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Political Commentary Writing: The Presidential Election

ENGL 159.301
Wednesday 2-5:00pm

What’s the most professionally honest and effective way to cover the historically unique Trump administration? Do the traditional rules of “objectivity” work anymore, when writing about a president who breaks the norms of communication and governance? What’s the most honest and effective way to harness the technological revolution - the impact of Facebook, Twitter, and the rest of social media; the megaphone of ideological media - that has already upended the old norms of coverage?


We’ll tackle these issues by writing about the Trump administration - and most timely of all, the autumn '20 presidential campaign. We’ll discuss the partisan national landscape, where even empirical facts are often deemed to be in dispute. Students will write stories in two formats: “straight” news blended with analysis; and, later, opinion commentary. The stories – posted to a closed website - will be workshopped in class.


The prime goal of this course is to help students develop political writing skills - most importantly, a respect for factual reporting, context and perspective, and informed opinion. This course will explore the daunting challenges that political journalists face when writing about polarizing topics for polarized audiences - while grappling with the thorny issues of “objectivity” and “balance,” the cultural influences of snark and irony, and the fog of “fake news.”


This course is designed to be timely, so we’ll closely monitor breaking stories - particularly about the presidential campaign - as they arise.

fulfills requirements