Introduction To Mass Communication Assignments

Introduction to Mass Communication (Culture and Media)

CMN 102/Art 179

Summer 2010


Dr. Daniel Makagon                                                              

Office Hours: T/TH 5:00-5:30 and by appointment



Course Description and Objectives


This course offers students a broad overview of the mass media with a particular focus on how these media impact our everyday lives. Students will learn about the historical contexts of media production and how economic forces, labor practices, government regulations, and industry policies have shaped the media. The course examines media texts as symbolic products, which carry meanings and information through generic characteristics, narrative patterns, and other formal properties. Students will learn how we use media on an everyday basis, examining how diverse contexts of reception and use impact how we construct meanings from media. Attention will be given to how concepts of race, class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, age, and nationality inform each of these spheres of media production, circulation, representation, and reception. Students will develop critical frameworks for understanding how power operates across these media spheres and how each is open to contestation and change.


Required Texts


All course readings are accessible via a password protected Web site. You are required to print each day’s reading and bring the article with you to class.


All course readings are available on-line at


Course Assignments


Class Participation                              10%                 ____(pts.) X .10 = ______


Reading Quizzes                                 30%                 ____(pts.) X .30 = ______


Media Presentation                              30%                 ____(pts.) X .30 = ______


Final Paper   (3-5 pages)                     30%                 ____(pts.) X .30 = ______


                                                                                    Final Grade= ____________


You are required to complete the reading assignments before you attend class. This will lead to more fruitful discussion.

Reading Quizzes


Quizzes will allow me to gauge how well you understand the arguments made in the readings. Unlike your papers and class discussion, where I am interested in your opinions about the issues and the strength of the writer’s argument(s), the quizzes are designed for you to demonstrate your understanding of the course readings. We will take a quiz at the beginning of each session.

Group Media Presentation


Each member of the class will join a group that will address a specific mass communication medium (TV, cinema, radio, journalism, and advertising). The group will create a presentation for the class that provides an overview of the past, present, and future of the assigned medium. I will assign each group a chapter to read about the medium but each group will need to seek out further readings to help flesh out the intellectual frame for the group’s presentation. In general, each group should consider the following issues:


  1. What are the central historical markers that have transformed this medium in some way? These markers could be technological, they could be events of some kind, they could be specific media content, they could be shifts in industry practices, they could be legal, etc.
  2. What are some key texts that help us understand this medium? You should show us examples to help us see and hear the ideas discussed.
  3. What are some key issues faced by the medium or people working in the medium (e.g., controversies, strikes, congressional and/or local government involvement, etc.)?
  4. Your group should assess the medium from a global perspective (i.e., consider the ways in which the medium and its content in the United States have influenced media production and consumption in other countries and vice versa).

Presentations will be 30 minutes long. That time should be split among group members so each member is contributing (more or less) equally. The presentations should make use of multiple media examples to help us understand the nuances of your assigned medium. We have a computer in the room with Internet access, a TV/VCR, and an overhead projector. I requested the room that we are in because the sound is good and desks can be moved, which can help people sitting in different locations see the screen better. We will have time for Q&A at the end of each presentation.


Each student will submit an abstract for each resource (minimum of 5 abstracts), including the shared assigned reading (essays, books, Web sites, and other media), with at least 3 abstracts summarizing academic sources (journal articles or book chapters). A sample abstract can be found in the folder where you access course readings. 


I will assign a grade based on the quality of the presentation: depth of research, ability to blend theoretical sophistication with quality examples of media texts, and an ability to move beyond what we might already know about that specific medium (e.g., telling us that the Internet has changed your medium dramatically is going to be something that we already know, but showing us how and why the Internet has transformed your medium in novel ways would be more substantive and enlightening for the rest of us). Your contribution to the project will also be graded based on the quality of your abstracts. Finally, I will ask each member of the group to submit a peer evaluation of every group member (including an evaluation of your contribution). I will use these evaluations to adjust grades slightly based on a group member’s contributions above and beyond what might be expected (e.g., you found this person to be a group leader who shared readings that might help other group members, designed a PowerPoint presentation for the group, coordinated meetings, etc. or you found this person to be disruptive in some way that hindered the group’s ability to collectively present to the class). Again, ideally the group format of this assignment allows us to be more economical with our time and more cohesive with our presentations while avoiding the negative features that emerge in some group assignment contexts. Thus, each person is graded individually but people who take on extra work should be rewarded and people who hinder a group’s success should not be rewarded in the same way.


