Intro to Mass Media Studies

Fall 2016 – Dr. Hart  

(Last Updated: 8/25/16)  

Course Information

Course Number: MCM 510


Graduate Catalog Description: “This course is a study of the socio-economic and historical developments related to the continuing struggle for freedom of the press and growth of the electronic and print media as conveyors of information to the public.” (3 credit hours)

As an introduction, this course provides a broad overview of the field of mass communications. The course covers communication theory and research and a wide variety of media topics: newspapers, books, magazines, recordings, radio, film, television, advertising, public relations, the internet/social media and international media systems.

Course                     Bldg         Room   Meth    Days    Start Time   End Time

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MCM-510                 Madison   248      LC         Th       5:00PM        8:00PM  

Instructor Information

Name: William Hart, Ph.D.

For office hours and contact information see the Contact Info page on course web page under Teaching at   Also, see this site for other important documents and resources.


Required Readings, Equipment, Skills, Etc.

Each week of the semester students will be assigned two readings per week: (1) a general, introductory textbook chapter and (2) a related article on a more specific topic.

For the most part the chapter readings come from the following general textbook.

  • Converging Media: A New Introduction to Mass Communication (2nd ed.) by Pavlik and McIntosh

The articles to be read will be chosen from works that Dr. Hart has published or presented at conferences.  See below for examples.  See “Content” on Blackboard for details.

  • Hart, W. B. (2012). The case of the missing interracial romance: An ideological critique of Kiss the Girls (novel to film). North Carolina Literature Review.
  • Hart, W.B. (September, 2011). Social media use within Mass Communication and Journalism departments. A paper presented at the Social Media and Communication Symposium - Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY in 2011.
  • Hart, W.B. (April, 2011). The game is on: Adapting the modern day "Sherlock" to a video game. A paper presented at the national Popular Culture Association Convention, San Antonio, TX in 2011.
  • Edgerton, G., Hart, W. B. & Hassencahl, F. (2008). Televising 9/11 and its aftermath. In M. Norden (Ed.), Changing Face of Evil. The Netherlands: Editions Rodopi.
  • Hart, W. B. (2005). The country connection: Country music, 9/11 and the War on Terrorism. In D. Heller (Ed.), Selling 9/11 (pp. 155-173). London: Palgrave McMillan.
  • Hart, W. B. & Hassencahl, F. (2002). Dehumanizing the enemy in editorial cartoons. In B. Greenberg (Ed.). Communication and Terrorism: Public and Media Responses to 9/11 (pp. 137-155). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.
  • Rogers, E. M. & Hart, W. B. (2002). New communication technology and the changing nature of conversation. In W. Eadie & P. Nelson (Eds.), The Changing Conversation in America (pp. 91-117). Thousand Oaks: CA: Sage Publications.

Mobile Device: It is not absolutely necessary to have a mobile device (iPod Touch, smartphone, tablet, etc.), but it would be helpful.

Other: A working NSU email account and access to and knowledge of Blackboard will be needed. Students are required to login and check their NSU emails and Blackboard account at least on a weekly basis.  See details in Competencies section below.

Class Objectives, Values and Competencies

This course serves as an introduction to mass communications at the graduate level. The course is especially helpful for graduate students who do not have an undergraduate degree in mass communications. For those students with an undergraduate mass communication degree, this course provides a graduate level introduction to the field. As a graduate level introduction, this course provides an understanding of the basics needed to go on to the more specific courses in the Media & Communications M.A. degree program.

After successfully completing this course, students should:

  • have knowledge of a broad range of media areas (newspapers, recordings, radio, film, etc.),
  • have the basic knowledge needed to read a wide range of mass communication research and
  • lastly, students should also be familiar with the many theories and issues related to mass communication.

In sum, this course should give the students the basics needed to go on to more specific courses in their degree program.

See Teaching Philosophy for additional coverage of educational goals and objectives.  See also Course Values and Competencies.

