Saturday, September 06, 2008

Workload and What You Need to Do Right Away

One nice thing about this course is that you don't have to buy any books, and you don't have to do a final paper.

The emphasis, instead, is what you do every week. Please understand that, because of that, I have very high expectations for your weekly output. It is impossible to coast along for most of the term and then put on a big charge in the last few weeks and still get a decent grade.

The first thing you need to do is either start a blog or adapt an existing blog so that you can do your homework on it. If you're on some other platform like livejournal and want to use its blogging function, that's fine, as long as there is a specificl url that takes us directly to a blog or page that is all about the course and not about your bffs or how many beers you pounded down last Friday.

I say "us" because that is one of the other unusual aspects of this course. You will all have access to each other's blogs. Commenting on each other's entries is good, provided said comments are constructive and not snarky. {If you're a total Luddite or if this concept scares you, talk to me. I bet we can get you going on a blog pretty darn quick. Your classmates will help. And you'll be surprised at how much fun it is. At first. Exceptions will be made, but only with great resistance from me.}

Try to blog every day . If I see posts for four or five days per week, I will be happy. If I see two posts for the whole week, I will be happy only if they are longer and chunkier and noteworthy for the way they synthesize themes and use links to support various ideas. If I see an output that is thin and sketchy, I will not be so happy.

Try to blog intelligibly and thoughtfully. But if you want to use informal, not-so-academic language in your posts, that's fine with me, provided it is done in order to support your insights and observations with zippy, entertaining prose. Remember, this IS the written portion of this seminar, so make it sing, dudes.

Another thing you need to do right away is make sure you have registration access to at least one major newspaper. It's probably a good idea to make cure you can get on the sites of the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times with relative ease. The Wall Street Journal is trickier, but if it turns out we have at least one or two regular WSJ readers in the class, that will be great.

Every week the class will have two halves, although they will not always go in the same order.

One half will be a discussion pulling together all of what we have seen and gleaned from our media monitoring all week. The other half will focus on the theme we are exploring that week.

So let's talk about you media monitoring.
Each of you will be responsible for reading ALL of the political coverage in one major newspaper EVERY DAY. Not all of you will read the same newspapers. I will try to work as much as possible with whatever preerences you already have, but I will also divide you up into teams, so we make sure a diversity of newspapers is voered.

You must also, every day, look at Slate's Today's Papers feature. That will take you 30 seconds. While you are at Slate, you might as well poke around in their other coverage, which is very good. It tends to be read by a lot of other people in the business. One of the relatively new trends is that kind of "layering."
The big fish are often reading the smaller fish. In fact, that would be a cool thing to note in your blogs from time to time -- the way relatively minor players seem to be influencing coverage by (or even going into partnership with) better established players.

But I digress. If you get really obsessed with how newspapers are covering any one thing, I invite you to use this AMAZING tool, which allows you to look at all the front pages for any one day.

You must also spend 30 minutes day with some kind of television news. Again, the more diverse we are the better, and I will divide you up into teams based on what you already do. A network evening news or a cable show. THE DAILY SHOW DOES NOT COUNT. You should probably watch it anyway, as much as you can. And we will spend one week studying it and Colbert very closely.

You must also spend a few minutes every day with internet only content.
I would like you to stop in -- without necessarily becoming mired -- at one of the big ones like Daily Kos or Town Hall or Instapundit or peek at all the bloggers at the Atlantic site. But pick your poisons. You probably all have political blogs you like. I will ask you to commit to monitoring at least one of them.

So that's your bedrock monitoring commitment. Some newspaper, television and internet. And a daily or near-daily blog post sifting through your perceptions.

On top of that we will pile some content associated with each week's theme.

If that seems like a lot, all I can say is -- no books, no final paper, no exam. Work your ass off for me on a daily/weekly basis and we can all wave bye-bye on the last day of classes. What I'm really trying to do is build a weekly media hive in the classroom, where the bees teach each other. If we all do our work, we will be collectively as sharp about the topic of this class as anybody in America.

I could list 100 extra, but I will only list two.
If you look at this Pew site every day, you will get a good overview of our topic. Follow the links to learn more.
I look at Memeorandum about ten times day, five days a week. It in turn will lead you to some of the other biggies like Drudge and HuffPo and Politico. We will study them in depth one week, but feel free to look at them all the time.

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