NOTE: Each group has the right to kick out a non-participating member. Any member kicked out of their group would likely fail the class since this assignment is worth 30% of the final grade. The group should exercise every means possible for getting the group member to do his/her part. In the event that the individual still does not participate, the group should speak with me before kicking out the member.


Final Paper


I will provide a list of essay questions for the Final Paper. You will answer one question (3-5 pages). The Final paper is due via email (or in hardcopy with a SASE if you want written feedback) on August 19th at 6:30PM.

Course Policies


Attendance and Active Participation are expected and required.


Promptness is expected as a general rule. If you are consistently late to class, your grade will be negatively affected.


You are allowed one (1) unexcused absence in this class and two absences total if at least one of those absences is excused. An excused absence is documented in terms of medical illness/emergency, family illness/emergency, required by a court of law, a religious holiday, or university business. If you miss more than two class sessions, or if you have more than one unexcused absence, you will receive an "F' in the class (even if the absences are excused). Missing this many class sessions (more than 20% of the term) undermines the integrity of the classroom experience. If you miss this much class because of illness or a family emergency, you should meet with the Dean of Students to discuss withdrawal options. Leaving before the class ends or arriving more than 10 minutes late is an absence.


All assignments are due on assigned days. There will be NO MAKE UPS. Documented illnesses or documented emergencies are the only exception to this policy. Changes in work schedules, personal celebrations (e.g., birthdays), or vacations are NOT considered to be legitimate reasons for missing assignment deadlines or class meetings. If you miss a quiz and have documentation for your absence then you will take the quiz on the next date you attend class.


Students with disabilities should provide me with documentation from the Office of Students with Disabilities.


Cellular Phones: If you have a cellular phone or pager, turn it off or set it to vibrate, and keep it in your backpack or purse. All cell phones must be put away during the class session. I will confiscate cellular phones for the remainder of the class session if you are sending or reading text messages or using your phone to check email/surf the Internet.


Please make sure my e-mail address is listed on your approved list if you are using a commercial e-mail provider. Please make sure your email address is listed correctly in the Demographic Portfolio in Campus Connect.





I have often found that plagiarism becomes tempting if students are feeling pressured. Remember, when in doubt quote. If you are quoting someone else in your presentation, you need to clearly identify the information as a quote and the source. Similarly, when paraphrasing, you should clearly identify your source. If you are quoting somebody directly in your paper then you need to list the information within quotation marks and cite a page number. If you are paraphrasing then you need to cite the person and a page number. Never copy and paste entire documents into your paper and do not quote others to the point where your ideas become indistinguishable from your source's ideas. There is no reason to plagiarize given the resources available to you (e.g., opportunities to meet with me; coaches in the writing center; my handout on writing for the class; and DePaul’s policy on academic integrity, which can be found at If you do plagiarize, you will automatically receive a grade of "F" in this class. Moreover, the Academic Affairs office will be contacted.


Writing Guidelines


All papers must be typed, paginated, double-spaced throughout the entire essay, and use a consistent style (e.g., Chicago, MLA, or APA). Use one-inch margins and 12-point font. Please include a title page that contains your name, the date, the assignment, and any other information you feel compelled to include. Please number your pages. Do not send me electronic copies of your work unless specified above. Also, see the syllabus addendum (available in the folder that contains pdfs for this class) for a description of my grading policies and expectations as well as further details about written assignments.


Contact or visit the Writing Center for assistance with your writing: Lincoln Park at 802 W. Belden, 150 McGaw Hall, 773-325-4272. The Loop at 25 E. Jackson, 1620 Lewis Center, 312-362-6726.

