Monday, January 17, 2011

Mass Media Studies and Theories, Spring 2011

Mass Media Studies and Theories JOUR 5040
Spring 2011
6:30 p.m. – 9: 20 p.m. Tuesdays, Universities Center, Dallas
Instructor: Dr. Tracy Everbach
Office: GAB 102J in Denton
Phone: 940-369-7446-o 972-317-1253-h
Office hours: By appointment in Dallas or on Friday afternoons in Denton
Class blog:

What you will learn: This class is designed to introduce students to theories about and studies of the American mass media. We will discuss how media operate, regulation of media, ethics, social, political and cultural issues and effects of media. You will learn about various theories of media developed over time and their places in mass communication history. We also will discuss technology’s role in media development and in the evolution of media theories. Students will examine mass media from a critical perspective and learn to use theoretical concepts to evaluate and study mass media. Media literacy also is a component.

Books: Stanley J. Baran and Dennis K. Davis, "Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Foment and Culture, Sixth Edition, Wasdworth/Cengage Learning, 2011.
(Can be purchased online for a less expensive price than through the bookstore. Go to

James Lull, "Media, Communication and Culture: A Global Approach," Second Edition, Columbia University Press, 2000. Many used versions available for low cost.

Recommended: Choice of Publication Manual of the APA (6th Edition), or Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition) Also,

What will happen in class/how to prepare for it: This is a graduate seminar. HALF OF THE CLASS WILL BE ONLINE ON BLACKBOARD/VISTA. Students are expected to read all assignments, lead class discussions and teach each other in addition to what they learn from the instructor and the readings. You must read all assignments before each class and be prepared to discuss them thoroughly. IN THE CASE OF ONLINE CLASSES, YOU WILL WRITE YOUR RESPONSES TO THE READINGS ON BLACKBOARD/VISTA. In this class we will discuss and present scholarly research into mass media. It also is crucial that you stay up to date with what is happening in news media by reading newspapers, watching television network/local/cable TV news, reading magazines, keeping up with Internet news sites, blogs and other forms of mass media. You also should pay attention to advertising, film, videos, video games and other forms of mass media. This is so you will be able to apply the theories you learn here to practical formats.

Course goals: This course will help students:
• Trace the structures of news media and mass media forms.
• Conduct research and evaluate information by methods appropriate to the communications professions in which they will work.
• Demonstrate an understanding of the history and role of professionals and institutions in shaping communications.
• Demonstrate an understanding of the diversity of groups in a global society in relationship to communications.
• Work ethically in pursuit of truth, accuracy, fairness and diversity.
• Think critically, creatively and independently.
• Write correctly and clearly in forms and styles appropriate for the communications professions, audiences, and purposes they serve.

Attendance: You are expected to be present for every class and lab, unless otherwise instructed. For online classes, you may post your responses/discussion at any time before the deadline. If you have legitimate reasons for not attending class (illness, disaster, death), contact the professor beforehand (by phone or e-mail) and present a note from a physician or other official at class. If you have a religious holiday, please let the professor know beforehand. Coming to class late or leaving early may constitute an absence for that day.

Accommodation: The School of Journalism cooperates with the Office of Disability Accommodation to make reasonable accommodations for qualified students. If you have not registered with ODA, please do so and present your written accommodation request to me by the 12th day of class.

Textbook policy: The Mayborn School of Journalism doesn’t require students to purchase textbooks from the University Bookstore. Many are available through other bookstores or online. Some are available for rent.

SETE: The Student Evaluation of Teaching Effectiveness (SETE) is a university-wide online evaluation and a requirement for all UNT classes. The Mayborn School of Journalism needs your input to improve our teaching and curriculum. This short survey will be available at the end of the semester, providing you a chance to comment on how this class is taught. Prompt completion of the SETE will mean earlier access to final semester grades. You’re a critical part of our growth and success. We look forward to your input through SETE.

Cell phone policy: Cell phones should NEVER be used in class, including text messaging. You may be asked to leave class for using a cell phone.

Honesty and Conduct:
When you submit work for this class, it is the same as making a statement that you have produced the work yourself, in its entirety, and that this work has not been previously produced by you for submission in another course. Plagiarism, fabrication, copyright infringement, and similar uses of other people’s work are unacceptable.

Plagiarism, in a nutshell, is using other people’s written words as your own. Some people consider the use of 7-10 words in a row, copied from another source, as plagiarism. Be sure to include citations when using other people’s writing, because plagiarism is a serious offense in any discipline, especially in journalism. It’s a firing offense in the professional world. In this department, students face a range of penalties for plagiarism and for fabrication (depending on the importance of the assignment): a grade of “F” on a minor assignment; a request that the student drop the class; withdrawal of the student from the class, initiated by the professor; an “F” in the course; a referral to the UNT Center for Student Rights and Responsibilities; a notation on the student’s transcript; and suspension or expulsion from the university. A combination of these penalties may also be used.

Online discussions: 20 percent
Class presentation/discussion leader: 20 percent
Midterm exam: 20 percent
Final exam: 20 percent
Final proposal and paper: 20 percent

Presentations: Groups or individuals will be assigned to present mass media theories and concepts to the class. You will be assigned a particular week to make your presentation. Try to make these presentations interesting and entertaining. You will be able to use any form of mass media we have in the classroom including Web, DVD, music, Power Point, handouts, etc. I am not opposed to “Jeopardy!”-style games, interactive activities or other forms of learning. Your presentation should include some sort of teaching as well as some form of engaging your fellow students in a discussion. Be creative and have fun. The more practical examples you can present, the better. We want to learn how to apply these theories to real life. Your presentation should be somewhere between one hour and two hours long. (You can incorporate a break into your presentation.)

