Syllabus and General Guide

Department of Journalism and Mass Communications

Course Number: JMC 668     Credit Hours: 3    


I.  Title: Critical Analysis of Mass Media


II.           Catalog Description. The course provides an exposition of the cultural and social functions of the mass media, and encourages independent and critical thought about the meaning of media content and its effect upon modern life.  Perspectives are gained about media’s role as an information source; as an agenda-setter; as a persuasive agent; and as artistic and creative modes of expression. 


    III.     Purpose: The course is designed to enhance the student’s effectiveness as a consumer of newspapers, magazines, television, radio, film, and the World Wide Web.  It attempts to increase awareness of the functions and impact of these media as a dynamic social force, and focuses upon student skill in making objective choices about media type and content, and in assisting students to successfully discriminate among media messages in various contexts.  The course applies the principles of modern critical theory and stresses critical analysis as a means of media evaluation.


    IV.     Course Objectives:  Emphases are placed upon mass media as an agent in public opinion and global public debate, including its impact upon citizenry and cultural schema. Students analyze mass media content and its correlation with issues of ownership, business and control elements; ratings and readership studies; the functions of news dissemination and editorial news judgment; the persuasive modalities of advertising, public relations and marketing; and the role of the media in the electoral process.  International and cross-cultural perspectives are addressed. 

      V.     Content Outline:
A) Discussion of the mass media’s social role, accounting for new technologies and the evolution of older technologies;
B) Analyses of print and electronic media messaging, particularly by way of comparisons and contrasts;
C) The nature of film and cinema, especially as cultural / historical entities;
D) Comparisons of world-wide media systems; including issues affecting the media in the 21st Century in the arenas of politics and government; regulation; pornography and violence; censorship; ethical decision-making; and the complex issue of media bias.


    VI.     Instructional Activities:  Lecture, class discussion, text and journal readings.   Ongoing class discussion using the BlackBoard computer platform is required, as is consumption of contemporary media content.


VII.           Field, Clinical or Laboratory Experiences: Use of Internet, consumption of media content via radio, TV, newspapers, magazine and film.

VIII.        Resources:  Main textbook, journal articles available at Waterfield library.                    

-  Newsweek magazine, the Louisville Courier-Journal, and other print resources may be called upon.  Also, students need to access web sites.

IX.   Grading Procedure: A total of 1,000 points may be garnered through successful   completion of course components.   The scale is:           

                        900 - 1,000 = “A”

                        800 -    899 = “B”

                        700 -    799 = “C”

                        600 -    699 = “D”

                        Below 600  = “E”

                        Itemized Course Components:

                                    FOUR ASSIGNMENTS ................................................ 400 pts.

                                    TWO EXAMS (mid-term 200 / final 300) ................. 500 pts.

                                    CLASS INVOLVEMENT ............................................. 100 pts.


      X.     JMC Department Attendance Policy: Attendance and punctuality are required.  Just as your punctuality and presence would be expected on a professional job, you are expected to attend all classes and to be there on time.  A legitimate reason for absence, such as illness or a university-related trip, should be brought to the instructor’s attention by notifying the instructor of an absence ahead of time, just as you would notify a professional employer.  Work missed because of an excused absence may be made up as provided elsewhere in this syllabus, but work missed because of an unexcused absence may not.  Unexcused absences will thus negatively affect a student’s final grade.


XI. Academic Honesty: Cheating, plagiarism (submitting another person’s material as one’s own), or doing work for another person who will receive academic credit for it are impermissible.  This includes the use of unauthorized books, notes, or other sources in order to help oneself or a classmate during examinations; the unauthorized copying of examinations, assignments, reports, or term papers; or the submission of unacknow- ledged material as if it were the student’s own work.  Disciplinary action may be taken beyond this course — see the MSU Student Bulletin.  Note: Faculty reserve the right to invalidate any examination or other evaluative measures if evidence exists that the integrity of the work has been compromised.

XII.       Text & References: Media Literacy 2nd Ed. by W. James Potter (Sage: Thousand Oaks, Calif., 2002).


XIII.    Prerequisites:  Graduate standing.  Verbal and written proficiency in the English language are essential.