Grade Scale


93-100 A, 90-92 A-, 88-89 B+, 83-87 B, 80-82 B-, 78-79 C+, 73-77 C, 70-72 C-, 60-69 D, 0-59 F





Tentative Course Schedule



July 20                        Course Introduction   


Mass Culture/Mass Media           


July 22             Dwight MacDonald, "A Theory of Mass Culture"


July 27            Henry Jenkins, "Congressional Testimony on Media Violence" (pp. 1-22)



Democracy and Mass Media


July 29            David Samuels, "On Message"


August 3         Marshall Berman, “‘Justice/Just Us’: Rap and Social Justice in America”


Mass Media Audiences


August 5         Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw, "The Agenda Setting Function"


August 10      Daniel Makagon, “Sonic Earthquakes”


Mass Media Production

August 12       3 Group Presentations

August 17      2 Group Presentations


August 19      Final Papers Due via email (or in hardcopy with a SASE if you want written feedback) by 6:30PM


Course Description

This course engages students in a critical overview and analysis of present-day newspapers,magazines,books,radio,television,film, and the internet in their role as media of mass communication. It is designed for graduate students in the Department of Mass Communication, as an introduction to how these media work and how they interact with society and culture.

The course is organized on a weekly basis. Each week, we investigate a topic in contemporary mass communication, through readings, online interactive lessons, online lectures and guest speakers, online content analyses, and written papers. On Wednesday evenings we meet together in an online discussion group to explore the topic further. The online materials present new ideas and raise general questions about the week's topic, while the discussion group focuses on the analytical work done by students.

The course syllabus, the schedule of classes, the weekly assignments, and the content analysis forms for this course are published on the internet at As the semester progresses, lectures, additional readings, online references, and discussion group findings are posted here as well. These materials will not be provided on paper. Students are expected to connect to the course web site several times each week to get their assignments and materials. The web site is also the best way to contact the course faculty.

The teacher for this course is Assistant Professor Jim Lengel, whose office is in room 203 at the College of Communication at 640 Commonwealth Avenue. You can contact him by email at, or by telephone at 617 353 3487.

Assignments and Grades

Each week students complete an assignment which engages them in a personal investigation of the medium under study. Most topics are studied over a two-week period. The first week's assignment is in most cases some kind of quantitative content analysis of the medium under study, while the second week's assignment is the preparation of a paper summarizing key communication concepts for the medium. During the first week's discussion group, the content analyses are combined and compared, while the second week includes presentations of students' conceptual papers.

Conceptual papers will be turned in through email, graded on a scale from A-F, and returned to students the next week. Online content analyses go directly to the course database, and are graded from there on a three-point scale of �-, �, and �+. Interactive lesson responses also go directly to the database, where they are reviewed by the faculty using the same three-point scale. The course grade will consist of the combined grades on the weekly assignments, plus three additional grades for class participation, attendance, and the final exam .

Course Requirements

Five things are required in this course: readings; weekly assignments; interactive lesson responses; discussion participation; and the final exam. Students are required to attend all discussion grooup meetings without exception unless excused in advance by the faculty. Students are required to complete weekly assignments and turn them in by Friday of each week. Students are expected to ask and respond to questions in both lessons and discussion sessions. And students are expected to do the background reading each week as set forth in the syllabus.


Students should purchase the following textbook, which will provide general background information on contemporary mass communication industries. Weekly reading assignments in this text are specified in the syllabus below.

Media/Impact: An Introduction to Mass Media,by Shirley Biagi. Fifth Edition, copyright 2000. Published by Wadsworth. ISBN 0-534-575102.

Students should have at hand for ready reference these two classics of communication and culture, which provide countervailing points of view on the topics in the course, and in which readings will be assigned as the semester proceeds.

Understanding Media: Extensions of Man, by Marshall McLuhan. Any edition will do, but page numbers in the syllabus refer to the edition published in 1994 by MIT Press, ISBN 0-262-63159-8.

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, by Neil Postman, copyright 1985. Published by Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-009438-5.

Other reading assignments, in the library, the popular press, academic journals, and on the internet will be assigned as the semester proceeds. Students should also read COM News on line each week, with special attention to items relating to the week's topic.