Online responses: Under the “Discussions” tab on the Blackboard/Vista page for the course, you will find questions posed to you about the readings on weeks when we do not meet. Each student must post a 500- to 750-word discussion about the readings for that week. Students then are required to post at least one response to each student’s written discussion. You may post more than one response to each person’s posting if you wish, but are required only to post one for each student.

Study proposal and paper: Your final paper for this class will focus on a project you may be able to use for a thesis or other academic study. Before you go forward with your paper, you MUST submit a proposal, due Feb. 15, that must be approved by the instructor. Your proposal should be 1-2 pages long. Your final paper should be 10-15 pages long, with a bibliography of references/works cited attached. (The bibliography should be in addition to the 10-15 pages.)

Further information will be give on how to structure the paper, but you should think of a research question or hypothesis about an issue in mass media that you are interested in studying. You will complete a literature review on this topic and will describe the theories/concepts you would use to study this issue. You will have your choice of methods you would like to use for the study: qualitative, quantitative, historical, or a combination of methods.

NOTE: We meet only once every other week, so if you miss class, you are responsible for finding out what was covered that week. Readings should be completed before each class.

Tentative syllabus (some details may be subject to change):

Week 1, Jan. 18: MEET IN DALLAS. Introduction/overview on mass communication theory. Explanation of the course, assignments, discussion groups, paper. Access to library databases.

Week 2, Jan. 25: ONLINE What is mass communication theory and why should we care? How has it developed over time?
READINGS: Baran and Davis, Chapters 1 & 2. Lull, Chapter 1. Online discussion.

Week 3, Feb. 1: MEET IN DALLAS. Mass society, propaganda and culture
READINGS: Baran and Davis, Chapters 3 & 4.
Group 1 presentation: mass society theory, the age of propaganda, public opinion and Walter Lippmann.
Video: “Rich Media, Poor Democracy”

Week 4, Feb. 8: ONLINE Limited effects of media, normative theories, social responsibility theory, marketplace of ideas, Lazarsfeld, Hovland, media effects, phenomenistic theory
READINGS: Baran and Davis, Chapter 5 & 6. Lull Chapter 2. Online discussion.

Week 5, Feb. 15: MEET IN DALLAS. Middle-range theories and media effects.
READINGS: Baran and Davis, Chapter 7. Lull, Chapter 5.
Group 2 presentation: functionalism, social cognitive theory, four functions of the media, mass entertainment theory, systems theory, children and violence, TV & video game effects, media socialization.
Video: “Merchants of Cool” approx. 1 hour.
**DUE: Final paper proposal***

Week 6, Feb. 22: ONLINE Critical and cultural studies; hegemony
READINGS: Baran and Davis, Chapter 8; Lull, Chapter 3. Online discussion.


Week 8, March 8: ONLINE Audience theories, uses and gratifications, moderate effects theories, schemas.
READINGS: Baran and Davis, Chapter 9; Lull, Chapter 7. Online discussion.


Week 9, March 22: MEET IN DALLAS. Media and society
READINGS: Baran and Davis, Chapter 10; Lull, Chapter 8
Group 3 presentation: information/innovation diffusion theory, social marketing theory, knowledge gap, agenda-setting, spiral of silence, news production research, media intrusion theory, media meaning.
DVD: “Growing Up Online”

Week 10, March 29: ONLINE News media, news production and media literacy
READINGS: Todd L. Belt and Marion R. Just, “The Local News Story: Is Quality a Choice?” Political Communication 25, 2 (April 2008): 194-215.
Sue Robinson, “Someone’s Gotta Be in Control Here,” Journalism Practice 1, 3 (October 2007).
Online discussion: How do these articles fit into our theory framework?

Week 11, April 5: MEET IN DALLAS. Media and culture, symbolic interactionism, the Chicago School, social constructionism, framing, cultivation analysis, media literacy, media theory.
READINGS: Baran and Davis, Chapter 11 & 12.
Group 4 presentation: Media and culture, symbolic interactionism, the Chicago School, social constructionism, framing, cultivation analysis, media literacy, media theory.
Video: “The Mean World Syndrome”

Week 12, April 12: ONLINE. Work on final paper. Pose questions, ask for research help.

Week 13, April 19: MEET IN DALLAS. Media effects: sex, violence, race, gender. Feminist theory.
READINGS: Lynn C. Owens, “Network News: The Role of Race in Source Selection and Story Topic,” Howard Journal of Communication 19, 4 (October 2008): 355-370.
Tracy Everbach, “The Culture of a Women-Led Newspaper: An Ethnographic Study of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune,” J&MCQ 83, 3 (2006): 477-493.
DVD: “Racial Stereotypes in the Media.”

Week 14, April 26: ONLINE. Work on final paper. Pose questions, ask for research help.

Week 15, May 3: MEET IN DALLAS. Final paper due. Students present final papers.


*Thanks to Dr. Elizabeth Koehler and Dr. Tom Johnson for their outlines, assignments and grading systems, which contributed a great deal to this syllabus.