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Syllabus for: Mass Communications MASC 101-002 Fall 2014
Instructor: Associate Professor J eff South
Office: Temple Building, 901 W. Main St., Room 1149-B
Office hours: 10 a.m.-noon on Mondays and Wednesdays;
2-4 p.m. on Tuesdays; and by appointment
Phone: 827-0253 (office); 754-3670 (home)
Class format This course will be taught entirely online. We will meet
asynchronously: I will give you a window of time (usually
one week) to view the Web-based materials that I post
and complete quizzes or tasks that I assign.
Class home page: for all official (graded) activities
We also will use:
A public website []
Facebook: MASC 101 VCU Fall 2014
The Twitter hashtag #vcumasc101
Teaching assistant Osita Iroegbu
Course assistants Lauren Vickers
Ali Mislowsky
Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. A comprehensive overview of mass media
which examines its history and evolution. Emphasis is given to the ways in which
communications technologies have shaped and are shaped by society. Considers how
digital and earlier technologies have led to increasing integration of world cultures and
economies. Includes discussion of mass media law and ethics, including the origins and
evolution of a free press and the legal framework of contemporary mass media practice.
(Source: VCU Bulletin)
This undergraduate course will explore the development, structure and functions of traditional
mass media, such as newspapers and television, and new media, such as the Internet and cell
phones. We will examine the history, economics and other aspects of the media globally and
especially in the United States. In MASC 101, you will study how old media and digital media
influence both society and individuals and how society and individuals affect the media. The
course will give you an overview of communication professions, such as journalism, public
relations and advertising. MASC 101 also will help you develop your media literacy skills so you
can make informed decisions as citizens and consumers.
You must earn a C or better in MASC 101 to continue your studies in the Robertson School.
Upon completion of MASC 101, students will be able to:
Trace the historical development of analog and digital media
Identify the rapidly changing forms of the media and the influence that technology is
having on mass communication
Articulate how the media impact individuals, institutions and society and how
individuals, institutions and society impact the media
Discuss the medias ethical responsibilities and the legal framework that governs and
affects the media
Demonstrate an understanding of the First Amendment and of the news medias
watchdog role in a democracy
Discuss professions and career opportunities associated with traditional and interactive
Explain how corporate interests affect the media and the information and entertainment
we receive
Define and demonstrate media literacy skills, particularly news literacy skills
The course also will introduce each of the learning objectives required by the schools
assessment plan and the Accrediting Council on Education in J ournalism and Mass
Communications. These objectives include: Laws & Freedom of Speech; Media History;
Diversity; Use of Images; Ethics; Critical & Creative Thinking; Research & Information-
Evaluation Skills; Writing Abilities; Editing Abilities; Numbers & Statistics; and Tools &
Technologies. More information about these intended learning outcomes are available on our
Blackboard website.
You must obtain the following book for this course:
Mass Communication: Living in a Media World
(fourth edition; 2013), by Ralph Hanson
Publisher: CQ Press
The book is available as an e-book and a traditional printed text (new and used); it also is
available as a rental. The book is available at the Barnes & Noble @ VCU Bookstore, 1111 W.
Broad St., as well as from Amazon and other online bookstores. Comparison-shop for the best
deal. You may be able to get the book for $20.
Our entire class will be conducted online, using Blackboard (VCUs course management system)
as our hub. The class will be conducted asynchronously, meaning that you will work on your
own time to meet assigned deadlines. As a general rule, at the start of the week, I will post a
video lecture and an online exercise or other assignment relating to a particular chapter. I then
will set a deadline for you to view the lecture and complete the assignment (usually by the end of
the week). We will use Blackboard for all graded activities, such as online tests, quizzes and
As you can see, we will use Blackboard ( extensively in MASC 101.
Through Blackboard, you will have access to class announcements, my lectures, supplementary
readings, instructions for assignments, online discussions, online quizzes and grades. I have
posted on our website a Blackboard Help link if you need assistance.
We also will have occasional guest speakers, using Google Hangouts. We will broadcast these
video discussions to YouTube. You will be able to watch them in real time (and post questions
for our guest speakers), or you can watch them later.
We plan to hold two optional in-person meetings for MASC 101 students during the semester.
The meetings tentatively have been scheduled for Oct. 3 and Nov. 21. Both meetings will be
movie nights: Well show and discuss a film relating to the media (such as Shattered Glass;
Good Night, and Good Luck; The Greatest Movie Ever Sold; or Killing Us Softly 4: Advertisings
Image of Women). You wont be required to attend these movie nights; there will be an
alternative online assignment for students who dont attend.
Weve created a public website to show the world what
were doing in our class. This site will have links to our Google Hangouts videos and other
content that you and I have created.
We have created a Facebook group, called MASC 101 VCU Fall 2014, for our class. It is at:
We will post announcements, assignment reminders and other materials in this group to give you
an additional access point to the course material. Moreover, you will use the Facebook group for
informal discussions and to suggest news articles or other content that we can explore in our
class. So I urge you to join us on Facebook. (If you opt not to, you can suggest news articles for
us using a Blackboard forum.)
In addition, we will use Twitter (with the hashtag #vcumasc101) to offer ideas for the course.
VCU gives each student an email account, and that is the address Blackboard uses (and we will
use) for this class. We will communicate frequently in this class by email. Therefore, you should
check your email frequently for messages about MASC 101. It is your responsibility to ensure
that you are receiving emails from me. When you send me email, begin the subject line with
MASC 101:. Otherwise, my spam filter may delete your message.
After every chapter we cover, I will give you an online quiz. The online quizzes will be open-
book and open-notes; Ill even let you take the quiz twice and count the higher grade. The online
quizzes will help ensure that you comprehend the material, and they will help you practice for
our tests and exams.
During the semester, I also will give you a low-stakes test, a midterm exam and a final exam. On
these tests and exams, you may not use your book, your notes or any other assistance, and you
may not collaborate with other people in taking the tests and exams. When you take a test or
exam, you must pledge that you will abide by the VCU Honor System, which states, On my
honor, I have neither given nor received aid on this assignment.
I will divide the class into groups of 10-12 students. During five weeks over the course of the
semester, I will have each group engage in an online discussion. I will pose a question, and you
must provide an answer of 300-400 words. You then will read the postings of the other members
of your group, and reply to two of their answers. Your online postings must be of high quality,
both in content and style. I will not accept submissions with grammatical and typographical
errors. We expect you to take advantage of spell-checking and other programs that help guard
against such errors; however, there is no substitute for careful proofreading. VCUs Writing
Center ( can help you improve your writing
During the second half of the semester, we will divide the class into even smaller groups. Each
group will choose a service/research project that involves the media. For example, your group
might conduct a book drive for Books for Africa; collect cell phones for victims of domestic
violence; support a journalist who has been imprisoned in another country; or campaign against
sexist advertising. Each group will post a report on Blackboard and on our public website. You
can view summaries of previous projects at:
We will begin most of our online sessions with a look at mass communication and media in the
news. We will discuss online news articles and other Web postings about trends in advertising,
journalism or media technology, for example. We all will be responsible for finding articles to
discuss. So look for fodder when you are online. When you see an interesting and relevant
article, post a link to it in our class Facebook group or in the Blackboard discussion forum titled
Facebook Alternative, or tweet about it with the hashtag #vcumasc101.
My graduate teaching assistant (Osita Iroegbu), our course assistants (Lauren Vickers and Ali
Mislowsky) and I will curate the tagged articles and choose some to highlight online.
This chart shows how much each gradebook item will be worth. This grading scheme will be
modified if we change the number or types of assignments or tests during the semester. Changes
will be announced by email and on Blackboard.

