Fall 2019 SMPA Courses

View updated course listings for SMPA in the official GW Office of the Registrar course listing.


Skip to Graduate Courses » 

Undergraduate Courses

Hollywood and Politics (SMPA 1000.10). Taught by Patricia Phalen.

Not open to SMPA majors. This is a Dean’kes Seminar course. The Dean’s Seminars provide Columbian College first-year students focused scholarship on specific intellectual challenges.

Media in a Free Society (ScMPA 1050.10). Taught by Sean Aday.

The role of mass communication in democratic political systems: informational requirements of democracy, sources of political information and the role of news media and other channels in creating and disseminating it; issues relating to propaganda and public information; and the interaction between information flows and democratic political culture. Not open to SMPA majors.

Forensics Practice (Debate) (SMPA 1225.10). Taught by Lee Huebner.

Journalism and Mass Communication: Theory and Practice (SMPA 2101.10). Taught by Janet Steele.

An overview of theories and key issues in journalism in the United States. News and democracy, the historical and social evolution of journalism, news values, journalism as an occupation/profession, technologies and changes in journalistic practices. Open only to SMPA majors.

Introduction to Political Communication (SMPA 2102.10). Taught by Steven Livingston.

Basic concepts and theories of political communication; development of a framework for analyzing political communication; applications in the United States, other countries, and the international system. Open only to SMPA majors.

Introduction to Newswriting and Reporting (SMPA 2110W – multiple sections). Taught by Myron BelkindRichard Leiby, Keith Harriston, Gerald Zremski, and others TBD. 

Fundamentals of news reporting and writing, with emphasis on the print media. News judgment, information gathering skills, and crafting news and feature stories. Regular in-class and outside reporting and writing exercises. Directly admitted freshmen may enroll in their second semester; all other freshmen need departmental permission. (Open to non-majors: WID credit).

Advanced News Reporting (SMPA 2111W.10 & .11). Taught by Michael Doyle.

Reporting, writing, and computer skills for covering beats and developing in-depth news stories. Techniques in researching, observing, and interviewing to frame stories of public interest; outside and in-class reporting and writing assignments. Restricted to Journalism and Mass Communication majors or permission of instructor required. Prerequisite: SMPA 2110W. (WID credit).

Digital Media I: Introduction to Video Production (SMPA 2112 – multiple sections). Taught by Thomas Kelley, Estel Dillon, and Jason Osder

Introduction to digital media production with video shooting and editing, with emphasis on use in journalism and political communication. Open only to SMPA majors.

Digital Media II: Introduction to Web Production and Social Media (SMPA 2113.10 & .11). Taught by Imani M. Cheers.

Foundational introduction to digital media production. Web content and design; photography and audio applied to the web; and using social media. Emphasis on use in journalism and political communication. Laboratory fee. Restricted to Political Communication and Journalism & Mass Communication majors only.

Research Methods (SMPA 2151.10 & . 11). Taught by Jeremy Holden and Kerric Harvey.

The process of inquiry within mediated communication. The concepts of framing research questions, conducting literature reviews, developing a research of design, and interpreting results of cultural and social science research within a societal framework. Open only to SMPA majors.

Data Analysis for Journalism and Political Communication (SMPA 2152 - multiple sections). Taught by Aaron Kessler, C.J. Libassi, and Jeffrey Bagdis.

Understanding, critiquing, and performing analysis of data sets with applications to journalism and political communication; using data to tell stories and answer questions. Analyzing A/B tests and field experiments; basics of visualizing data; regression. Laboratory fee. Prerequisites: STAT 1051 or STAT 1053 or STAT 1111 or STAT 1127.

Media Law (SMPA 2173.10 & .11). Taught by Michele Kimball.

The changing laws of journalism and mass communication, including defamation, privacy, reporting access, obscenity and indecency, media ownership, intellectual property, advertising and electronic communication.

Media History (SMPA 2177.10). Taught by Michael Freedman.

