you encounter in this class, and what you already “know” (like things you’ve read in the news or learned in other classes), the better you will be able to remember it, and ultimately apply it.

The ultimate goal is “knowledge integration,” connecting the dots between what at first might appear to be disparate concepts, but are in fact ideas that fit together into a bigger picture, thereby providing a broader context for understanding. The best way to achieve knowledge integration is to:

  • Make sure you do all the reading before class, actively drawing out the implications of the readings to things you already know, have read in the news, or are learning in other classes.
  • Participate actively in class, challenging the propositions and evidence provided in the studies, by the professor, or other students; and asking questions about things you may not understand. Disagreement is good.
  • Discuss the readings outside of class, at office hours, or informally with fellow students and/or the professor.
  • Review the readings again in doing weekly assignments, preparing for the final exam, and in working on your group project.
  • Think. Talk. Think. Talk. The more times you engage with the material in this course–and talk to others about it–the more successful you will be.

CLASS SCHEDULE

*All readings are either available freely online or accessible if you click on the link to the article from campus or when logged into the Northeastern University library portal from off-campus.

Sept 7  —  Introductions

Sept 11 & 18 Foundational Concepts and Current Debates

Sept 21 & 25  The Social Psychology of Political Communication

Sept 28 & Oct 5   The 2016 U.S. Elections, Social Media, and Journalism

*No class on Oct 2

OCT 16  — FIRST IN CLASS EXAM

OCT 19 & 23  —  Right Wing Movements, Media, and Authoritarianism

OCT 26 & 30 Political Communication and the Trump Resistance

OCT 30  ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHIES DUE IN CLASS

NOV 2 — Young News Consumers and Journalists on Twitter [Special Guest John Wihbey]

  • Wihbey, J. (2018). “It Is Really Hard to Know What is Real” — A new report from Project Information Literacy offers insights about engaging younger consumers with the news. Nieman Reports.
  • Wihbey, J., Joseph, K., & Lazar, D. (forthcoming). The Social Silos of Journalism: Twitter, News Media, and Partisan Segregation. New Media & Society. [Distributed to Class]

Nov 6 & 9   Debates Over Campus Free Speech

NOV 13 — Political Communication, Hollywood Dramas, and Comedy

NOV 16  — Presentations

TUES. NOV 20  — DRAFT FINAL PAPER DUE

NOV 27 & 30  — TBA

DEC 4 — REVIEW FOR SECOND “TAKE HOME” EXAM

DEC 13 — FINAL PAPER DUE