Comm 160: Overview


Bennett et al., When the Press Fails
Iyengar & McGrady, Media Politics: A Citizen's Guide

Additional readings will be available on the course website ( Coursework will not be used for this class.


This course examines the role of mass media in the democratic process. We begin by considering the "public service" responsibilities of the press -- to inform and engage citizens -- and the various policy regimes for implementing these responsibilities. Second, we examine the determinants of news coverage, including market forces and the internal workings of press organizations. Third, we discuss the ways in which news programming affects the audience -- both the mass public and political elites. Fourth, we explain the design and evolution of media-based campaigns, with particular emphasis given to the strategic interplay between reporters, candidates, and voters. We also document the gradual extension of "going public" and related techniques to the policy-making arena. Finally, we assess the potential of new technologies to alter the landscape of media politics.


Two examinations and a research paper. The exam format includes short answer and essay questions. The research paper (8-10 pages, double spaced) will examine cross-national differences in the content and delivery of news programming using a database compiled by class participants. Each student will select a country, identify a major print and broadcast news source, and track news coverage provided by these sources for the period April 26 - April 30. The instructions for classifying news stories will be developed in class; a coding manual and sample data sheet will be available no later than April 19. Each student will present her/his paper in class during the last four sessions. You must submit a paper proposal no later than May 5.


Please visit the Readings section of this site for an updated class schedule.