Introduction to Mass Communication

Spring 2019
COMM 101 - 005, CRN: 30978, T/Th 9:45 - 11:00, Ely 338
COMM 101 - 006, CRN: 30979, T/Th 11:15 - 12:30, Ely 338


Professor Nigel Dobereiner
Office: Ely 321
Office Hours:
Monday 1:30-2:00 and by appointment
Tuesday 12:30-2:00 and by appointment
Thursday 12:30-2:00 and by appointment
Office Phone: (413) 572-5743

In this course we will conduct a comprehensive survey and critical analysis of mass communication. This will be accomplished through the study of the history and structure of mass media industries and an examination of social, economic, political, cultural, and global factors that create the context in which media operate. 


Among other things, when you finish this course you will be able to:


Students are expected to get to class each day. I will take attendance at every class and excessive missed classes will lower your final grade. (I define "excessive" as being in the bottom 10% -20% of the class in attendance.) Missing classes will almost certainly affect your final grade also in that much of the material on the exams will come from class lectures and participations. Anyone with borderline scores at the end of the semester will benefit from a good attendance record, and vice versa.

If you expect to be absent, please notify me as soon as possible. If feasible I will give you assignments ahead of time. I will not provide copies of my lecture notes. All make-up exams must be completed within one week of the date the exam was originally given. If you miss an exam, it's your job to arrange a time with me to make it up before a week has passed. If you do not take your make-up exam within the one week period, your ultimate score on that exam will be lowered by two full letter grades. NO EXCEPTIONS!


Media/Society (6th edition) by David Croteau and William Hoynes - available at the bookstore


Three exams will make up the majority (75%) of your grade. They will be spread throughout the semester. You will also receive several writing assignments (3 – 5) which together with attendance and participation will contribute (25%) to your grade. The writing assignments will be based on your text readings, case studies or films we watch in class. Attendance counts. Be here. If you miss a writing assignment you can hand it in up to a week late (TYPED!), but don't expect me to chase you down to complete it. A writing assignment that is more than a week late will not be accepted! 

It is my view that students, in effect, grade themselves. That is, I will make every effort to assist you and give you all the information you need to succeed. However, the ultimate responsibility for success (or failure) is your own. Below you will find the Grading Structure. 


Grading Structure
Score Letter Equivilant























56 or below


You will also be graded based on class participation. During many classes I will lecture for part of the class, encouraging participation, and then have you participate in a group activity. I am a big believer in group-based activities in all my classes. This is a communication course, after all, and I feel you will learn best through communication with each other as well as with me. 

If you are having trouble, please arrange to meet with me during office hours. I will be happy to assist you in any way I can. Anyone whose final grade is close to a borderline status between two letter grades will receive the benefit of the doubt (or vice versa) by a consideration of class attendance and participation records. Again, it's all up to you.


Creating your own work is how you will get ahead your career, no matter what you choose to do. Using anyone else’s work; using a project that was submitted in another class; or having someone else write your assignment, are examples of plagiarism. I caught two students recently and followed procedure to sanction them both. In the real world, plagiarism is often simply called theft and will not be tolerated by companies who may be sued for having employees who steal. I know most people would never commit this crime. But you should know that plagiarism in any form will not be tolerated. Committing plagiarism also means you are not developing skills you will need in the marketplace. You can read more about what constitutes plagiarism here.

This policy may be updated this year so check for the latest version, if needed. If you have any doubts about whether something is considered plagiarism or not, please check with me.


I expect all cell phones to be turned off and not sitting in your desktop awaiting the next message. Messaging of any type in class is not allowed. It is considered rude, shows you don't care about the content of the class, and can have you ejected from the class. Don't let me tell you about this if I see a violation. I will work hard to embarrass you.

Respect other students. When someone is speaking or presenting, be quite and listen to them. They have the floor. They are not just speaking for my benefit. Always give others the respect you'd like to be shown. (See the Golden Rule.)


All assignments and supporting materials will be available online at


The following Classes and Topics listing is subject to change as our/your interests and progress dictate. However, barring instructions to the contrary, reading assignments should be completed in advance of the day of lecture on that topic. We'll use the lectures, movies and current events as talking points, and I don't just call on people who raise their hands; so be prepared to discuss the material.

Classes and Topics

Class number



Reading Assignment

1 1/22 Class introduction, syllabus
2 1/24 Why study the media? Croteau/Hoynes: pgs. 2-13
3 1/29 Fred and Wilma exercise
4 1/31 Economics of the Media Industry: Conglomeration and Concentration Croteau/Hoynes: pgs. 62-79; 139-141
5 2/5 Video: "Behind the Screens"
6 2/7 Writing Assignment #1: Commercials in Movies  
7 2/12 Media and Politics Croteau/Hoynes: pgs. 316-326
8 2/14 Regulating the Media. The FCC.
Media Organizations and Professionals
Croteau/Hoynes: pgs. 107-113
Croteau/Hoynes: pgs. 126-130
Croteau/Hoynes: pgs. 151-154
Croteau/Hoynes: pgs. 161-166
  2/19 Monday schedule - no class
9 2/21 Media Organizations and Professionals (continued)
Review for exam
10 2/26 Exam #1
11 2/28 Ethics in the Media Croteau/Hoynes: pgs. 130-134
12 3/5 Exams returned and reviewed
Movie: Outfoxed
13 3/7 Movie: Outfoxed (cont.)
  3/12 Spring Break - no class
  3/14 Spring Break - no class
14 3/19 Representations in the Media (gays, women, the "other")
Media and Ideology
Croteau/Hoynes: pgs. 151-166,187-205, 209-221


3/21 Movie: Mickey Mouse Monopoly
16 3/26 Writing Assignment #2: Representations in Disney
17 3/28 Media Effects: Cultivation Theory and Agenda Setting Theory Croteau/Hoynes: pgs. 240
18 4/2 Globalization
Review for exam
19 4/4 Exam #2
20 4/9 Advertising and Consumer Culture
21 4/11 Exams returned and reviewed
Movie: Advertising and the End of the World
22 4/16 Movie: Advertising and the End of the World (cont.)
Advertising Exercise: Magazines and Let's Make an Ad
23 4/18 Video: Toxic Sludge is Good for You
Public Relations
24 4/23 Knowledge and Opinion
Social Context of Media Use: Encoding/Decoding
Croteau/Hoynes: pgs. 265-274
25 4/25 Media Technology and Social Change
Children and Violence on TV
26 4/30
Writing Assignment #3: Why Study the Media?
Croteau/Hoynes: pgs. 182 -185
Croteau/Hoynes: pgs. 254 -259
Croteau/Hoynes: page 308
Croteau/Hoynes: pgs. 342 -351
27 5/2 Internet Smarts
Internet Searches
Review for exam
28 5/7 Final exam