Gradebook item Weight
Test covering Chapters 1-5 (Week of Sept. 22) 10%
Midterm exam covering Chapters 1-8 (Week of Oct. 13) 20%
Final exam (Week of Dec. 1) 30%
Online quizzes (15 approximately one per week) 10%
Online group discussions (approximately five) and LinkedIn assignment 15%
Media-oriented service/research project (week of Nov. 10) 15%
Total 100%
Here is how I will calculate your final grade:
Weighted total Final grade
90% or more A
80-89% B
70-79% C
60-69% D
Below 60% F
No incompletes will be given in this course, except for dire emergencies. All assignments must
be completed by the end of the semester to pass.
The VCU Honor System will be strictly enforced in this class. If you fabricate or plagiarize
material, your name will be turned in to appropriate university officials for disciplinary action.
The honor policy provides substantial penalties for violation, including expulsion.
Unless I specify otherwise, all work done for this course is pledged work, as defined by the
Honor System. Each assignment implicitly carries this pledge:
On my honor, I have neither given nor received aid on this assignment.
For a complete copy of the VCU Honor System, see:
According to the student conduct policy in the VCU Undergraduate Bulletin, you are entitled to
receive instruction free from interference by other students. If you believe that another students
behavior is disruptive, tell me and I will deal with the situation. This rule applies online as well
as in person: On Blackboard and Facebook and in email, you must be respectful and civil to your
classmates and the instructors. In online discussions, profanity, personal attacks and demeaning
comments will not be tolerated. Also, you must not use our class communication channels for
commercial purposes to try to sell a product, for example, or to promote a specific political
Be polite; respect your classmates, your instructor and others with whom you will interact during
this course. If you engage in any behavior that I deem disruptive, you will get a written warning.
A repeat incident will result in your being administratively withdrawn from this class. For more
about the universitys policy on student conduct, see
It is vital that students in this course broaden their mass communications experiences, with
guidance from the instructor, by including in their course work people and subjects such as
ethnic, racial and religious minorities, people with disabilities, gay men and lesbians, and other
groups. The intent is to ensure that students are exposed to diverse ideas and perspectives. In this
class, it is the responsibility of the instructor and students to foster an environment that supports
free expression.
Under VCU policy, you may not harass or intimidate any person or interfere with the lawful
freedom of other persons, including invited speakers, to express their views.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 requires Virginia Commonwealth University to
provide academic adjustments or accommodations for students with documented disabilities. If
you have a disability that requires an academic adjustment or accommodation, you must contact
J oyce Knight, the coordinator of services for students with disabilities on VCUs Academic
Campus. Ms. Knights office is in Room 102 of the Student Commons, 907 Floyd Ave. Her
email address is, and her phone number is 828-2253.
After meeting with Ms. Knight, you then should meet with me to discuss your needs and how we
can address them. For more information, see the universitys Web page on Services for Students
with Disabilities:
1. Sign up to receive VCU text messaging alerts ( Keep your
information up-to-date.
2. Know the safe evacuation route from each of your classrooms. Emergency evacuation routes
are posted in on-campus classrooms.
3. Listen for and follow instructions from VCU or other designated authorities.
4. Know where to go for additional emergency information (
5. Know the emergency phone number for the VCU Police (828-1234). Report suspicious
activities and objects.
Visit for other VCU policies, including the Statement
on Military Short-Term Training or Deployment and Excused Absences for Students
Representing the University.

