Request for Designation as a Community Interest (CI) Course in Explorations

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Request for Designation as a Community Interest (CI) Course in Explorations

Name Natalie Davis

Course number and title PS 300/MFS 300 Media and Society

Departmental endorsement___yes (political Science)______________________________

Has this course been submitted for any other Explorations designation? no

If so, which one? ______________

Please list which of your course assignments or activities addresses each of the guidelines, state briefly how this is accomplished, and attach a syllabus or a preliminary redesign plan for the course.

The criterion for a global perspectives CI course is a primary focus on interests in competing ethical, moral, or community interests.

MEDIA and SOCIETY (PS/MFS 300) explores the topic of political and social discourse. Its major emphasis is the impact that media have on all of us—what we think, what we like, what we dislike, and how we view our role(s) in society. That’s the micro part of the course. The macro party moves in the direction of aggregation: How do media affect the political system and society? There are a number of goals for this course, but two are particularly relevant to the CI designation: (1) students should exit the course thinking differently about the media. The typical “knee-jerk” reactions, such as, “It’s all because the media are biased,” should merit some qualification; (2) students should be able to understand and articulate an argument about the impact of media on the quality of community. Media have a great deal to do with the quality of discourse. Walter Lippmann would have sneered at social media and citizen journalism. He wanted the media to be controlled by elites—those in the “know”—who bring to bear their influence. We are a long way from that.

Most of our class discussions in one way or another center on CI issues. If candidates with more money can buy more TV time, what ethical considerations are at work here? We may be an information rich society, but is that a good thing, when cable television allows us to pick and choose news sources—we can’t have civil discourse if we don’t agree on the facts. A case in point: A 2005 national poll found that 7 percent of those who regularly watch PBS, 16 percent of ABC viewers, 18 percent of NBC viewers, and 42 percent of FOXNEWS viewers still believed there were WMD in Iraq. How do the media bring us together, and do media separate us?
There are two essay assignments: The first addresses broadcasting vs narrowcasting. Given our ability to segment ourselves by how we consume media, how do our own individual media choices affect what we think? The second essay directly asks students to make some judgment about the ability/inability of the media to enhance democracy. (see syllabus for these assignments.) The major research paper/project offers students the opportunity to conduct original research resulting in a video or set of campaign commercials or a traditional paper which addresses national or community interests and how the media can assist or retard efforts to respond to those interests.
Return this form as one electronic file with a syllabus appended to by 30 May 2011.

PS/MFS 300—FALL 2011

Natalie Davis (Harbert 307; 226-4837; email:


This course explores the relationship between media and society. We will examine relevant literature (of which there is an impressive amount) and focus primarily on the impact of television, print journalism, political advertising, internet, and social media and how these affect the norms and values which undergird our society in general and tthe American political system in particular.

NOTE: The course is a social science course, required for the MFS major. Because it is being taught by a political scientist, the course content reflects the expertise of the professor. A sociologist or psychologist might have a different substantive focus, but the course description serves us all well:
MFS 300 Media and Society (1)
An exploration of the interactive relationship between media and society from political, psychological, economic, and sociological perspectives. This course will focus on how media sources such as television, film, and the Internet, influence society at group and individual levels and how society, in turn, influences the creation and production of media. (Cross-listed as PS 300, PY 300, SO 300 or UES 300; may only be taken once.)

The course relies heavily on collaborative learning, in that it is expected that students will work together on at least one major project, bring examples of media impact to class, and engage the material aggressively. Issues of leadership, civic and moral responsibility, and democratic values are weaved into virtually all of our discussions. These should make for lively discussion.

There will be two essays, a mid-term exam, and a final exam. In addition, there is a team project.
GRADING: Essay #1 (on media bias) .. . . . . . . 25 points

Coverage Paper (media impact). . .. 35 points

Mid-term Exam . . . . . . . . 50 points

Final Exam . . . . . . . . 30 points

Class Participation . . . . . . . . 25 points

Team Project . . . . . . . . 50 points

IMPORTANT DATES: Essay #1 Due (3-4 pgs) Tuesday, February 22

Coverage Paper (7-9 pgs) Tuesday, March 17

Mid-term Exam Tuesday, April 7

Project Presentations Wednesday, April 28

Monday, April 30


W. Lance Bennett, NEWS; THE POLITICS OF ILLUSION, 8th ed.


Thomas A. Hollihan UNCIVIL WARS, 2nd ed.

ESSAY #1: Before writing this essay, keep a log or journal of three consecutive days detailing your contact with media. Remember media “are” plural. They can include TV, internet, newspapers, music, social media, film, etc. So not include time talking or texting on your cell phone. Can you draw a mostly straight line between what you watch, read, or listen and your political and social attitudes. Write and essay where you focus on the socialization process and its impact on how you are affected by media. In what way(s) would someone else’s media choices affect how you interact with that person. How do media bring us together, and how do media make community more difficult to achieve? [HINT: Recall our conversation about the difference between broadcasting and narrow-casting.] Your essay should be between 1250 and 2000 words. Please double space and proof every word. Attach your log/journal.
ESSAY #2: When we speak of “media-based” politics, we posit that our politics are driven by the effort of political actors and others to control a message in such a way that those who hear it will be persuaded by whatever they have to say. This means that virtually all of politics is “controlled” by those who know how to use media best. First, do you agree with this line of reasoning, and if you do, how does this enhance/not enhance the democratic process? If you don’t agree, what thesis would you substitute? [In preparing this essay, go back to Iygenar and McGrady to be sure you understand the concept of “media-based” politics.] Your essay should be between 1250 and 2000 words. Please double space and proof every word. Attach your log/journal.
I’ll be giving you more detailed instructions on the project. For now, think of it as an original effort which can be done in groups. Though you may choose to write a traditional paper, most groups want to put together a video or produce some commercials. It’s very open-ended and is not intended to be a major thesis. Its purpose is to have you come away from the course having investigated some aspect in-depth of the impact of media on democracy—you can’t do it all. [15 – 20 pages, for a traditional paper.]


