Mass Communication & Society (COM 201)
Fall 2004
MWF 1-1:50 p.m.
Laughlin 116
Professor: Brian Carroll
Office: Laughlin 114
Office hours:
M/W 10-12; T/Th 12-3 (or by appointment; drop-ins welcome,even encouraged)
phone: 368-6944
home: 378-9238
email: bc at
on the Web:

have a question? email the prof @ bc at


Note: This page will change; please refer to it frequently online and not merely print it out the first week of class.

Course description: Survey of the history, structure, dynamics, technological innovation and functions of contemporary mass media, focusing on the ethics, problems, criticisms and societal implications of the media.

Introduction: Students will learn about and understand mass media in their historical, social, political, economic, cultural and technological contexts. Students will be able to intelligently discuss issues related to mass communication, its societal processes and its overall importance in daily life. The goal is a detailed and sophisticated map of the U.S. media infrastructure, which requires students to conceptualize mass media in ways that are often inconsistent with the limited understanding shared by mere consumers of media content. The course examines the current industrial structure of U.S. media by focusing on the contemporary production, distribution and presentation processes. The course emphasizes power relationships within a social system model that helps explain how mass media industries operate.

What you will need (required): The Media In Your Life, by Jean Folkerts and Stephen Lacy; access to a daily newspaper, either online or in print.

What you may want (not required): Powerpoint presentations made available by our textbook's publishers, available: (Disclaimer: I have not tried or used these yet myself.) Ask the instructor for the password.

Stuff you need to know:
Instructor: Dr. Brian Carroll
Office: Laughlin 114
Office phone: 368.6944 (anytime)
Home phone: 378.9238 (before 11 p.m., please)
Email: bc at
Home page:
Office hours:
M/W, 9-12; T/Th 12-3 (or by appointment, drop-ins also welcome)

Course Web site and online syllabus (memorize this, be one with it and refer to it daily):

* Read the text. Lectures may not always cover the text but you will be expected to know and to apply the material.
* Think ahead. Start your projects early. Plan time for the unexpected.
* No missed deadlines. No kidding. Communication and mass media industries are deadline-intensive. You miss a deadline on the job, and you won't have a job.
* Always make a copy of all course work, whether on computer or hard copy. Keep copies of all work on file until you receive your final grade. Never give anything to the instructor without having a backup.
* If you don't have a classroom buddy, get one. Do not contact the instructor to find out what you missed after an absence.

Attendance: Attendance is a part of your grade. Be here every day on time, just as you would for a job, major surgery or meeting in-laws for the first time. Everyone gets one unexcused absence >> no questions asked. Stuff happens. After that, unexcused absences will result in point deductions. What is or is not excused is at the instructor's discretion, but a doctor's or nurse's note or large, open flesh wound usually are sufficient.

Ringing cell phones will be lobbed out of the classroom window and/or run over with a large truck.

Readings: All reading assignments should be completed before the class period during which we will discuss a particular topic. You may be called on in class to answer questions related to the day’s readings. In addition, I will expand upon and update the material in the texts. It will be extremely difficult for you to follow the lectures, participate in the discussion, respond to my questions and ask intelligent questions of your own if you come to class inadequately prepared.

How you will be graded:

Three exams (including final) 75% total (or 25% each)
Research paper 15%
Professionalism and participation 10%

To compute your final grade, add up your point totals, apply the appropriate percentages, then refer to the grading system summarized here:

61 and below

Definitions of the grades can be found in the Berry College Bulletin. For example: “A” students will demonstrate an outstanding mastery of course material and will perform far above that required for credit in the course and far above that usually seen in the course. The “A” grade should be awarded sparingly and should identify student performance that is relatively unusual in the course.

Course assignments

Exams: Two class session-length exams will employ multiple choice, true/false, short essay and matching question types. The cumulative final will be consistent in style and substance with the two midterms but probably a bit longer.

Research paper:

All papers should be four to five pages long, double-spaced and typed. No electronic submissions. All sources used for the paper should be appropriately cited using either footnotes or end notes. When in doubt, cite. Below are possible topics but you are free to come up with your own. All topics, even the suggested ones, must be approved by the instructor. Grade will reward/punish research, sources, quality of writing and persuasiveness of the argument and/or incisiveness of the analysis.

Suggestion #1: See the movie "The Gods Must be Crazy." Discuss the positive influences and negative influences by the Coca Cola bottle on the local culture.

