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Marketing Communication Department
Instructor: Alton Miller
Course number 54-2705

COURSE OBJECTIVES AND SYLLABUS                 Jump to Assignments

Course Description: In every U.S. election cycle, over 500,000 candidates run for office at the local, state and federal level -- employing millions of staffers and consultants. Millions more are paid to play -- from environmental activists to lobbyists for major corporations. This is a good class for anyone interested in getting into the game, or just trying to find out what's going on.

This class is available as a collegewide elective to all students, without prerequisites.

A video history of contemporary American politics is interwoven with discussion and analysis of political campaigns in the news. Students will analyze the government-press connection, and create their own PR campaign plan for a candidate or cause.

Course Objectives:

  1. For those who want to pursue a career in politics and government, the principal objective is to learn the fundamentals of political and governmental PR for practical application.
  2. For other PR students, the objective is to acquire skills useful in dealing with governmental agencies and other political or governmental entities.
  3. For the general student, in any major, the objective is to better appreciate the political aspect of American society, including political and governmental reporting by the major media.

The Columbia College mission is "to provide a comprehensive educational opportunity in the arts, communications, and public information..." in order to "educate students who will communicate creatively and shape the public's perceptions of issues and events..." The objective of this course is to do just that.

Class Information: The class meets once a week, Wednesday, 12:30-3:20pm, at 624 S. Michigan, room 806. The class typically numbers 15-20.

Class Requirements: Over the course of the term, students will learn to develop a political/governmental media strategy, and will write a short (3-10 page) campaign strategy memo as a final project. The principal textbook for the course is The Government/Press Connection by Stephen Hess. Students will also read their choice of one book from a list of readings. Students are expected to read at least one Chicago newspaper daily.

Class Policies: Short quizzes will be used regularly to review discussion, readings, and other assignments, and there will be a midterm and a final exam. Grades depend approximately 1/3 on attendance and the quizzes, 1/3 on the two exams, and 1/3 on the final project.

Attendance is important, and final grades will suffer from habitual tardiness. Makeup work is always required for absences, whether or not they are excused. Late Assignments will not be accepted. All assignments are due at the beginning of class, even when the student misses class. Students in my Wednesday classes have learned that it's just as easy to do homework on Thursday as it is on Tuesday -- and the good habits acquired in the process are valuable to their career prospects.


    This is a previous syllabus, for your general orientation.
    The syllabus is being revised during Fall 2003.

Class 1 - Introductions

    Introductions. Overview of course objectives. Introduction to news analysis, theatrical elements in politics.
    Video: The War Room

Class 2 - The Government-Press Connection

    Brief historical outline of developments in U.S. media from colonial period to 1900. Introduction to media campaigns. Discussion of news analysis.

Class 3 - Drama and Politics

    The symbolic uses of politics... the role of narrative, introduction to the "pseudo-event"...
    Video: The Man from Libertyville... ...

Class 4 - The Pseudo-Event

    The "pseudo-event" and image manipulation... introduction to campaign organization

Class 5 - How Campaigns Are Organized

    Campaign styles... Media consultants... polling & political research... TV ads...
    Video: Making of the President 1960

Class 6 - Developing Campaign Strategies

    Leaks... friends & enemies... Campaign personnel... Press secretary basics...

Class 7 - PR Routines :

    PR routines and systems...Organizing the govt. press office... Top-down and bottom-up... Rifle and shotgun approach ... Relationships with the media...

Class 8 - Midterm Exam

    Make-up exam: the following Friday, 2:00 p.m., Room 800

Class 9 - Campaigning and Governing

    Campaigning & governing: comparisons & contrasts... Rationale for govt. press office... Realities of public life... The power of the incumbent... first impressions...

Class 10 - PR Strategies

    PR Strategy for political & governmental programs; Setting the agenda... Developing the message...
    Video:The Democratic Party 1960-1992

Class 11 - Developing a game plan

    Developing a game plan... Testing the message... Editing control of the script

Class 12 - Message Development

    Framing the issue, developing the message... Polarization & attack...
    Video: The Republican Party, 1960-1992

Class 13 - Crafting the game plan

    Building campaign themes into a complete game plan... crafting the policy memo.

Class 14 - Paradoxes and Dilemmas:

    The govt.-press connection: is the press a watchdog or a lapdog? Ethical issues re managing, or manipulating bias... notes on news slant... course review...

Class 15 - Final Exam

    final project due

    Make-up exam: the following Friday, 2:00 p.m., Room 800

Bio outline:

Part of your assignment for Class 2 is a brief biographical outline (one page is enough) organized into three topics:

I. Youth

    Your family background, where you grew up, where you went to school, etc., up through high school

II. Current life

    Your college education, work experience, interests in the past four years or so, up to the present...

III. Fall 2013

    Put yourself a decade in the future, and write about what you did, what you accomplished, in the decade 2003-2013. Be realistic, whatever that means to you...

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