American media from colonial times to the present, set against a backdrop of ongoing political, social, and economic developments. The development of press, radio, television, cable, satellite, and the Internet; government regulation and media relations; journalistic rights and responsibilities. This course is taught at the Newseum.

Journalism Ethics (SMPA 3150.10 & .11). Taught by Lee Huebner and Steven Roberts.

Principles of media ethics; application to contemporary and developing issues and challenges in journalism. Restricted to juniors and seniors only. Prerequisite: SMPA 2111W.

Sustainability Reporting (SMPA 3193.80/4182.80). Taught by Daniel Reed and Frank Sesno.

By the middle of this century, the global population is expected to exceed 9-billion people. Experts predict the world will need twice as much energy, 70 percent more food, and 40 percent more water.  Where will it all come from? What technologies will get us there? What will our cities and towns, farms and families look like? In this class, the story is planet earth, starting right in our own backyards. With climate change, population growth and urbanization as backdrop, students will find stories of invention and innovation that can help the world navigate its future. This course will be rigorous and fast-moving, requiring students to research, interview and produce videos, text and social media. The best stories will be featured on planetforward.org and may be entered for the Planet Forward Storyfest Award, which will be announced at the Planet Forward Summit in April 2017.  Students should be SMPA major or Sustainability minors, adept at storytelling, fascinated by the topic. Selection is by application to Professor Sesno ([email protected]).

Journalism students who wish to take this class to complete their capstone should register for 4182.80.

Nixon & Presidential Communication (SMPA 3194.10). Taught by Lee Huebner.

From Congress, through his Vice Presidency, Presidency and even after his resignation as President, his was one of the country’s most vigorous voices, speaking on the major issues of the time, including: communism, civil rights, the economy, the environment, crime, welfare, health care, Vietnam, the Soviet Union and China. His career exemplifies major developments in political communication in this period, including the televised address, campaign advertising, televised debates and professional speechwriting. This course will look at these developments, largely through the prism of Richard Nixon and his rhetoric. (The instructor was part of Nixon's White House speechwriting staff.)

Fake News Misinformation & Challenges (SMPA 3194.80 & 3195.80). Taught by Ethan Porter.

Audience Development (SMPA 3194.81 and 3195.81). Taught by Ari Bevacqua.

Students will learn how to manage the vast range of audience development opportunities available to reach and engage readers. Students will learn essential audience development how-tos and analytics, including optimizing for mobile, search, social for both reach and engagement. How do you know if promotional tactics are working? What do you do when it is not working? What do you do when something is going viral? Students will learn how to set audience goals and measure them across platforms. We will also explore the various analytics interfaces of social media, site traffic and A/B testing. This data and analysis will then be fused by students into reports and presentations designed to communicate the most important learnings to stakeholders. The course will also be experiential — students will apply their learnings by auditing the digital presence of a local institution and also visit The New York Times Washington bureau for a Q&A with journalists. This course is restricted to juniors and seniors.

The Business of Media (SMPA 3194.82 & 3195.82). Instructor TBD.

