POLS 110: News and Politics: Reading Between the Lines


The goal of this course is to help students become effective democratic citizens by expanding their understanding of political news. In recent years the lines have been blurred between different forms of news – hard news and soft news, straight news and opinionated news, interviews programs and shouting matches, investigative reporting and Swift Boating. New media formats, such internet blogs and “The Daily Show” blend news and commentary. New media platforms have emerged on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. What sources should citizens trust? In this course students will learn to evaluate evidence, arguments, and quality of content in this fast changing news environment. To gain a deeper appreciation of the challenges of news, students will try their hands at different kinds of political news writing, including news stories, interviews, commentary, and investigation. This semester the course will emphasize relationship between journalism and democracy in light of two broad topics: the American congressional elections of 2010 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

POLS 210: Participation, Power and Inequality in America


This course focuses on the dynamics of politics – in Harold Lasswell's words "who gets what, when, and how." It is no secret that some people have a lot of resources (money, knowledge, status) and others have little. This course examines different kinds of inequalities and their consequences for American democracy. Do wealthy individuals, corporations, and groups always get what they want from American government? How can less advantaged citizens make their voices heard? Do elections balance the pressure system? Will the internet change the power equation in the United States?

To help shed light on these questions, course work will include participation in an interest group as well as reading, discussions, oral and written presentations, and simulations.

POLS 316: Mass Media and American Democracy


This course focuses on the mutual influences of the media, politics, and the people in America. We assess the role of the media as a source of democratic accountability, civic education, expert opinions, editorial signaling, entertainment, manipulation, and political engagement. We examine the constraints on media content posed by journalism norms, the news gathering process, economic pressures, and political ideology. This semester we will pay particular attention to the role of the media in public policy debate. Besides traditional news, the media we examine include internet news, comedy programming, political blogs, YouTube, social networking sites, and other contemporary forms of political communication. In addition to deepening your understanding of new media, old media, public opinion and politics (an admittedly tall order), the course aims to develop your ability to evaluate information critically, cooperate effectively in a group, and present your ideas convincingly.