This is an archived course. Visit the most recent syllabus.

Course Description

This course is an overview of the mass media communication industries, including print, electronic, and digital media. We examine issues, such as the institutional, social and technological histories of the media, the influence of economic factors in shaping content, and issues governing regulatory policy. Special emphasis will be given to the media’s role in society, the concentration of ownership, the impact of new communication technologies, and increasing convergence of particular media with one another.


Office Hours

By appointment only.

Course Materials


The following textbooks are available through the Bookstore at Fordham University, Lincoln Center, online retailers, such as Amazon, and on reserve at Quinn Library. As far as I know, there are ebook versions for both titles, which I encourage you to consider.


We will not be using Blackboard for this course.


If you don’t use it already, I highly recommend using Dropbox to exchange files with me. You can sign up for free and receive two (2) gigabytes of cloud-based storage. This is an invaluable tool for accessing all of your files anywhere without having to carry a USB flash drive. I hate those things.


This class consists of four components. You cannot satisfactorily complete this course without all four of these.


Each class will form the basis of the material I expect you to know for the exams. We will discuss the historical, technological, and economic context relevant to digital media. Moreover, our class will be driven by discussion.


Please read the assigned course material prior to each week’s class. Consult the Course Schedule for the required reading assignments.


All assignments must be completed on time in order to receive full credit. Late assignments will be penalized by a 10% reduction for each 24-hour period it is late. After five calendar days, the assignment will not be accepted and you will likely fail this class.


Exams make up forty percent of your course grade and are written to reward regular attendance and diligent studying. Exams will be administered in class and must be taken at the specified date and time.



Please respect the classroom environment. You should pay attention to the lecture, take notes, and avoid distractions, such as web surfing and using your mobile phone. Studies have consistently shown that students using laptops and mobile phones perform about 11% worse than students who are not distracted by these devices. On a personal note, it’s very difficult to stay motivated as a teacher if I see students seemingly disinterested in their own education. If I find you engaging in disruptive behavior, such as watching online videos, passing notes, instant messaging, chatting, or texting, I will remove you from the classroom and have you withdraw from the class.

Late Work and “Incomplete” Grades

Please submit your work on time. Late work will be penalized by a 10% reduction for each 24-hour period it is late. After one calendar week, the assignment will not be accepted and you will likely fail this class.

There will be no incomplete grades for this class except in the case of a documented emergency in the final weeks of the semester. If you experience such an emergency, please contact me immediately, and we will work out a schedule for you to complete the outstanding work before the beginning of the following semester.

But aside from these circumstances, no late work will be accepted and no “incomplete” grades will be granted. If you have difficulty keeping up with coursework, consider giving yourself extra time to complete assignments, reducing your overall course load, and/or taking this class at a later semester.

Mobile Phones

Please silence or turn off the radio in your mobile phone (power down the phone or set to “Airplane” mode). Not only do ringing phones disrupt class, most phones will also interfere with the media equipment in the room. Also, please refrain from using your phone during class.


Please check your Fordham University email account ( on a daily basis, if not more frequently. I will broadcast announcements and send point-to-point communiques using your official email address.

Please note that I am not allowed to discuss your grade from an account that is not your official email account.

Fordham University Statement on Academic Integrity

“A University, by its nature, strives to foster and recognize originality of thought. Originality can only be recognized, however, when people acknowledge the sources of ideas or works that are not their own. Therefore, students must maintain the highest standards with regards to honesty, effort and performance. Violations of academic integrity include, but are not limited to: plagiarism, cheating on exams, false authorship, and destruction of library materials needed for a course. This policy gives definitions and instances of violations of academic integrity, the procedures used to arrive at a judgment, possible sanctions, and the process of appeal. This policy will be enforced rigorously and without discrimination. Please refer to your Student Handbook for a full discussion of the Policy on Academic Integrity.”

Students with Disabilities

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973, all students, with or without disabilities, are entitled to equal access to the programs and activities of Fordham University. If you believe that you have a disabling condition that may interfere with your ability to participate in the activities, coursework, or assessment of the object of this course, you may be entitled to accommodations. Please schedule an appointment to speak with someone at the Office of Disability Services (Rose Hill - O’Hare Hall, Lower Level, x0655 or at Lincoln Center – Room 207, x6282).


Who Owns the Media in Your Town?

Research the following media outlets, and who owns them, in your hometown in each of the following media industries:

  • local newspapers
  • broadcast radio
  • broadcast television
  • mobile telephone service
  • broadband Internet service
  • cable television service

To help you find radio and television stations in your town, consult these sources:

Answer the following questions about the media companies in your hometown.