The success and longevity of any media business relies on having a quality business model. With the advent of new digital technology, distribution platforms and changing demographics and consumption patterns, all media business models are evolving quickly and those that do not are doomed.  Professionals entering this brave new digital world must have a basic understanding of this fast-changing business environment, which will support them throughout their careers. What companies have a bright future or will end up as digital road kill (i.e, myspace)? This course will examine news and other media business models and the companies, which have been especially rocked by changing demographics and consumption patterns.  We will examine how so-called new age digital media empires are being built and why they are thriving or failing. We will also discuss how traditional media is fighting back (books, newspapers, cable TV and broadcast networks). We will also explore how digital disruption impacts how media is being consumed (blogs, top-10 lists, short videos, tweets) and on what distribution platforms (i.e., Facebook, Twitter) and on what devices (i.e, smartphones & tablets, Apple TV & Roku) and the digital plumbing that makes it all possible.  We will also discuss the new media revenue models (subscription, digital advertising), which provide the oxygen that keeps these new businesses breathing and growing. Hugh Panero is the owner of Yellow Brick Road Ventures, LLC, which consults and invests in a variety of entertainment-related companies. Mr. Panero has over 30 years experience in the media business. He co-founded XM Satellite Radio in 1998 and served as its CEO until August 2007. During his tenure at XM, the company became America’s #1 satellite radio service with more than 9.3 million subscribers and grew from a concept into one of the fastest-growing new technologies ever, outpacing the growth of wireless phones and cable TV. Hugh was named one of the best CEOs in America by Institutional Investor in January 2006 and one of 20 “power players” in the digital entertainment industry for 2005 by Billboard Magazine. In 2008, Hugh joined New Enterprise Associates (NEA), one of the leading venture capital firms and focused on finding and investing in start-up consumer technology businesses, including new media businesses such as BuzzFeed. In 2012, he joined Popdust, the NEA funded NYC start-up company and served as its CEO for a year. Over his career, Hugh has held various executive positions building subscription, on-demand and advertiser-supported media businesses. He currently serves on the Boards of several area non-profit and for-profit companies at different stages of maturity. He lives in Maryland with his wife who is a long-time journalist and documentary filmmaker.

Covering Race, Sex, & Politics (SMPA 3194.83 & 3195.83). Taught by Thomas Edsall.

This course is designed to prepare students to think critically, do primary source research and write on race, sex and politics in the United States. Edsall is a professor at Columbia University and a columnist for The New York Times. He covered American politics for The Washington Post from 1981 – 2006 and currently writes a weekly online opinion column for The New York Times.

Transparency & Trust In Jour (SMPA 3195.10). Taught by Michael Zuckerman

Independent Study (SMPA 3196.10). Taught by Patricia Phalen.

Internship (SMPA 3197.10). Taught by Patricia Phalen.

Reporting in the Digital Age (SMPA 3230.10). Taught by Benjamin Wieder and Aaron Kessler.

Understanding the emerging tools and developing the technical skills needed to analyze data for news. Students learn to find reliable information through social media and other online tools, use spreadsheets as a reporting tool, and download data for analysis, to create graphics, and to report and write stories based on the analysis. Prerequisite: SMPA 2110. Laboratory fee.

Broadcast News Writing (SMPA 3235W.10 & .11). Taught by Jonathan Ebinger.

This course will teach you basic reporting and news writing for radio and television. You will learn the fundamentals of writing and reporting news and feature stories. You will also be exposed to some basics about oral and visual presentation, as well as distinctions between local, network, and cable news. In addition, you will learn to understand and apply broadcast techniques to think critically about what you see on the news, as well as the work of others. By the end of the semester, you should be able to produce scripts suitable for air at a collegiate level. Prerequisite: SMPA 2110W. (WID credit).

Campaign Reporting (SMPA 3241W.10). Taught by Carol Richards.

Development of news gathering and writing skills needed for the coverage of political campaigns. Using in-class exercises and outside assignments, students acquire reporting and writing proficiency to illuminate how campaigns work and how politics affects the lives of citizens. Prerequisite: SMPA 2110.

Investigative Reporting (SMPA 3242.10). Taught by Cheryl W. Thompson.

From Watergate to Walter-Reed, investigative journalism has exposed wrongdoing, held individuals and institutions accountable and helped shape the course of history. This class is an introduction to the craft in both theory and practice. No matter the format or the medium, great investigative projects share at their core amazing reporting told in a compelling manner. Students will learn the fundamentals of investigating, writing and publishing in-depth journalism projects. Course work will include: mining documents and computer records for leads, developing sources and interview techniques, focusing and refining material, legal and ethical issues, organizing a project, and condensing complex facts into clear stories. Prerequisite: SMPA 2110.

Editorial and Persuasive Writing (SMPA 3245W.10). Taught by Michael McGough.

