Mass Media and the U.S. Presidency

I'm excited to be teaching a new course at Valparaiso in the fall. Here's the description:

Mass Media and the U.S. Presidency

Instructor: Daniel Silliman

Class time: M-W-F 9 to 9:50 a.m.

Classroom: Mueller Hall 114

William McKinley won the 1896 presidential campaign without ever leaving his home. Crowds came to Canton, Ohio, and he stood on his front porch and delivered carefully crafted speeches. But there were signs America was changing: McKinley’s campaign spent unprecedented millions on media and advertising, even producing the first-ever campaign film, while a newly powerful press determined the issues of the day. 

Since then, mass media and the American presidency have grown inexorably intertwined. Media shapes the presidency. Media makes the president. Or is it the other way around? 

From McKinley’s relation to the “yellow journalism” to Nixon’s experiences on TV, from Woodrow Wilson’s press conference to Donald Trump’s Twitter, the relationship between mass media and the American presidency is complicated, co-dependent, and ever evolving. This course will examine the relationship as it changes over time, considering the historic role of the commercial press in our democracy.

In the process, students will learn the historian’s craft. They will learn to do original research, reading and interpreting a variety of historical documents. They will learn to construct compelling and factual narratives that grapple with the complexity of human experience. Assignments will include creative story telling and a final research paper.


Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. All the President’s Men. New York, Simon and Schuster, 1974.

Timothy Crouse. The Boys on the Bus. New York: Random House, 1973.

David Greenberg. Republic of Spin. New York: W.W. Norton: 2016.

David R. Spencer. The Yellow Journalism: The Press and America’s Emergence as a World Power. Evanston, Illinois: Northwest University Press, 2007.

A digital subscription to either the New York Times of the Washington Post.