Political Communication courses offered for SoC students in Fall 2018 semester

Alexa Nikitas

[media-credit id=2200 align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]The Media Studies department is now offering two special courses in Fall 2018 semester for School of Communications (SoC) students interested specifically in politics.

The Political Science and Media Studies department will be collaborating to teach Political Communication (MSS349/PO348). SoC Dean Mark Contreras will be teaching Media Decision Makers (MSS400).

“One of the great things about political communication is that it’s an interdisciplinary field that brings together political science, history, rhetoric, media studies, journalism and strategic communication,” Professor of media studies Lisa Burns said.

Students interested in taking Political Communication must have taken and completed Intro to American Government (PO131). To reserve a spot in either of the classes, students must email Burns to request a seat before Wednesday, March 21.

Political Communication consists of two sections with two different topics. MSS 349/PO 348 focuses on the political communication in the Trump era.

“This course explores the relationship between media and politics in the U.S. with a focus on how political communication strategy and media coverage of politics has changed since the 2016 presidential election cycle,” The course description said in an email sent to all SoC students.

Topics include the history of political communication, the importance of image-making and image management strategies, the role of political reporting, the impact of social media and the current state of our mediated political culture in the Trump era.

The course pays particular attention to the 2018 midterm elections and the early stages of the 2020 presidential race.

PO 348/MSS 349 focuses on the persuasion and propaganda in political communication.

The course will focus on a series of questions revolving around the core dilemma of political communication within a free society: persuasion and propaganda. Stuents will work to determine how we reconcile a free society’s need for persuasion with the anti-democratic dangers of propaganda, this according to the course description sent in an email to all SoC students.

Students will gain knowledge about key historical cases of how national leaders and activists in Europe and America use political communication with special attention on the 2018 U.S. and state election campaigns unfolding before us in real time, according to the course description.

MSS 400 is a course taught by Contreras. “In this course, students will examine the multiple factors that impact the decision-making of media industry leaders past and present. Topics include understanding the personal forces affecting leaders’ decision-making processes; analyzing how media companies respond to large media consumption and revenue shifts; appreciating the role an individual can have on a company/industry; and understanding the influences on public vs. private/family ownership.”

The course description says in an email sent to all SoC students, “The course will feature several guest speakers with expertise in the industry or with the companies being discussed, which include Apple, Netflix, ESPN, Hearst, Wall Street Journal, NPR, MSNBC, Saturday Night Live, E!, HGTV, Food Network, and many more!”

Burns and Professor of political science Scott McLean hope the political communication courses will raise awareness about these changes, the techniques used to manipulate Americans and how to use political communication more efficiently, according to McLean.

“I am deeply concerned that the result is a deepening of the ‘culture war’ so that in many parts of life, conservatives and progressives do not simply disagree on issues, but they do not recognize a common set of facts as ‘reality’,” Professor Scott McLean said.

McLean and Burns hope the political communication courses will raise awareness about these changes, the techniques used to manipulate Americans and how to use political communication more efficiently, according to McLean.

Burns and McLean regularly teach the political communication classes. McLean uses his political science background and Burns uses her communication view to teach the courses, according to Burns.

Burns and McLean decided to run their courses at the same time and link them together. The professors plan to meet a couple of times during the semester and may even collaborate to do an assignment.

“For students who want to work in politics, this is a great chance to develop the skills they will need to be effective communicators. Aspiring reporters will learn the important role journalism plays in our political system,” Burns said. “For those who don’t know much about politics, it’s a great way to learn about it. There’s no prior knowledge necessary. And for everyone, understanding the nuances of political communication makes us more informed citizens who can analyze the political messages that bombard us each day.”

He also commented on how political actors have become highly sophisticated in how they can both persuade and manipulate audiences for political leverage, according to McLean.

“Political Communication is an extremely relevant class especially in today’s political climate and it can help start conversation on our campus about media and communication,” Freshman and English major Anna Ciacciarella said.