Spring 2009, Tue-Thur 2:30-3:45, CBC C118
Taught by: Dr. Susanna Priest, 1306 Greenspun Hall, 702-895-5146,
Office hours: Mon – Thur 1:30-2:15, 4:00-4:45, or by appointment
Catalog description: In-depth look at the functions of the press in
gathering and disseminating knowledge, news, and entertainment;
specific attention paid to the role of the press in shaping public opinion
and influencing public action. Prerequisites: Admitted to the major,
junior or senior standing. 3 credits.
Specific objectives: This course is designed primarily to contribute to
students’ knowledge of theories relevant to the mass media and their
social influence, emphasizing influences on public opinion, and to
provide practice in using critical thinking, research, writing, evaluation,
basic math and teamwork skills to gather and present information
about media representations of diverse social groups and
contemporary social issues and problems (whether observed in
entertainment or in news).
Major assignments: Each student will complete an independent
project on a topic of their choice, resulting in a final paper of about 810 pages (not counting any specific media examples that may be
included as an appendix). Undergraduate students will be grouped
with others who are doing thematically related projects for the
purposes of creating a group class presentation of about 30 minutes.
Graduate students enrolled for the course will produce a longer paper
(12-15 pages) and an individual presentation (about 15-20 minutes).
Both undergraduate and graduate papers will be small-scale original
research projects that look at how today’s communication media
participate in constructing our social reality, as well as suggesting how
popular opinion, attitudes or ideas may be influenced.
An individual one-page pre-proposal for the project (paper) is
required; it is graded on a pass-fail basis. A failing grade on the preproposal (i.e., no satisfactory pre-proposal received) reduces the
paper grade by 10%.
Extensive instructions and expectations for the project and
presentations will be discussed and/or distributed at a later date,
including grading criteria. The undergraduate team presentations are
graded partly on originality and creativity and partly on content.
Graduate student presentations are graded partly on clarity and
professionalism and partly on content. See schedule for due dates;
grades on late papers are also reduced by 10% per day.
Text and tests: The text for this course will be Baran and Davis, Mass
Communication: Foundations, Ferment, and Future, 5th edition. It is
important to have access to this edition; preparing well for tests when
the student is using an older edition will be difficult because the page
numbers and organization of chapters, as well as some of the material
itself, will have changed. Because the research paper provides writing
practice, all tests will be “objective” (using closed-ended multiple
choice rather than essay type questions).
Anything that happens in class – lectures, videos, class discussions, or
discussion of materials from the text – is subject to being included on
the tests. While the class material will follow the same general outline
as the text, many lectures will provide material not included in the
text, and conversely the text will contain material for which the
student is responsible that we will not always go over in class.
Students are encouraged to ask questions about anything in the text
at any time, with Q&A time budgeted before each in-class exam. The
final exam will review material from the entire class and will include
some questions from the class presentations.
Two in-class tests will be administered, in addition to the scheduled
(cumulative) final.
Attendance: Attendance counts for part of your grade. Each student
is allowed two unexcused absences. After that, absences not excused
by the instructor will reduce the grade awarded for attendance, which
is calculated as a percentage of all class meetings except tests. All
excused absences must involve documentation except for religious
observances. Students should notify the instructor of plans in this
regard in advance, in accordance with university policy. Representing
UNLV at an “official extracurricular activity” is also excusable with one
week’s written notification. However, foreseeable events such as
weddings, job interviews, and family vacations are not excusable
absences. You should plan ahead to use unexcused absence credits for
such events.
Everyone – even the instructor! – gets held up by unforeseen events
on occasion. However, the instructor reserves the right to withhold
attendance credit for the day from students who are consistently late.
Please try to remember to turn your cell phones and other electronic
toys off before class – I’ll try to remember this as well!
Class schedule: This will include reading assignments and will be
distributed via web campus during the first week of the semester.
While test days will not change, some adjustments in assignments and
topics to be discussed may take place as the semester unfolds.
Each test
Final exam
Research paper
20% (total 40%)
*Team members get to grade one another on individual contributions
to the team presentation. However, the basic grade is a team grade.
Final grades will be awarded as follows:
93 or more
59 or less
Extra credit: You can earn extra credit of up to four points by
exercising one or more of three options, each worth two points: (1)
participate in a research opportunity supervised by the instructor, in
accord with university IRB policies (30-40 minutes required for
activity); (2) attend and report in writing on any lecture or event on
campus lasting approximately one hour and relevant to media and
society issues – reports should consist of a 1.5-2.0 page, doublespaced paper and a brief (3-5 minute) class presentation; or (3)
summarize a refereed media research journal article in the field that is
relevant to the class, again in 1.5-2.0 pages plus a brief presentation.
Email: UNLV policy says that I am supposed to use only your
Rebelmail email account for electronic communications. Email is a
good way to ask simple questions and make appointments but please
do not expect me to summarize a day’s lecture by email. If you have a
complex question – what to do your paper on, for example, or what
counts as a “refereed research journal article” – office hours are a
much better idea.
Other official announcements:
Academic misconduct is not tolerated. Period, end of story.
Plagiarism and cheating are examples of academic misconduct. Please
do not think that you will not get caught, or that I will not do anything
about it if you are. While painful for both of us, this is not true. See
the UNLV “Student Academic Misconduct Policy” if you want more
information. You should also familiarize yourself with copyright and
“fair use” law as it applies to you as a university student. More
information on both is available on the UNLV web site.
The Disability Resource Center (DRC) coordinates all academic
accommodations for students with documented disabilities. The DRC is
the official office to review and house disability documentation for
students, and to provide them with an official Academic
Accommodation Plan to present to the faculty in an accommodation is
warranted. Faculty are advised not to provide an accommodation
without being in receipt of this plan. UNLV complies with the provisions
set forth in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, offering reasonable
accommodations to qualified students with documented disabilities. If
you have a documented disability that may require accommodations,
you will need to contact the DRC for the coordination of services. The
DRC is located in the Student Services Complex (SSC), Room 137, and
the contact numbers are: VOICE (702) 895-0866, TTY (702) 8950652, FAX (702) 895-0651. For additional information visit
Please also be advised that the UNLV Writing Center can assist any
student on a walk-in (CDC-301) or appointment (895-3908) basis;
however, they advise that students with appointments receive priority.