Course Schedule


Week of January 15

Lecture: -Mass communication today (video)
Lessons: Mass Commnication Today

-Forms of human communication: voice, image, music, text, video-Analytical categories: Message, Audience, Economics, Technology, Future


-Course schedule and requirements
-Introductions and questions
-Assessment of student background in mass communication
-Compute group results from this week's assignment. Discuss impact of mass media.


Chapter 1, "You in the Digital Age"


Introduction by Lewis Lapham;
Chapter 1, "The Medium is the Message"


Chapter 1, "The Medium is the Metaphor"
Chapter 2, "Media as Epistemology"

From the internet:

Read COM News Today.


Day in the life content analysis: mass communication that you receive. Connect to the form posted on internet. List and categorize the mass communication that you receive on the table. Submit your findings. Print your completed form and computed results page, and bring it to the discussion group.



Week of January 22

Guest speaker: newspaper executive (video). Message, Audience, Economics, Technology, Future. Questions. Text summary of guest speaker.



Chapter 2, "Newspapers"
Chapter 13, "Media Ownership and Press Performance"

From the internet:

1998's guest speaker, Ranald Macdonald.
1999's guest speaker, William Ketter.

Assignment: Newspaper content analysis. Form posted on internet. Complete the form, submit your results, and bring printed copies to the discussion.

Discussion: Compute group content analyses. Apply those findings to these questions: What is the role of newspapers in public life today? How does this compare with their role in 1789, and with Jefferson's view?

Week of January 29

Lecture: The Paper It's Printed On.(video)

Lessons: The Paper it's Printed On

How newspapers work, how they change, and their role in society, today and in the future.



Chapter 8, "The Spoken Word: Flower of Evil?"
Chapter 9, "The Written Word: An Eye for an Ear"
Chapter 10, "Roads and Paper Routes"
Chapter 21, "The Press: Government by News Leak"


Chapter 3, "Typographic America"

From the internet:

COM News Today, read current items on the newspaper industry.

"Publishers blame price hikes for falling circulation figures,"Capital District Business Review, November 11, 1996, at:

Newspapers Seek Partners to Fight Challenges in Online Ad Market, from the New York Times, August 30, 1999.

Assignment: Summarize the message, audience, and economics, of newspapers, American or otherwise. Predict how they will be different in 2005 and 2025. In prose, 2 pages. Submit by email or bring to discussion group.

Discussion: Compare newspapers with radio, television, and the internet, with regard to the way they are read; the nature of the messages, and the differential impact on various groups in society.


Week of February 5

Lecture: Pluribus or Unum? Trends in Magazine Communication (video)



Chapter 3, "Magazines"


Chapter 20, "The Photograph: The Brothel Without Walls"

From the Internet:

Salon Magazine, browse the current issue, and compare it with a print magazine in terms of content, audience, and advertising.

COM News on line, read current items on the magazine industry.

Primedia Set to Name NBC Executive as its Chief, an article in the New York Times of September 27, 1999, about magazine companies hiring web-savvy employees.

The Journal of Computer-mediated Communication, an academic journal now published on the web as well as in print. Look at the new article by our own Sally McMillan, Who pays for content?

Assignment: Choose two magazines, one reaching a broad audience, the other narrowly focused. For each one, illustrate the triangle balance as follows:

  • Select an advertisement.
  • Select an article.
  • Describe or illustrate a typical reader.
  • Paste these on a piece of paper. (Or describe them in an email.)
  • Prepare one page of text that explains how these three illustrations represent that balance between advertisers, content, and readers that keep the magazine going.

Discussion: Compare content of broad-audience magazines with narrow. Compare the role of magazines with that of newspapers.


Week of February 12

Guest Speaker: Karen Silverio (video)
Karen is Vice President and Director of Marketing, Pearson Central Media. Pearson is a world-wide media company that owns book publishers such as Addson Wesley, Penguin, Prentice Hall, and MacMillan, as well as newspaper and television outlets. Karen will speak with us about the economics, audience, message, and future of book publishing. A summary of her remarks is available online.



