First-Year Seminar “Clash of the Titans: The Press and the American Presidency”

 “Clash of the Titans: The Press and the American Presidency”

Dr. Elizabeth Atwood

Phone: 301-696-3231; (office) e-mail:

Office 208 Rosenstock

Office Hours: 1 p.m.-2 p.m. Thursdays and by appointment

Class meeting: Tuesday & Thursday 10 a.m. to 11:15 a.m., Rosenstock 30

This course explores the often-contentious relationship between the press and the American presidency from the earliest days of the nation until the present. The goal of the course not only is to develop an understanding of these institutions of power, but also to learn to think like college students, i.e., read critically, raise questions and draw conclusions.


FYS Learning Objectives:

  • Students will demonstrate an ability to develop and present a logically convincing written argument, accurately utilizing source material as persuasive evidence to support their thesis. They will present their ideas clearly, employ an assigned citation style (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.), and follow the conventions of standard written English usage and mechanics.
  • Students will be able to develop a research question; to identify potential sources; to evaluate the selected sources for currency, relevance, authority, and purpose relative to the research questions; to provide citations using the appropriate citation style and mechanics.
  • Students will become familiar with some of the out-of-class learning tools and resources available at Hood College.

Course-specific objectives

 “Clash of the Titans: The Press and the American Presidency” will prompt students to think critically about the news media’s role in America democracy by examining the relationship between the media and the president from Washington to Trump. Students will learn that scandals and “fake news” are not new and that the relationship between the two institutions of power has vacillated from cozy to contentious.

The course will challenge students to develop critical-thinking skills and teach them both relevant history and practical knowledge about the news media so they will learn how to find the information they need as citizens in a democracy. At a time when the digital revolution is spawning an unprecedented flood of information and disinformation each day, the course will help students recognize the differences between news and opinion, bias and fairness, assertion and verification, and evidence and inference.

Students will learn:

  • To analyze the key elements of a news account, including weight of evidence, credibility of sources and of context, to judge its reliability.
  • To distinguish between news and opinion and analyze the logic/rhetoric employed in opinion journalism.
  • To use primary sources to examine news coverage of American presidents
  • To assess the impact of digital information technologies, including Facebook and Twitter and place them in their historical context.
  • Write and present original research that examines how the news media have covered a president

Required Books:

  • Republic of Spin: An Inside History of the American Presidency by David Greenberg
  • Quick Access Brief 3rd edition by Lynn Quitman Troyka and Douglas Hesse

Additional Readings

The instructor also will assign readings on Blackboard and on the Web. Students may use their iPads to read news stories, watch videos, and view social media course assignments.

Required Apps:

  • Fox News
  • CNN
  • Youtube
  • Facebook
  • Twitter

Others may be assigned or suggested.

Student Responsibilities:

This is a 3-credit course.  According to the standards set by the Maryland Higher Education Commission, three hours of consistent effort per week are expected of the typical student for each credit.  In addition to class time, students should plan to spend a minimum of 9 hours per week reading, writing, doing research, and preparing for this class.  As the FYS program aims to improve student writing, written work for this course will require considerable time and attention from students.

To succeed in the course, students must demonstrate not simply the memorization of basic information but rather careful attention to the skills practiced in the course and a solid understanding of the causes and meaning of the historical events discussed.  The latter require regular studying and diligent review of all course material.  Regular attendance at, spirited participation in, and thorough preparation for all meetings are required for success in the course.  To prepare for class, students should complete all reading assignments on time and review lecture notes after each session.


Class work, homework and writing assignments must be submitted to Blackboard for grading. Students also will be expected to check Blackboard regularly for announcements and assignments. I will not accept work that is emailed or handed to me on paper.

 Attendance and Participation (10 points)

Because a substantial part of your grade will be based on work you do in class, attendance is required. To earn full credit for attendance and participation, students must arrive on time, be prepared to discuss the assigned material, and conduct themselves in a professional manner.

However, I know life happens. For that reason, I will allow you 2 absences—excused or unexcused—without penalty. If any personal or health problems occur during the semester, see me about arranging extra help before getting behind on assignments.

Disruptive classroom behavior, including late arrival, talking during lectures, listening to music, surfing the Internet, and texting, may result in the forfeiture of attendance and participation points.  While participation grades reflect the quality rather than the quantity of students’ classroom contributions, active engagement throughout all discussions and lectures is required.

“Quality contributions” to class discussions demonstrate thorough completion of and reflection on all assigned readings, reference specific passages in the assigned texts, connect individual discussion topics to broader course themes, engage other students in collegial debate, and/or raise new inquiries for the class to pursue.  Students who adopt a cursory approach to readings and class preparation should not expect to earn high marks in the course.

Writing Assignments

  (All assignments should be Word documents, 12-point type, double spaced)

 Personal Reflection Paper 1 (5 points)—Respond to the readings on why go to college and on choosing a major. Do you agree or disagree with the authors’ views? Describe your own journey to college and what you expect to accomplish in the next four years. 350-500 words.