General Teaching Philosophy

Educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom and his colleagues developed a classification system for educational goals and objectives.  This classification system is commonly referred to as Bloom’s Taxonomy. Bloom and his colleagues proposed that students should develop a set of cognitive abilities.  The abilities are arranged from the simpler to the more complex abilities.  First, students should be able to remember facts or terminology that they have studied. Second, students should be able to explain, summarize or illustrate concepts and principles that they have studied.  Third, students should be able to apply what they have studied to solve new problems.  Fourth, a student should be able to analyze a situation or idea and be able to break down the situation or idea into its subsequent parts. Fifth, students should be able to synthesize parts of what they have learned to create something new.  And sixth, students should be able to critique or evaluate an idea based on a set of standards and criteria.*

In a similar fashion, William Perry, a psychologist, proposed that there are stages of intellectual development for college students.  According to Perry students begin college in a dualism stage, progress to a relativism stage and then on to what might be called a critical thinking stage.  Early in their college career, in the dualism stage students expect right and wrong answers and their source of what is right and what is wrong comes from some authority (a teacher, a parent, etc.).  Students in the relativism stage have become dissatisfied with the answers from authorities, especially since many authorities disagree – there seems to be no right or wrong perspective.  Everything goes.  One point of view is no better than any other. It’s all relative.  As students progress into the critically thinking stage they come to find that some points of view can be judged better than other points of view.  At this point a student does not find a particular point of view better because an authority figure told them so, but because the student themselves can offer solid arguments (with reason and evidence) to support their point of view.

Understanding of both Bloom’s Taxonomy and Perry’s stages is important to understanding what drives this course. Both are used in developing course content and when writing course assignments and exams.  In addition to learning the concepts and theories relevant to this course, we will strive to help you develop Bloom’s cognitive abilities, especially the higher order abilities (e.g., application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation).  We will also strive to help you develop a strong critical thinking perspective.

The descriptions of Bloom’s and Perry’s work found above are simplifications of their work.  I encourage you to learn more about their work and how it applies to you and your progress in college.  Bloom and Perry’s work was shared with me while I was in college and I found it very helpful – gave my college experience meaning.  Now I share it with you.  We will talk more about this in class.

See  "The Secrets", especially Secret #2, for more information on how Bloom’s Taxonomy is relevant to this course and other courses.

General Teaching Method

"The unexamined life is not worth living" (Socrates, quoted in Plato's "The Apology")

What does Socrates' statement mean?   Do you think it is true?    How do you justify your position?  Are there other possible views different than yours?   Can you explain those other views?

One way of examining life and the world around us is to ask questions.  In this course we will examine the course topic (and our lives as they relate to the course topic) by means of asking ourselves questions. Think of class as a structured conversation.   We will ask and answer questions.   Classes will be interactive.  We will shy away for the one-way lecture-method of instruction and only use it when needed.  The vast majority of our in-class time will be spent in these structured "conversations."  This way of teaching is called the Socratic method.

The purpose behind the Socratic method is to teach students to think critically about a topic instead of just taking in "facts and figures," instead of passively taking notes to be understood later.  The Socratic method simulates the real-world, in that in the "real-world" life and work is not presented as nicely formatted multiple-choice, true/false exams.  We face, however, complex, real-world questions.  Your boss asks you what you think of a business proposal -- no A, B, C or D options.  Your curious child asks did we "evolve from monkeys"? -- no true or false options.  We need to be able to think on our feet and support our positions.  We all have this ability, but we just need to practice and fine-tune the skill.  Some students seem to think that they can not answer the more complex, big questions.  In this course we will build the confidence that you and your brain can tackle some difficult questions.

I will facilitate/lead the structured conversation and guide the class through a series of questions.  The questions asked in this course will be based on the assigned course readings.  Each student should be prepared to answer questions related to the assigned readings (see course schedule).  During each class I will call on individual students to answer the main questions that I propose.   I will also ask individual students to reply to other students' answers to my questions.  In addition, I expect you to "jump into" the conversation by answering and asking questions.  We may "go off" on tangents, but as long as the topic of conversation centers on the course topics, we will be fine.  I relinquish some of my control and give the control to you to explore a topic.

The Socratic method is not only a style of teaching, but a way of thinking -- a way of critically thinking about yourself and the world around you.   By making this style of thinking and communicating a habit in our class, it is hoped that this same habit is carried over into your lives beyond the walls of academia.

Also, as part of the Socratic/questioning approach taken in this course, students will be involved in asking and answering research questions related to the course content.

Attendance Policy

Attendance is required.  Attendance will be taken. Be on time (or early) results in full points.  Being late or leaving early will result in lost points.


See the Grading section of the syllabus regarding attendance points.  

Attendance points are determined by the attendance sheet.  If your signature is not on this sheet, then points are missed.  Also, do note that some points are missed for lateness.  It is your responsibility to make sure your signature is on the attendance sheet each class.

If classes are missed for excusable/acceptable reasons, then the points that were missed may be earned back. Read the Extension Request Policy for acceptable and unacceptable reasons and follow the instructions there to get any missed points earned back.  When following these instructions, note that instead of asking for an extension on an assignment, you will be asking for a missed attendance to be excused.