Chapter 4, "Books"


Chapter 18, "The Printed Word: Architect of Nationalism"


Chapter 4, "The Typographic Mind"

From the Internet:

Read a summary of the remarks of guest speaker Karen Silverio..

Read the transcript of last year's guest speaker, Kris Clerkin, Houghton Mifflin Company.

Read the transcript of 1998's guest speaker, John Ridley.

Assignment: Read one title from the New York Times best-seller list. Write a two-page paper that explains:

  • how this book balances the functions of informing, persuading, and entertaining.
  • how the meaning of this book might change if it were
    • read on a computer screen
    • listened to as a talking book
    • viewed as a film.


Discussion: Compute and compare results of content analyses. Compare best-seller results with book industry totals. Explain the niche that books hold on the mass communication waterfront.

Marshall McLuhan and Good Writing

Week of February 19

Lessons: On McLuhan's Ideas

Lessons: How to Write Good

Discussion: McLuhan's Ideas and good writing.

Holiday week: no written assignment.



Week of February 26

Lecture: Film as Mass Communication (video)

Lessons: Film as Mass Communication



Chapter 8: "Movies"


Chapter 29, "Movies: The Reel World"


Chapter 5, "The Peek-a-Boo World"

From the Internet: 

DreamWorks Scales Back Its Once-Grand Vision, from the New York Times of September 25, 2000.

And now for our digital presentation, from The Standard, Los Angeles. About the effects of bankruptcy on new media in cinema.

Assignment: Watch a current movie at a theater. Perform a content analysis of its message, and the ways that message appeals to its audience. Form posted on internet.

Discussion: Resolved: Films today have little or no public purpose beyond escapist entertainment, unlike radio and television and newspapers, which have maintained a function to inform on public issues. Group splits randomly, prepares, and conducts debate.


Week of March 12

Guest speaker: David Pearlman, Co-COO, Viacom Infinity Broadcasting (video)

Economics, audience, message, future of radio. Text summary of David's remarks.



Chapter 5, "Radio"


Chapter 30, "Radio: The Tribal Drum"

From the Internet:

National Public Radio online: find it and listen.

Radio stations broadcasting on the Internet: choose one and listen.

New Format for Radio: All Digital, from the New York Times of January 25, 2001

Read the transcript of last year's guest speaker, Dave Pearlman, CEO, Infinity Broadcasting.

Assignment: Content analysis of one half hour of a radio station. Form posted on internet.

Discussion: Compute group analyses. Use summary of analyses to explain the balance and interaction of audience, advertising, and content that a radio station must maintain.


Week of March 19

Lecture: Not a Moment to Lose (video)
How Radio Works: Technologies, Demographics, and Economics.

Lessons: Not a Moment to Lose



Chapter 6, "Recordings"


Chapter 28: "The Phonograph"

From the Internet:
Radio & Records online , a vast mine of information about the radio and music businesses, including Arbitron rating reports for major markets, news, and other sources.

Assignment: Explain how radio complements and contrasts with other forms of mass communication today. Predict what radio will be like in the year 2010. future. Draw evidence from the readings, the guest speaker, and content analyses. Prose, 2 pages.

Discussion: Paint a picture of the role of radio in society in 2020. Include demographics, message, economics.



Week of March 26

Lecture: As Seen on TV. (video)

Lessons: As Seeon on TV

How television works, why it's ubiquitous, and how it is changing our species.



Chapter 7, "Television"


Chapter 31, "Television: The Timid Giant"


Chapter 6, "The Age of Show Business"

From the Internet:

Neilsen Media Research web site. Read the section that explains what TV ratings really mean.

Connect to at least three TV network web sites. Compare them. try ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox, or others.

Assignment: Content analysis of one hour of television. Form posted on internet.

Discussion: Compute results of group analyses. Use results to support or refute Minow's, Postman's, and McLuhan's claims about television.


Week of April 2

Guest speaker: Mike Carson, Station Manager, Channel 7 Boston (video)

Message, Economics, Audience, social role of television. Text summary of Mr. Carson's remarks.



