Introduction to Mass Communication (Culture and Media)

CMN 102/Art 179

Summer 2009


Dr. Daniel Makagon                                                              

Office: SAC 596       

Office Hours: Wednesday 4:45-5:45 and by appointment

Phone: 773-325-7376



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 dayÕs reading and bring the article with you to class.


All course readings are available on-line at



Some of the reading assignments will be quite dense. In many instances difficulties with material emerge from problems with terminology. I recommend that you consider purchasing the following book to facilitate your understanding of the material:


OÕSullivan, T., Hartley, J., Saunders, D., Montgomery, M., & Fiske, J. (1983). Key Concepts in Communication and Cultural Studies. London and New York: Routledge.



Course Assignments


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


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


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


Final Paper                                          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 be short answer and 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 writerÕs 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, print journalism, and advertising). The group will create a 30-minute presentation for the class that provides an overview 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 groupÕs 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).


NOTE: Each group has the right to kick out a non-participating member. Any member kicked out of their group automatically will 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.

With that said, the bulk of each participant’s grade will be assigned based on the quality of that individual’s presentation. I will use peer evaluations to gain a better sense of how each member contributed to the organization of the project, helped facilitate the overall presentation, and offered useful insights to group members. In an effort to manage a lot of information in a limited time, it is easier to organize these presentations in a group format but I understand the ways in which the dynamics of different groups can hinder individual efforts. Therefore, the projects will be graded in ways that can rely on the positive features of group and solo research.

Final Paper


I will provide a list of essay questions for the Final Paper. You will answer one question (3-5 pages). Papers are due July 15 by 5:45PM.


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.


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.




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 DePaulÕs 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. 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




6/15                 Course Introduction   


Mass Culture           


6/17                 Dwight MacDonald, "A Theory of Mass Culture"


6/22                 Raymond Williams, "Culture is Ordinary"


Democracy and Mass Media


6/24                 David Samuels, "On Message"


6/29                 Peter Simonson, "Dreams of Togetherness"


Mass Media Audiences


7/1                   Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw, "The Agenda Setting Function"


7/6                   Henry Jenkins, "Congressional Testimony on Media Violence" (pp. 1-22)


Mass Media Production


7/8                   3 Group Presentations


7/13                 2 Group Presentations


7/15                 Final Papers Due by 5:45 PM (SAC 596)