PO350 Special Topics in Politics:

for FA 2004

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CA 450/PO 350

Media and Presidential Elections

Fall, 2004

Wed. 1:50 – 4:40 MC 23

Professors Ron Brecke and John Lofflin




Office Hours: Professor Brecke: M, 10 – 11, T 10:00 – 11:30; W, 12 – 1; R 10 – 11:30; F, 10 - 11 (or by appointment). Lofflin: T, 2:15-4:30; W, 11 – 1:50; F, 11 – noon



Mission Statement: The mission of Park University, an entrepreneurial institution of learning, is to provide access to academic excellence, which will prepare learners to think critically, communicate effectively and engage in lifelong learning while serving a global community.

Vision Statement: Park University will be a renowned international leader in providing innovative educational opportunities for learners within the global society.




            This course will be both descriptive and normative, explaining and evaluating the relationship between the politicians, the electoral process, and the American press as the 2004 presidential election unfolds.

            As a cross-disciplinary endeavor, this course seeks to examine that relationship from two perspectives: 1) We will look at the content of the press and speculate on the effect of that content. 2) We will examine and evaluate the political system and the political players. We will explicate the political process at work in presidential elections, identify strategies employed by contemporary candidates and consider the effects of those strategies. We will raise questions about the constitutional role of the press in elections. Finally, we will ask whether journalists are fulfilling their role by evaluating the work the press does in covering campaigns, particularly presidential campaigns and especially this presidential campaign.

            We intend to hold both the press and the politicians accountable.

            A key element of our method will be to study these entities and players in “real time.” We have the rare opportunity in the fall of 2004 to bring the expertise and energy of both the teachers and the students together to study a presidential election as it happens. The questions are open-ended and the answers may not yet be known.




Professors Brecke and Lofflin will share each session, each concentrating on his particular expertise. The course will include direct instruction and original research.


The research project will provide much of the material for the course. Students will be analyzing newspapers, magazines, television and radio in real time.




q You will describe the nature of a presidential election – the political, institutional and symbolic elements -- and you will apply that understanding to other kinds of elections.

q You will discuss the nature of citizenship in democracy

q You will use the vocabulary of presidential politics and media studies

q You will discuss the constitutional nature of the role of the press in democracy.

q You will accomplish original research, mastering the research technique, doing the work and analyzing the results.

q You will utilize other research on the effects of the press in society to analyze the presidential election of 2004

q You will describe, analyze and critique the role of the press and the actions of the political players in the presidential election of 2004.




1. Attend classes regularly.  EACH unexcused absence will lower your cumulative grade by two percent (two points on a 100 point scale).  There are no excused absences.  You may regain one point for your cumulative grade by handing in a typed summary of the reading for the day(s) you miss.  These summaries are due one week after the class is missed.  They will not be accepted for credit after that time.

2. Be prepared for class.  This means that you have read the assignment and are prepared to discuss it.  This course is a combination of lecture and discussion and you are expected to take part in the discussions.

3. You are expected to keep abreast of current events. 

4. Course grades are determined on the following bases:

90-100=A                    * Final paper  100 points

80-89=B                      * Weekly assignments   100 points

70-79=C                      * Personal project 100 points

60-69 =D                                            

0-59 =F                                  

5. Any student with special needs or a disability in the classroom environment should come and see us immediately after the first class.

6. If you have problems or questions come and see us or email us.

7. Portable telephones and pagers are not allowed in class except for security or emergency medical personnel.

8.  No assignments will be accepted via email.

9. Required textbooks: Jackson and Crotty: The Politics of Presidential Selection


Final Paper: A paper will pull together all the elements of course describing and analyzing the presidential election of 2004. The paper will include original research accomplished during the semester, the ideas discussed in class, the common text and a series of journal articles containing the most recent professional research in the field. You will be asked to do higher level work on this paper, drawing conclusions about what strategies the campaigners used and why they used such strategies. You will be asked to describe and analyze the work of the press and the role media coverage plays in such strategies.  You will also analyze the questions: Do the media prepare citizens to participate in the election? Have the media enabled citizens to participate effectively?

            Evaluation: The paper will be due just after election day. It will be annotated by the instructors, returned to students and rewritten, due on a specific date at the close of the semester. Before starting, students will receive a precise assignment for the paper describing all necessary elements thoroughly. You will know exactly what you are asked to do in this paper. The paper will be worth 100 points.


Weekly Assignments: We will accomplish original research, a content analysis of press coverage of the campaign beginning on Labor Day and pushing through election day. Every member of the class will be responsible for accomplishing the work of the content analysis every week. We will hold you accountable for this because missed work will severely limit the overall validity of our project. In other words, we will be counting on you to do your part to the best of your ability. The results of the original research we accomplish in the content analysis will be available for each student to use as the basis of their final paper.

            Evaluation: We will have 10 weeks to create the content analysis. A student will receive 10 points for each complete weekly assignment


Personal project: Each student will choose one of two options for a personal project. 1) Read, critique and teach a journal article or book chapter to the class (20 minutes); 2) Write an election story demonstrating effective journalism and responsible reporting. (1,000 words) The personal project will be worth 100 points

The projects will be due throughout the semester. We will determine a schedule randomly during the third session.


Participation: Students are expected to participate on a regular basis.  To that end, a random method for calling on students will be instituted. A record will be kept of participation and at the end of the course, these records will be used to determine the outcome of “fence-sitter” situations where a student is very close to a higher or lower grade.


In addition, students may expect an infrequent five minute quiz at the beginning of class to help focus discussion and provide more evidence for this "fence-sitter" grade.