The calendar below shows what we will cover each week and what assignments you must do or
tests or exams you will take. To access the material for a particular chapter, go to our Blackboard
website and look under Lectures & Assignments. You will see a folder for each chapter. In that
folder, you will find one or more videos (my talk-through of the chapter) and supplementary
exercises or a quiz. You should read the chapter in the textbook first, then watch my talk-
through, then do the supplementary exercises or quiz. During five designated weeks, you will
engage in an online group discussion. Youll do that on Blackboard by clicking on the Group
Discussions button.
Course overview (Aug. 21-24)
An introduction to the subject, the course and the instructors
Assignment: Online quiz about the course

Week 1 (Aug. 25-31)
Chapter 1 (Living in a Media World)
Assignment: Media technology survey
Wednesday, Aug. 27: End of add/drop and late registration

Week 2 (Sept. 1-7)
Monday, Sept. 1, is Labor Day; so plan accordingly.
Chapter 2 (Mass Communication Effects: How Society and Media Interact)
Assignments: Online quizzes on Chapters 1 and 2

Week 3 (Sept. 8-14)
Chapter 3 (The Media Business: Consolidation, Globalization, and the Long Tail)
Assignments: Online quiz on Chapter 3
Online group discussion

Week 4 (Sept. 15-21)
Chapter 4 (Books: The Birth of the Mass Media)
Chapter 5 (Magazines: The Power of Words and Images)
Assignments: Online quizzes on Chapters 4 and 5

Week 5 (Sept. 22-28)
Test covering Chapters 1-5 and other material discussed so far
Chapter 6 (Newspapers & the News: Reflection of a Democratic Society)
Assignment: Online group discussion

Week 6 (Sept. 29-Oct. 5)
Chapter 7 (Audio: Music and Talk Across Media)
Assignments: Online quizzes on Chapters 6 and 7
Movie night: Friday, Oct. 3 I hope to reserve a theater-style classroom where we can meet to
watch and discuss a mass-comm-related movie.

Week 7 (Oct. 6-12)
Chapter 8 (Movies: Mass Producing Entertainment)
Assignments: Online quiz on Chapter 8
Online group discussion

Week 8 (Oct. 13-19)
Midterm exam covering Chapters 1-8 and other material discussed so far
Thursday and Friday, Oct. 16-17, are Readings Days.

Week 9 (Oct. 20-26)
Chapter 9 (Television: Broadcast and Beyond)
Chapter 10 (The Internet: Mass Communication Gets Personal)
Assignment: Online quizzes on Chapters 9 and 10

Week 10 (Oct. 27-Nov. 2)
Chapter 11 (Advertising: Selling a Message)
Assignments: Online quiz on Chapter 11
Online group discussion
Friday, Oct. 31 Last date to withdraw with a mark of W

Week 11 (Nov. 3-9)
Chapter 12 (Public Relations: Interactions, Relationships, and the News)
Assignment: Online quiz on Chapter 12
Creation of LinkedIn profile

Week 12 (Nov. 10-16)
Chapter 13 (Media Law: Free Speech and Fairness)
Assignment: Media-oriented service/research project due

Week 13 (Nov. 17-23)
Chapter 14 (Media Ethics: Truthfulness, Fairness, and Standards of Decency)
Assignments: Online quizzes on Chapters 13 and 14
Online group discussion
Movie night: Friday, Nov. 21 I hope to reserve a theater-style classroom where we can meet to
watch and discuss a mass-comm-related movie

Week 14 (Nov. 24-30)
VCU is closed Thursday-Sunday, Nov. 27-30, for Thanksgiving; so plan accordingly.
Chapter 15 (Global Media: Communication Around the World)
Assignments: Online quiz on Chapter 15

Week 15 (Dec. 1-5)
Final exam: The final exam will be cumulative: About two-thirds of the questions will be drawn
from material we have covered since the midterm; the other third will cover earlier material.