This course will explore the art and science of writing opinion columns for a daily newspaper. Students will learn how to find and evaluate topics, how to build the most effective lead, and how to blend fact and emotion to structure a persuasive argument. They will analyze the work of Op-Ed columnists and learn to compare and contrast the techniques each writer uses to build his or her voice. Students will write one column a week, due each Monday, on a subject of the student’s choice. The first half of each session will be devoted to analyzing the style, voice, viewpoint and persuasiveness or lack thereof of columnists like Kathleen Parker and George F. Will. The second half will be devoted to class-wide critiquing of one another's latest work. Prerequisite: SMPA 2110W. (WID credit).

Big City Reporting (SMPA 3246.10). Instructor TBD.

An enterprise news reporting course for student journalists with a drive to dig into D.C. government and report on issues of significant importance to residents and policymakers. Students will work together using advanced reporting and research techniques to report one significant enterprise story based in the nation's capital, with an eye toward publishing. Together, the class will practice shoe-leather reporting, interviewing families in some of the poorest parts of town. You will work together to dig up court records and corporate records, background the rich and powerful, scour public records and study local laws. The class will produce a hard-hitting enterprise story with the potential to prompt reform in the District of Columbia.

Public Diplomacy (SMPA 3350.10). Instructor TBD.

The theory and practice of public diplomacy: informing, influencing, and establishing dialogue with international publics and institutions. A conceptual and historical examination of public diplomacy, current practices, and contemporary issues, including international information dissemination, educational and cultural exchange, and international broadcasting.

Principles of Public Relations (SMPA 3352.10). Taught by Frank Maisano.

Principles, problems, ethics, and law of public relations for government, private concerns, educational and other public institutions,

Strategic Political Communication (SMPA 3353.10). Taught by David Karpf.

Origins of strategic approaches to political communication; techniques. Use of strategic communication by individuals, groups, organizations, and governments in both domestic politics and policymaking and in the international system. Prerequisite: SMPA 2102 or permission of instructor.

Political Speech Writing (SMPA 3357W.10). Taught by Lee Huebner.

The emergence of speechwriting as an independent discipline is a fairly recent phenomenon. This course will help students develop their own skills as writers of effective speeches, while also exploring the role of the speechwriter and the political and social issues it presents. Writing well for a speaking situation (writing for the ear) is different from writing well for a reader (writing for the eye). This course will discuss these differences—as well as the requirements of different speaking situations. Each class member will prepare three speeches of varying types, and both the class and the instructor will critique each effort. (WID credit).

Strategic Practicum (SMPA 3358.80). Taught by Peter Loge.

Students will apply their knowledge to design prototype strategic campaign. Students will be required to research the issues and actors associated with specific campaign settings, to identify the critical points in the decision-making process and the key constituencies with interests in each issue, and to develop theory-based communication strategies which they regard as most likely to achieve the stated objective. At the beginning of the semester, students will be assigned to teams. Each team will be responsible for selecting a cause or issue objective and for designing a strategic plan to achieve it. Departmental approval required to register. Prerequisite: SMPA 3353.

Media, Politics, and Government (SMPA 3428.80). Taught by Steven Roberts.

The impact of mainstream media and online outlets on politics and the governing process. Topics include the role of social media, online advertising, comedy shows, and the changing ways that voters receive information. Same as PSC 2228.

Language and Politics (SMPA 3459.10). Taught by Peter Loge.

Investigating the connection between language and the political world around us. The course will explore both the theory and practice of language in politics and discuss the implications of these explorations on the creation and consumption of politics.

Media, Technology, and Culture (SMPA 3476.10). Taught by Kerric Harvey

Documentary (SMPA 3479.10). Taught by Jason Osder.

Origins, genres, and analysis of documentary film. Power, reach, and conceptual frameworks of documentary filmmaking.

Online Journalism Workshop (SMPA 4180.10). Taught by Imani M. Cheers.