Part I: The Nexus Between Media and Political Culture
2/3: Introduction to the Course
2/5: Political Culture and Democratic Values:

Bennett, Chapter 1

2/10: The Concept of Bias

Bennett, Chapter 2

2/12: Political Socialization

Hollihan, Chapter 3

2/17: Truth, Spin and Political Learning

Bennett, Chapters 3, 6

2/22: ESSAY #1 DUE

Discussion of Socialization Essays

2/24: Editorial Board Meetings

Part II: Media and the Politics of Persuasion
2/26: “Playing on Emotions”

Drew Westen, “Rational Minds, Irrational Campaigns” [MOODLE]

Bennett, Chapter 4
3/3: How Journalists Report

Bennett, Chapter 5

Ringel, #4,5,7,8
3/5: Agenda Setting and Media Ethics

Hollihan, Chapter 5

Ringel, # 29,30,31
3/10: Covering War

Hollihan, Chapter 1,2

Ringel, # 12,13,14,16,18,19

[NOTE: Each student will be responsible for discussing 2 of the Ringel cases.]

3/12: The Corporate Side of Media

Bennett, Chapter 7

Ringel, #26,28

3/17: ESSAY #2 DUE

Discussion of Media Impact Essays

Part III: Campaigns and Elections: TV, Advertising, and Public Opinion
3/19: Candidate Image

Hollihan, Chapter 4

3/24 – 3/26: SPRING BREAK


3/31: ADS, ADS, and More ADS

Hollihan, Chapter 6
4/2: The Role of Polling

Hollihan, Chapter 7

Ted Brader, “Hearts and Minds: Rethinking the Place of Emotion in

Political Life” [MOODLE]


Part IV: Key Issues for Politics and Media
4/9: New Media I: Late Night and other Entertainment

Bennett, Chapter 8

Ringel, #21-22
4/14: New Media II: The Bogged Up Cyberspace

Hollihan, Chapter 9

Ringel, #23,24,25

Blogger Panel

4/16: Talk, Talk, and More Talk

Talk Panel

4/21: Press Freedom: Limits on the The First Amendment?

Doria Graber, “Terrorism, Censorship, and the First Amendment


Ringel, #1,7,32,33,34,38,39,40

[NOTE: Each student will be responsible for discussing 2 of the Ringel cases.]

4/28: Project Presentations

4/30: Project Presentations

Part IV: The Big Finish
5/5: Prospects for Democracy I

Michael Schudson, “Why Democracies Need an Unlovable Press” [MOODLE]

Walter Lippmann, “Newspapers” [MOODLE]

Thomas Patterson, “The Miscast Institution” [MOODLE]

5/7: Prospects for Democracy II

Bennett, Chapter 8

Hollihan, Chapter 12



Honor Code:
The BSC Honor Code is key to creating a fair, ethical, and honest academic community. Students are responsible for knowing and strictly abiding by the Honor Code. When in doubt, consult the Student Handbook about specific issues. Because political science courses rely heavily on written essays, research papers, and other writing assignments, plagiarism is taken very seriously. Be aware of the rules concerning giving proper credit from sources you quote directly or paraphrase.
I invite students to use their laptops or IPADS to take notes or to do class work. However, I consider use of electronic equipment in class for other purposes (texting, FACEBOOK, etc.) a violation of the HONOR CODE.
Attendance, Make-up Exams, and other Stuff:
There really is no reason to be absent from class, except in the case of illness or some other emergency. While we may not "count" class attendance, we will "take" class attendance. If, because of an emergency, you have to be absent from an exam, be aware that all make-up exams are given the last week of classes in the term (not a reading day).
The faculty is increasingly concerned about students arriving late to class. Please avoid this, and please do not leave the room in the middle of class, except in the case of an emergency. It goes without saying that cell phones should be turned "off."
What is Class Participation?
First, class participation is not the same thing as class attendance. Simply coming to class and not participating verbally means you have not contributed anything. For some, this is difficult, but "practice does make perfect." It is not the number of times you say something that counts, but the contribution you make. What you have to say has value, and your not contributing means that other students will not have the benefit of hearing your point of view--they will be diminished for it.
The Writing Thing
There are writing assignments in this course. Please be sure to proof your work. You should be aware that “spell check” is not a good substitute for proofing (there / they’re / their may all seem correct to “spell check).” Moreover, it is hard to give you a fair read when distracted by a large number of spelling, grammatical, composition, and usage errors. This is why editing is so important. If your work has more than 3 “unforced” errors, it will be returned to you for a re-write.

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