Also note that, if you are not in attendance, you may miss important information and instructions.  Not having this information and these instructions may result in lower grades on assignments and exams.  If you do miss class (for excused or unexcused reasons), it is your responsibility to get the information and instructions that was covered from one of your classmates.

In the case of extreme circumstances (hospitalization, etc.), if most of the missed classes were for acceptable/excusable reasons (e.g., being in the hospital), then a few more days may be added on to the maximum number of allowable missed days mentioned in the Grading section below.  This should be worked out in writing among the professor, the student and the chair of the department and should be arranged as early as possible.

If a student misses more than 3 classes (excused or unexcused), then all earned points are lost. Put another way, miss more than 3 classes, then the student earns an automatic F for the course.

Late or Missed Work

In most cases, late or missed work will not be accepted and a score of 0 will be assigned.  Plan ahead and get work done on time.

Be on time to take exams and have work completed and submitted by the due date and time.

The only case in which late work will be accepted is in the case of illness (and other similar situations), then please see the Extension Request Policy on the course website.  Read this policy beforehand so that you know what to do if there is a problem with getting an assignment in on time.  Failure to read and follow the Extension Request Policy will result in lost points no matter the reason for the lateness of an assignment.

Spartan Success Center and Disability Services

The Spartan Success Center offers services designed to improve student achievement, increase retention, and reduce time to degree completion.  Students are encouraged to take advantage of tutoring (including SMARTHINKING online free tutoring service), advising, mentoring, Sophomore Year Experience, and Examination of Writing Competency assistance.

In accordance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, we ask if you have a disability or think you have a disability, please contact the Office of Accessibility Services/International Student Services (O.A.S.I.S.) for information regarding programs, adjustments, and services to enhance student success upon registration at Norfolk State University.

  • Location: O.A.S.I.S., Student Services Center, Suite 110
  • Contact Person: Audrey M. Wells, Coordinator
  • Contact Number: 757.823.8325/2014

Academic Misconduct / Plagiarism

Any student (1) using (i.e., plagiarizing) someone else's written or visual work without citing the source, (2) attempting to turn in or present the same work in multiple classes (from current or past semesters), or (3) cheating on a quiz, test, exam, etc. will be removed from the class, receive an automatic "F" and may be subject to suspension from the university.  Note that instructors do compare notes and discuss student assignments.


If you are uncertain about NSU’s policy on academic misconduct, refer to your Student Handbook.


For assistance on the meaning of plagiarism, read the following web page.


Writing Competency: All college students are expected to write grammatically correct sentences with proper punctuation and spelling.  Any student who has demonstrated an inability to do so, will receive a grade of "F" for the course, regardless of the student's mastery of course content.  This is especially important for graduate students.


Computer Competency: Students should have easy access to and the ability to use personal computers, mobile devices and the Internet (including Blackboard).  This includes the ability to use the NSU library online resources.  All assignments must be typed.  Computer labs with word processing software are available throughout campus for this purpose.  In addition, students should be familiar with basic desktop publishing techniques (i.e.—setting up dual column text).


Students will need these competencies to do well in this course.  A variety of NSU offices can provide assistance, if needed. Ask if you need help. Step up.

Blackboard and Website Instructions: This online course will use Blackboard. See the instructions for accessing Blackboard at This online course will also use content posted on the web  See course information on the Teaching page.

The NSU Inclement Weather Statement

“To ensure that all classes meet the required number of instructional contact hours, the method of offering continuous instruction in the event of class cancellation or University closure due to inclement weather is to provide course content, assignments and activities via Blackboard as the course management system and the virtual classroom” (Official NSU Statement).

In short, the class is not really “canceled.”  Per NSU guidelines, it will be conducted online.  

In the event that a class is “canceled” due to inclement weather, check your NSU email for detailed instructions immediately.  The instructions will indicate how you are to cover class content for the “canceled” class online via Blackboard.  The instructions will need to be followed before the next class (see instructions for exact due dates and times).  If instructions are not followed on time, attendance points are lost and material that may be covered on upcoming exams will be missed.  Do follow the instructions.

Grading and Points*

The following point system will be used to determine grades in the course.

Exam 1 ……………..…. 100 points

Exam 2 ………………... 200 points

Exam 3 ……………..…. 300 points

Weekly Quizlet Scores..100 points

Pop-Quizzes (4 or 5) ... 100 (or 125) points

Mass Media Project ...... 200 (100 each) points  


Total Possible ………….1000 (or 1025) points

To determine grades, a percentage system will be used (i.e., earned points divided by total possible). To determine letter grades, the standard letter grading system found in the Student Handbook and the Teaching Handbook will be used.  For example 93% - 100% is an A.  