Personal Reflection Paper 2 (5 points) – Where do you get news about the president? How do you know the news is trustworthy? What are your views about the media? Do you believe they are fair? Accurate? Who do you believe has more power, the press or the president? Why? 350-500 words.

Personal Reflection Paper 3 (5 points) – After attending the Career Center presentation and taking the Focus2 assessment, give your reaction.  Did you agree with the findings? Were you surprised by the results? Describe your next steps toward exploring your career interest. 350-500 words.

Writing Assignment 1 (10 points): Critical reading. Following the four steps of the critical reading process, evaluate a news story (not an editorial or column) from The New York Times or Washington Post pertaining to a controversy involving President Trump. Pay particular attention to the language used to describe the participants in the event or issue, the sources cited in the story and the way the reporter frames the issues. Discuss whether evidence presented in the story is credible. Does the story seem fair and balanced or biased? Why? 500-600 words.

Writing Assignment 2 (25 points): Expanding research. Choose an event described in The Republic of Spin and locate at a primary source to expand upon what the book’s author tells us about the event. You may use an advertisement, speech, photograph or news story that is referenced in The Republic of Spin.  In 500-600 words, summarize what Greenberg writes of the event and describe in detail the primary source you found. Then provide your own insights into the event. Do you agree with Greenberg’s interpretation? Do you have a different view? Why?

Writing Assignment 3 (35 points): Making connections. You will write a research on a controversy involving a U.S. president in the past. You will explain how the media covered the controversy and how the president dealt with the media during this event. You must include five scholarly sources and at least three primary sources. The scholarly sources must peer-reviewed journals and/or scholarly monographs (not magazines or general-interest publications or websites). The primary sources may be original newspaper articles, TV or radio broadcasts, speeches, cartoons or websites. In your research, be sure to consider not only what the controversy was, but the interplay between the media and the president.

You will be graded on basis of quality of research, quality and number of sources, soundness of analysis, prose style, accuracy, judgment, completeness, overall cogency, and correct citation format. A cover page with your name, paper title, course title, and date, stapled to pages of text and bibliography will suffice; no fancy folders. Print on one side only. For instructions on how (and why) to cite your sources, see The bibliography for this paper should be annotated. You should include for each source a summary of the author’s thesis and arguments. 2,400 words (not including bibliography).

Drafts: You are required to submit at TWO drafts Writing Assignment 3. You will lose one letter grade on the assignment if you do not submit both drafts.

Assignment 3 Points:

  • Annotated Bibliography (5 points)
  • Draft 1 (5 points)
  • Draft 2 (5 points)
  • Final revision (20 points)

Project Presentation (5 points): You will make a 10-minute oral presentation on the findings of your research paper. In addition, you will describe the public relations strategy you would have advised the president to take to deal with the controversy if you had been on his team.

Grading (100 points)

Writing Assignments: 85 points

Attendance & Participation: 10 points

Final project Presentation: 5 points

Meeting Deadlines

Learning to complete assignments by their due date is essential not only in college, but in life. For that reason, you will lose one letter grade for every day your assignment is late. Written assignments are due by class time on their due date. Students may only submit late work within one week of a given deadline.  If no work is submitted within one week of a deadline, a score of “0” will be assigned for the given assignment.

Exceptions can be made for documented serious illnesses that require trips to the emergency room or hospitalizations, and notifications from the Dean of Students’ office regarding deaths in a family or other family crises. Athletes who will be missing class because of games are still required to submit assignments on time.

If a student encounters any illness, academic difficulty, or other hardship during the course, he or she should IMMEDIATELY CONTACT THE INSTRUCTOR.  Regular communication with the instructor is both welcomed and imperative.

  Key Dates:

Aug 29: Personal Reflection Paper 1 Due

Sept. 5: Personal Reflection Paper 2 Due

Sept. 12: Writing Assignment 1 Draft Due

Sept 19: Writing Assignment 1 Due

Sept. 28: Writing Assignment 2 Due

Oct. 5: Personal Reflection 3 Due

Oct. 12: Research Question Due

Oct. 24: Annotated Bibliography Due

Nov. 7: Writing Assignment 3 First Draft Due

Nov. 28: Writing Assignment 3 Second Draft Due

Dec. 5: Oral Presentation

Dec. 7: Writing Assignment 3 Due

Academic Integrity:

Students will adhere to the standards of academic integrity and research established by Hood College.  Cheating (e.g. the use of notes or books during quizzes or exams, communicating with or copying the work of others during quizzes or exams, purchasing or reviewing the (un)graded work of past students in this course, holding, viewing, and/or using smart phones, tablets, or other computers and calculators during quizzes or exams, etc.) is a serious academic offense that can result in a failing grade for an assignment and/or the course and may leave a permanent mark on a student’s academic record.  Plagiarism is a form of cheating and refers to the direct quotation or paraphrasing of an author’s work without providing proper citation.  Any act of plagiarism will result in a “0” for the given assignment and possibly a failing course grade.  A lack of familiarity with proper citation practices does not excuse acts of plagiarism.  If students have any questions about citations, references, or other matters of academic integrity, they should contact the instructor.  No questions are annoying.  All questions are welcome.