#2. See the movie or read the book "Fahrenheit 451." Discuss some of the positive and negative impacts of government- or state-sponsored censorship of media, including but not restricted to books.

#3. See the movie or read the book "All the President's Men," "The Paper," or "Deadline USA" and discuss what the main characters see as the role or purpose of a newspaper in society?

#4. See the movie "The Night That Panicked America" (1975) or listen to the original Orson Welles 1938 broadcast "War of the Worlds." Discuss how and why listeners could have been so fooled? Discuss also how contemporary media consumers are different and how they are the same, or still susceptible (think Internet hoaxes and urban legends).

#5. See the movie "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit" and discuss what the movie says about the growth of public relations after WWII. Detail an ethical dilemma faced by a major character and how that character did (or should have) resolved the problem.

#6. See the movie "The Matrix" and discuss what the movie says about technological determinism, the melding of man and machine and the increasing blurring and blending in media of what is real and what is virtual (or only seemingly real).

#7. Write a paper predicting a future convergence-type merger. Using the Internet, find and research two companies that might benefit by combining their specific communications content or networks. Justify your choice. For example, a new merger might be Six Flags Amusement Parks with Microsoft (virtual amusement park concepts); or the marriage of Encyclopedia Britannica with Comcast (online knowledge all the time).

Berry Viking code
Academic dishonesty in any form is unacceptable because any breach in academic integrity, however small, strikes destructively at the college’s life and work. The code is not just policy, it is foundational to the academic environment we enjoy and in which scholarship thrives. It is in force in this classroom.

For the complete Viking Code, please consult the student handbook. In short, each student is “expected to recognize constituted authority, to abide by the ordinary rules of good conduct, to be truthful, to respect the rights of others.” The College’s mission, in part, commits to a community of integrity and justice. During an era when ethics are sometimes suspect, there seems no higher goal toward which students ought to strive than that of personal honor.

Students with special needs
If you have special needs of any kind, including learning disabilities, please let me know. Come discuss it with me. I want to make sure on the front end that we prevent any problems associated with the course. Martha Van Cise, director of the Academic Support Center, suggests: “Students with disabilities who believe that they may need accommodation in this course are encouraged to contact the Academic Support Center in Krannert Room 301 as soon as possible to ensure that such accommodations are implemented in a timely fashion.”

Finally, I believe we are here for a good time, not a long time, so let’s have some fun.


Day 1:
Aug. 23
Introduction. Syllabus. Policies. What to expect.

Pet peeve survey
Sign up for emailed headlines (and check "technology," among other categories).
Day 2:
Aug. 25
Media and communication, mediated communication
First Amendment quiz
Read: Chapter 1
Day 3: 
Aug. 27
Media and Communication, part II: Journalism, the First Amendment and vital, vibrant, healthy democracy | Short presentation from Berry's Writing Center |
Chapter 1
Day 4:
Aug. 30
The Age of Typography | The Age of Telegraphy >>
Get lecture notes
Visit 2 more spin sites: and Pew's Center for Public Integrity
Day 5:
Sept. 1
Journalism, part I | Gatekeeping and the Republican National Convention | Talk (briefly) about research papers Read: Chapter 2; New Republic article on Kerry's Vietnam service
Due: Spin assignment
Day 6:
Sept. 3

Journalism & digital communication

Chapter 2; watch some of the RNC and The Daily Show

Day 7:
Sept. 6

Issues in Contemporary Journalism | Videotape: "The Angry World," from The Southern Center for International Studies

Read: Introduction to blogs & Rebecca's Pocket (required)
Chapter 2
Day 8:
Sept. 8
Finish journalism | Public relations, part 1 | More on research papers/blogs

Sample blogs:
David F. Gallagher
John Hiler - Microcontent News
Josh Micah Marshall - Talking Points Memo
Lawrence Lessig
Adam Curry, MTV VJ

Read: Chapter 3; McGraw Hill's eLearning module
Due: "How you form opinions" assignment; questions from/about videotape
Day 9:
Sept. 10
Public relations, part 2
(no class Sept. 13: BC in Connecticut)
Read: Publicity Primer
Review: Chapter 3
Visit the prof. and discuss topics
Play bocce with the department
Day 10:
Sept. 13
No class today
Library day: Nail down a research topic and put it in the form of a question (must relate to mass communication)