Chapter 7, "Now...This"
Chapter 8, "Shuffle off to Bethlehem"
Chapter 9, "Reach Out and Elect Someone"

Read the transcript of last year's guest speaker, TV executive Mike Carson, WHDH TV, Boston

From the Internet:

What TV Ratings Really Mean... from Nielsen Media.


Assignment: You are the minister of culture for a newly-independent and rapidly-developing country. How will you handle television? Public or private? Government control? Of what? Prepare a 2 page platform for the prime minister to deliver to the legislature and the World Bank.

Discussion: Structured Role Play exercise. Participants take various pre-defined roles of characters in the developing country scenario.


Direct Mail & Outdoor

Week of April 9

Lecture: In the House and on the Street: (video)
Lessons: In the House and On the Street
Targeting and Teasing.



Chapter 10, "Advertising"


Chapter 23, "Ads: Keeping Upset with the Joneses"

From the Internet:

The web site of the Direct Marketing Association.(browse)

The web site of DMG Direct, a direct marketing firm.(browse)

The latest issue of American Demographics magazine (browse).

The web site of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America. (browse)

Despite the Internet, Direct-Mail Pitches Multiply, from the New York Times of October 25, 1999.


Assignment: Design a direct mail piece for a product or service that is not currently sold in this manner. Be creative in your choice. Before designing your own piece, examine the current state of the art in this form of mass communication by looking at actual direct mail pieces.

Discussion: Come prepared to explain your direct mail piece, and to analyze the work of your classmates, in terms of its elements, its message, the list it might be sent to, the nature of the offer, the nature of the copy (the words), the competition, and the overall design.



Week of April 16

Lecture: The Great Combine: (video)

Lessons: The Great Combine

How the internet and the personal computer will combine the roles of newspapers, radio, TV, books, and the movies.



Chapter 9, "Digital Media, and the Web"

Wired Magazine:

Go Ahead. Kill your Television. NBC is Ready, article in Wired 6.12, December 1998. About NBC's plan to move its business to the digital world very quickly. (Thank you, Julie.)

From the Internet:

Internet Commerce Study from the New York Times of November 30, 1998. What will be Internet's role in retail trade?

The Movies' Digital Future Is in Sight and It Works from The New York Times of November 26, 2000.

Struggles Over E-Books Abound from The New York Times of November 27, 2000.

Assignment: Use the internet to read the news, listen to the radio, watch a film or TV clip, purchase a part for your boat, and look up the population of Afghanistan. As you do, keep a record of the advertising messages you confront. Form posted on internet. Then choose one web site from this work, and do a complete analysis of it with the Web Site Report Card.

Discussion: Discuss group members' experiences using the internet for mass communication purposes. Compute results of advertising analyses. Compare content of internet ads with results from analyses of newspapers radio, and television. Compare grades from Web Site Report Cards.

Week of April 23

Guest speaker: Vincente Lopreto (video), of MarchFIRST corporation, an internet marketing company, on the economics and audience of the internet, and its role in the future. Read a summary of his remarks.


Read the transcript of our 1998 guest speaker, David Blohm.

Assignment: Prepare two short papers (1 page each), on either side of the proposition, "The internet and the personal computer will eventually take over the roles of newspapers, radio, TV, books, and the movies."

Week of April 30

Final Exam. Essay questions designed to ascertain your understanding of the messages, economics, technologies, and future of the mass communication industries. Four pages of writing. Due on May 9.

Discussion: Final Exam questions and issues. Course Evaluation.



Regarding plagiarism:

Plagiarism is the act of representing someone else's creative and/or academic work as your own, in full or in part. It can be an act of commission, in which one intentionally appropriates the words, pictures or ideas of another, or it can be an act of omission, in which one fails to acknowledge/document/give credit to the source, creator and/or the copyright owner of those works, pictures or ideas. Any fabrication of materials, quotes or sources, other than that created in a work of fiction, is also plagiarism. Plagiarism is the most serious academic offense that you can commit and can result in probation, suspension or expulsion.

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