Students with physical, psychological, or learning disabilities must be registered with the college’s Disability Services Coordinator. The coordinator will help you prepare a plan for services and will forward authorization for the specified services to class instructors. Please contact me early in the semester to provide the necessary documentation, and to arrange for appropriate accommodations on exams.

 Center for Academic Achievement and Retention (CAAR):

The CAAR office is located on the third floor of Rosenstock Hall and provides a wide range of academic supports for all students.  Services range from math and writing tutoring to individualized one-on-one meetings to discuss any barriers that might prevent you from reaching your full academic potential.  If you ever need help, feel free to stop by.  We won’t always have all the answers, but we will definitely work with you to try to help you find the supports that you need.

Disability Services:

The Disability Services office provides academic support for students with disabilities.  Examples of disabilities include, but are not limited to, mobility impairments, blindness/low vision, psychiatric conditions, recurring medical conditions, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and others.  The following are examples of academic accommodations:

  • Extended time on exams
  • Note-taking support
  • Textbooks in alternative formats (electronic, audio, etc.)
  • ASL interpreting services

If you have a documented disability and are interested in finding out more about academic accommodations, please contact CAAR.


Tuesday, Aug. 22: Welcome

  • Expectations
  • Scholarly work
  • Building community
  • Time management
  • Deadlines

Thursday, Aug. 24: Why we’re here


  • Holly Epstein Ojalvo, “Why Go to College at All?”

  • John Cassidy, “College Calculus: What’s the real value of higher education?”

  • Jeffrey J. Selingo, “Does the College Major Matter? Not Really”

  • Nathan Gebhard, “Four Steps to Choosing a College Major”

  • Robert J. Sternberg, “Giving Employers What They Don’t Really Want”

  • Troyka, Chapter 7

Get Organized—bring syllabi and a calendar

Tuesday, Aug. 29—Press and the Founding of the Nation



  • They Say, I Say—Introduction & Chapter 11 (in Blackboard)
  • Greenberg, Intro: A World of Spin

 Thursday, Aug. 31—Theodore Roosevelt


  • Troyka: Chapters 1-3
  • Greenberg, Part I, 1-3

Note check

 Tuesday, Sept. 5—The Muckrakers



  • Greenberg, 4-7

Thursday, Sept. 7—Woodrow Wilson

  • Greenberg, 8-9
  • Troyka, Chapter 4-5

Tuesday, Sept. 12 –World War I and George Creel


  • Greenberg, 10-12
  • Troyka, 8-9


You must schedule a meeting with CAAR to have the draft reviewed

Thursday, Sept. 14—How to find academic resources


  • Troyka, 12

Meet in the library. Bring preliminary research question.

Tuesday, Sept. 19—Warren Harding



  • Greenberg, 13-16
  • Selected Mencken Writings

Thursday, Sept. 21—Calvin Coolidge & Herbert Hoover


  • Greenberg 17-19

Tuesday, Sept. 27—Franklin Roosevelt


  • Greenberg, 20-21

Thursday, Sept.. 28—Franklin Roosevelt



  • Greenberg, 22-24

Tuesday, Oct. 3

Career Center presentation

Thursday, Oct. 5—Roosevelt & WWII


  • Greenberg, 25-27


Note check


Thursday, Oct. 12—Harry Truman



  • Greenberg, 28-30
  • Troyka, 13

Trip to the Newseum, Saturday, Oct. 14 (tentative)

Tuesday, Oct. 17–Eisenhower


  • Greenberg, 31-33

Thursday, Oct. 19—Eisenhower

  • Read: Greenberg, 34-35
  • Chicago Citation Style

Tuesday, Oct. 24 – Kennedy



  • Greenberg, 36-38

Thursday, Oct. 26—Kennedy


  • Greenberg, 39-41

Tuesday, Oct. 31—Johnson


  • Greenberg, 42-44

Course selection advice—Bring course selections to class

Thursday, Nov. 2: Nixon


  • Greenberg, 45

Tuesday, Nov. 7—Ronald Reagan


  • Greenberg, 46


Thursday, Nov. 9—George Bush & Bill Clinton


  • Greenberg, 47

Tuesday, Nov.  14—George W. Bush and the media in the post 9-11 age


  • Greenberg, Chapter 48

Thursday, Nov. 16—Barack Obama


  • Greenberg, 49

Tuesday, Nov. 21 — Teacher Meetings

Thursday, Nov. 23: No class. Thanksgiving Recess

Tuesday, Nov. 28


“The Making of the Candidate “

Thursday, Nov. 30

“The Making of the Candidate”

Tuesday, Dec. 5


Thursday, Dec. 7




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