Read:BC's article on blogs and journalism
Surf: Memorial Library's online research resources

Day 11:
Sept. 15
Go over how you form opinions
Finish public relations
Research paper topics due (your research question and potential resources -- be specific) 
Read: Chapter 3
Berry Public Relations
Due: research topics
Day 12:
Sept. 17
Advertising 1 Read: Chapter 4
Advertising Age
Day 13:
Sept. 20
Advertising 2 Read: Chapter 4
Visit: Is Dan Rather biased?  and
Advertising Week in NYC
Day 14:
Sept. 22
Finish advertising and Prep for Exam 1  Chapter 4
Day 15:
Sept. 24
No class today (BC in Chapel Hill)
Library research and exam study day >> go get sources! (good, fresh ones)
Meet in study groups
Day 16:
Sept. 27
Exam 1 Read/review: Chapters 1-4
Day 17:
Sept. 29

Exam review | tie up loose ends in advertising | online research tutorial
no class Friday, Oct. 1: Mountain Day activities

Visit: Memorial Library's online research resources
Check: Your exam grade (thanks to Tametria for the prompt)
Surf: Spin of the Day
Day 18:
Oct. 4

Newspapers | Readership by age range

Read: Chapter 6; Reserve reading on Gatekeeping by David M. White
Day 19:
Oct. 6
Newspapers Surf: and Chicago's Red Eye newspaper
Chapter 6
Day 20:
Oct. 8


no class Monday, Oct. 11: Fall Break

Chapter 6
Day 21:
Oct. 13
no class Friday, Oct. 15: BC in Columbia, S.C., at digital revolution conference
Read: Chapter 9; Doc Searls' plan to reinvent radio
Day 23:
Oct. 15
No class today
Library day: work on source list for research paper
Visit: What is RSS?
Day 24:
Oct. 18
Radio Chapter 9
Due: all sources for your paper (citations only) 
Day 25:
Oct. 20

Television | Putnam discussion: bring your opinions

no class Friday, Oct. 22: BC in Cleveland at American Journalism Historians Association convention

Read: Chapter 10
Reserve reading by Robert Putnam, from Bowling Alone
Surf: Jon Stewart on Crossfire and Sinclair Broadcasting and the fairness doctrine
Day 26:
Oct. 25
Television II Read: Chapter 10
Day 27:
Oct. 27
Television | Review for exam Read: Chapter 10; foreward to Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death
Day 28:
Oct. 29
Exam II Read/review: chapters 1-4 as background; primarily chapters 6, 9 & 10
Day 29:
Nov. 1
Music and the Recording Industry Read: Chapter 11

Day 30:
Nov. 3

Music and the Recording Industry Chapter 11
Day 31:
Nov. 5
Digital Millennium Copyright Act | file-sharing | MP3, iPods, the future of music

Read: DMCA law and Definition of DMCA

Day 32:
Nov. 8
Digital Media | Pioneers
2-question quiz: "As We May Think"
Read: Chapter 12; Vannevar Bush's "As We May Think"
Day 33:
Nov. 10
Internet Timeline Read: 25 Questions about Net;
Copyleft -- GPL
Surf: Creative Commons
Day 34:
Nov. 12

Finish Digital Media/Internet History

Surf: ARPAnet
Day 35:
Nov. 15
Research papers due 
Read: Chapter 7
Day 36:
Nov. 17
Magazines Read: Chapter 7
Surf: Berry Blog Ring |
Day 37:
Nov. 19
From Breakfast @ Tiffany's to You've Got Mail Read: Chapter 8

Day 38:
Nov. 22

The Intersection of Madison and Vine

No class Nov. 24 or Nov. 26: Happy Turkey Day!

Read: Chapter 8
Day 39:
Nov. 29
Regulation | go over papers Read: Chapter 14
Day 40:
Dec. 1
Standing on the shoulders of giants: research paper briefs >

Day 41:
Dec. 3

Last day of class: review for final Read/review: Chapters 1-14, except chapter 5 (books) and chapter 13 (ethics)
Day 42:
Exam III (final): Wednesday, December 8, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
pepp patty
keep your eye on the prize !
Dec. 11 Commencement

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New York Times | Advertising Age | Variety | Wired | Billboard | Broadcasting & Cable | Editor & Publisher

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©2004 CarrollinaWorks
Last Updated: August 2004

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