This course will provide students with advanced journalism and multimedia production skills needed to produce and report for a news website. Class members will use traditional reporting skills and techniques common to all journalism, but they will also develop and improve skills in photography, video, audio and web production. Students will work as individuals and in teams to learn a variety of storytelling tools, platforms and techniques to produce multimedia news stories. The course will emphasize traditional journalism values, including verification of facts, news judgment, accuracy and good narrative news writing combined with photography, video, audio, interactivity, and info-graphics. Prerequisites: SMPA 2110W and 2112 or equivalent experience.

Special Honors Seminar (SMPA 4198.10). Taught by Kimberly Gross.

Senior Seminar (SMPA 4199.10). Taught by Kimberly Gross.

PCM Senior Seminar preference is given to fall graduates and special honors candidates. If you plan to pursue special honors you must register for the fall senior seminar. See Professor Gross for more information.





Media Effects, Public Opinion, and Persuasion (SMPA 6202.10). Taught by Matthew Hindman.

Institutional functions and individual effects of mediated communication. Impacts of different textual content and format on individual thinking and emotion; forces that shape content production. Open only to SMPA graduate and ESIA global communication students.

Strategic Political Communication (SMPA 6204.10). Taught by Ethan Porter.

Theory, techniques, and implications of strategic communication as employed by individuals, groups, organizations, and governments to advance their interests; applications to non-electoral politics and policymaking; use of political, psychological, sociological, and other processes; methodological considerations; domestic and international applications. Open only to SMPA graduate students.

Politics and Public Relations Fundamentals (SMPA 6208.10). Taught by Jake Rubin.

Basic knowledge of the skills to design, implement, and evaluate public relations activities. Case studies of public relations applied to politics. Techniques and tactics used by public relations professionals. Open only to SMPA graduate and ESIA global communication students.

Media & Foreign Policy (SMPA 6210.10 & .11). Taught by Sean Aday.

The effects of U.S. media on U.S. and foreign governments, and of foreign media on the U.S.; effects of other countries' media on each other; the impact of the Internet, inexpensive global phoning, CNN, Al Jazeera, and other newer technologies and networks on the stuff of international relations: diplomacy, military operations, trade negotiations. Open only to SMPA graduate and ESIA global communication students.

Strategic Practicum (SMPA 6220.80). Taught by Peter Loge.

Design of strategy for an information and influence campaign. Research on issues and actors, identification of critical decision-making points and key constituencies, development of communication strategies more likely to achieve stated objectives of a campaign. Prerequisite: SMPA 6204. For students doing a strategic communication capstone project, this course replaces SMPA 6297.

Research Design (SMPA 6241.10 & .11). Taught by Catie Bailard.

Design, applications, and limitations of quantitative research as applied to the field of media and public affairs. Framing of research questions, identification of variables and formulation of hypotheses, measurement, sampling, data gathering techniques, data analysis, and preparation of research reports. Brief exposure to qualitative research. Prerequisite: an undergraduate statistics course.

Advocacy (SMPA 6270.11). Taught by Peter Loge

Advocacy teaches the theory and practice of making the case for public policy. The course brings together theories of persuasion, studies of successful and unsuccessful advocacy campaigns, and discussions of current events to help students learn both the 'why and 'how' of policy advocacy.

Public Diplomacy (SMPA 6275.80). Taught by Patricia Kabra.

Study of public diplomacy as an instrument used by states and non-state actors to understand others’ cultures, attitudes, and behavior; build and manage relationships; and influence thoughts and actions to advance their interests and values. Drawing on the experiences of diplomats and a growing academic literature, this seminar-style course will how public diplomacy’s changing actors, techniques and practice affects the issues, methods, and mediated environments of diplomacy in the 21st century.

Directed Readings and Research (SMPA 6296.10). Taught by David Karpf.

Independent research with SMPA faculty member. Must be approved in advance by supervising professor and director of graduate studies.

Capstone Project (SMPA 6297.10 and 6298.10). Taught by David Karpf.

Thesis Research (SMPA 6998.10 and 6999.10). Taught by David Karpf.