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Writing Assignment on Historic vs. Contemporary (Essay Sample)


Given our conversations about Media and Political Knowledge (Chapter 4), Contemporary Political Socialization (Chapter 5), Agenda-Setting (Chapter 6), and Framing (Chapter 7), you are well-equipped to discuss not only how American citizens acquire information about political matters (both consciously and unconsciously), but also how particular stories or aspects of information are made salient in the mind of the public.
For this assignment, you'll choose one of the three following activities:
1) Choose a historic political issue from the 20th Century and briefly describe it. (Examples might include: The Women's Suffrage Movement, The Civil Rights Movement, abortion, Second Amendment rights, The New Deal, etc...) You'll briefly describe the issue and the political actors involved - lobbying/interest groups, political figures, governmental agents, public personalities - folks or groups who played a major part in or offered an opinion on the topic. For this activity, you'll inspect the role of the media in disseminating information about the issue to the public over a period of time. You won't necessarily be able to demonstrate agenda-setting (unless you have access to old historic newspapers/documents to show what was prioritized), so instead, I'd like you to look for headlines or historic articles written as the issue was evolving - and analyze how the media followed the societal change (if anything changed) through language. Did the media "shape" the story with their words? Did they try to "prime" audiences who already had opinions in any way? Were interest groups or individuals trying to "frame" the issue in the media, and were they successful (and in what ways)? Did a policy agenda emerge in response to media or public demand?

2) As the book notes, many lament "political games" that are played, but in fact "these are endemic to democracy" (p. 154). You'll choose a contemporary political story/event - something within the past year. Like the first activity, you'll give a quick summary, and highlight the actors (e.g. politicians, interest groups, lobbyists, the general public, concerned citizens, etc...) who played a major part in or offered an opinion on the event or story. But in this assignment, you'll dig deep on WHY the political actors are involved - by choice or necessity? - and HOW they responded to the event/situation. Did they release a statement? Utilize the press? Use a Twitter account? Craft a campaign? How did the reactions from each actor vary - and who is/was their intended audience? Were they effective? How do you know? What do we know about how their intended audiences receive their news? What motivations and constraints did each actor possess or face in this scenario?

3) I will assign you a politician, at random. Using the Penn State research tools available to you (e.g. the library, journal articles, news reports, etc…), I’d like you to examine some statements made by the politician related to an issue of importance at that point in time. You’ll want to give a description of the issue itself, and discuss how the politician (or candidate) attempted to frame the issue – what did they believe the public’s agenda was, and what language (e.g. metaphors, comparisons, linguistic tricks, the words themselves) was used to drive home the necessity of the action/belief in the mind of the politician, to the general public. How did the media frame the issue? Was it different? What level of importance was the issue given, by the media (agenda-setting), and how did the public respond? Analyze the angle from all sides – media agenda, public agenda, political agenda – and use resources from the text and class discussion to make your case.

Ground rules for all options:
1) You'll use evidence from the lectures and texts as appropriate.
2) You'll properly cite (APA style) any lifted quotes from political communication texts and give citations/context to quotes, headlines, tweets, etc...from media sources.
3) Paper should be typed, roughly 3-4 pages, double-spaced, 1 inch margins in 12-point font. I will not accept handwritten submissions.
4) Papers will be graded on adherence to these guidelines as well as on the strength of your argument and use of evidence from both media content and course materials. I will be looking for thoughtful and creative application of the media content you find/story you decide to cover to the lessons we've already learned in class.


The Civil Rights Movement
The Historic political issue of the Civil Rights Movement
The Civil rights movement played a critical role in the United States as the US was in a disorderly time around 1960 caused by war from Vietnam. Several protests issues seemed to infringe civil rights such as unequal distribution of wealth and unemployment which was at the time. The inequity in the distribution of wealth made it difficult for the poor to provide for their families. During this period, Cesar Chavez started a movement after witnessing how agricultural workers were mistreated while working in agonizing environments. On the other hand, Martin Luther King fought to eradicate seclusion and fight for equal rights for all people. These two individuals helped a great deal in creating a better future in the current society through the civil rights movements. Chavez and King were the instrumental figures who fought the injustices in the community as there has been a gap between the rich and the unfortunate and unfair treatments where black and poor people were treated unjustly from the ruling class.
The media is an instrumental tool in disseminating information about various issues such as the civil rights movements and the injustices fought by the movement. The has some articles written on the historical problems of civil rights. Just like the news of the contemporary times, the article also viewed at prominence as the examples of prolific figures involved in the human rights movements include Caesar Chavez, Martin Luther King, and Rosa Parks. The articles further discussed the issues of social injustices and the negative treatment that the poor and the black people received as it is against human rights to treat people unjustly because of their race or their social classes. One of the elements involved in discussing the civil rights of that time as compared to today is that the newspaper headlines had some aspect of sensationalism. This means that the topics gave the reader some heightened expectations although the news was not as intense as the head

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