More specifically the percentages and corresponding letter grades are as follows for undergraduates:  

93 – 100 A, 90 – 92 A-, 87 – 89 B+, 83 – 86 B, 80 – 82 B-, 77 – 79 C+, 73 – 76 C, 70 – 72 C-, 69 and below F.  Note that percentages are not rounded (e.g., 89.9 is a B+).

Assistance for Grad Students

If after the 5th week grading period, graduate students earning between 73% and 79% are required to seek help from the Spartan Success Center (see above). Proof of attendance and a plan for success should be submitted to Dr. Hart via email within 3 weeks of the date of the Exam 1.  Graduate students earning below 73% are required to do the above and also schedule and attend a meeting with Dr. Hart within the same time period.  If these tasks are not completed satisfactorily, then 20 points deducted from the total points.

If after the 10th week grading period, graduate students earning between 73% and 79% are required to seek help from the Spartan Success Center (see above). Proof of attendance and a plan for success should be submitted to Dr. Hart via email within 2 weeks of the date of the Exam 2.  Graduate students earning below 73% are required to do the above and also schedule and attend a meeting with Dr. Hart within the same time period.  If these tasks are not completed satisfactorily, then 50 points deducted from the total points.


A leaderboard may be posted for all students during class.  Instead of students’ names, the leaderboard will include avatar names chosen by the students.  At the beginning of the semester, students may opt-in or opt-out of being on the leaderboard.  Students may also change their avatar name, be removed from the leaderboard or be added to the leaderboard anytime during the semester, just by sending an email to the professor with the details. If students wish to let others know their avatar name, that is their choice.  Choose avatar names wisely.

Participation in Class

Attendance points may be lost for non-class-related use of electronics (e.g., smartphone) and for not proper participating in class (paying attention, etc.).  One or two points may be lost for each minor case, but upwards of 10 points may be lost for each excessive case.

Leaving class during class time or leaving the class early will also result in lost points.  Upwards of 10 points for each case.


All three exams are comprehensive (i.e., cover all course material from the beginning of the semester until the last class before the exam).  Course material is made up of three parts: (1) lectures notes from the course blog, (2) course readings and (3) news stories and other material shared during class.  Note that it is important to use good note-taking and study skills throughout the semester, not just right before the exams.  There are no study guides given before the exams.  Take the time each week to study notes and readings and create your own study guide (see the Weekly Checklist).  Don't wait until the last moment to study and be sure to use the guidance given in the course on proper study skills.  Start with reading "The Secrets" found on the Notes blog.

In addition to the above, graduate exams also cover the graduate readings.

Note also that the exams consist of short-answer, essay questions.  There will be no multiple-choice, true-or-false questions, etc.  Given this, good study habits become even more important.

For 10 extra credit points, pass in your textbook just before taking the exam and collect it after the exam is finished.

If a student is late to any of the exams, then 2 points are lost for every minute late beyond official start of class.

Quizlet Scores

Students may submit printouts of weekly Quizlet scores up to 10 times during the semester.  Each Quizlet score sheet can earn up to 10 points each. The highest possible points would be 100 (10x10).  Students can submit sheets no more than 10 times.


Students will take pop-quiz at the beginning of class.  The pop quizzes will cover the assigned reading for that week.  For example, if there is a pop quiz in Week 3, then the pop quiz would cover the Week 3 reading (see the course schedule).  Come to class prepared.  Do the reading prior to the class.

Pop quizzes will happen 4 or 5 times during the semester. The professor determines the day the quizzes are "popped". Be prepared each week.

If a student misses all or part of pop quiz, then points are lost.  See Late or Missed Work above.

Missed Attendance and Late Points

For this section of the course, 10 points are lost for each class missed. 3 point is lost for being late. See attendance policy above.


Other Important Notes

  • Details on assignments, class participation and exams will be posted in Blackboard and/or the course web pages.  Carefully read the material posted on Blackboard and the course site.
  • In the case where any of the above policies are different from published/written department or university policies, then the published/written department or university policies will be followed.
  • Make sure you have the most recent version of the syllabus.  Note the “last updated” dates at the top of this document.  All previous versions are not valid, not to be used.

* The instructor reserves the right to revise the grading criteria as appropriate and will make reasonable attempts to notify students as time permits.