National politics is a 24/7 staple on the stump, on social media, on TV, in ads, and in the minds of millions of Americans who struggle to make sense of the incessant noise. Political commentary writers have a great challenge: seemingly by the hour, they are tasked with making smart judgments, supporting those judgments with empirical material, and communicating those judgments in clear language. They have to cut through the clutter, and engage the reader—smartly and entertainingly.
For those reasons, only true junkies of national politics—and those who aspire to write about it—are likely to enjoy this course, which focuses entirely on the difficult art of timely political commentary writing, and on the challenges that commentary writers face in an era of polarization that is stoked further by the blogosphere and the democratizing Twittersphere.
Students who are passionate about writing and politics will track the 2018 congressional midterm campaigns week by week, and write commentary posts on an online blog that has been created for this course. Students will track other breaking news stories as well. At this historic juncture of the Trump era, at a time when Americans are more awash in opinions than ever before, our aim is to master the craft of writing clear, responsible, incisive, substantive, and entertaining point-of-view journalism—and backing it up with factual research. All political views are welcome—as long as they are argued and supported effectively. The ultimate goal is to successfully develop an “earned voice” via effective writing, effective reporting, and, above all, effective thinking. In addition, guest journalists will visit to discuss their work.