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