  • Who are these companies and how would you characterize the nature of their media control in your town?
  • Are they local or owned by national companies?
  • What conclusions can you draw about media control based on what’s going on in your hometown?

Write a 500-word summary of your findings. Please come to class prepared to discuss your findings.

  • Due: January 30
  • Weight: 15%

Technology and the Music Industry

Watch the Frontline documentary “The Way the Music Died” (2004), available on reserve at Quinn Library.

Answer the following questions about this documentary.

  1. Did the CD really “save” the music business in the 1980s and if so, how?
  2. Why did hip-hop change during its first decade, and in what ways?
  3. Contrast the careers of Sarah Hudson and Velvet Revolver. What do their contrasting routes reveal about the record industry today? (You might find it interesting to research what’s happened to these artists since this documentary was made in 2004.)
  4. What was MTV like in its first few decades and why were people opposed to it from the start?
  5. What are the major changes that have happened to the music business since this documentary was made in 2004?

Submit your answers using this form. Each answer should be about 150–200 words in length.

  • Due: February 20
  • Weight: 15%

Ten-Minute Commandments of Media Regulation

Before the midterm exam, I will assign you one of the following commandments of media regulation.

  1. First Amendment
  2. Prior Restraint
  3. Sedition
  4. Copyright Infringement
  5. Libel
  6. Obscenity
  7. Indecency
  8. Equal Opportunity
  9. Fairness Doctrine
  10. Net Neutrality

Using your assigned “commandment,” write a 1000-word summary of how it is relevant to the regulation of media industries. You will also present in class, for no more than ten minutes, on this commandment. Your presentation should be concise and illustrate the impact of regulation on a specific media industry.

  • Due: April 3
  • Weight: 15%

Profile of a Media Conglomerate

Using the media conglomerate I assigned you, write a 500-word summary of the conglomerate and its holdings. What major operations do they own in each of the various media industries? What products have you consumed from these various operations? Is there any philosophy behind their media operations (for example, why does Viacom own both MTV and Nickelodeon?)?

You should consult these websites to see your conglomerates’ holdings:

Write a 500-word summary of the conglomerate.

  • Due: April 24
  • Weight: 15%


Midterm Exam

The midterm exam is an objective, in-class exam, consisting of the following types of questions:

  1. five true-false
  2. five multiple choice
  3. identification, where you identify and explain the significance of five terms in two-to-three sentences
  4. short essay, where you answer three questions with a one-paragraph response, in four-to-five sentences

The exam will cover the course material from the first six weeks of the class.

  • February 27
  • Weight: 20%

Final Exam

Like the midterm exam, the final exam is also an objective, in-class exam, consisting of true-false, multiple choice, identification and essay questions questions. The exam will cover the course material from the second half of the course.

  • May 8, 6:00 PM
  • Weight: 20%


Assignment Weight Date Due
Who Owns the Media in Your Town? 15% January 30
Technology and the Music Industry 15% Februrary 20
Midterm Exam 20% February 27
Ten Commandments of Regulation 15% April 3
Profile of a Media Conglomerate 15% April 24
Final Exam 20% May 8


January 16 • Introduction

January 23 • Mass Culture and Mass Communication, Inc.

  • Media and Culture, Chapter 1, “Mass Communication: A Critical Approach.”
  • The Master Switch, Chapter 3, “Mr. Vail is a Big Man”

January 30 • Newspapers


February 6 • Magazines

  • Media and Culture, Chapter 9, “Magazines in the Age of Specialization.”

Buy the most offbeat magazine you can find and bring it to class.

February 13 • Books

  • Media and Culture, Chapter 10, “Books and the Power of Print.”

What was the last book you read? Locate the ebook, using the Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, or Apple iBook stores, and the print book. Note some of key differences in layout, content, price, and function. Bring both the digital and print editions to class.

February 20 • Recorded Music

  • Media and Culture, Chapter 4, “Sound Recording and Popular Music.”

February 27 • Midterm Exam

Our midterm exam will be held in class on Thursday, February 27.

March 6 • Radio

  • Media and Culture, Chapter 5, “Popular Radio and the Origins of Broadcasting.”
  • The Master Switch Chapter 5, “Centralize all Radio Activities” and Chapter 9, “FM Radio.”

Listen to one hour of a local radio station and list the content you heard, including music, DJ chatter, advertisements, news/weather/traffic announcements, etc.

March 13 • Television

  • Media and Culture, Chapter 6, “Television and Cable.”
  • The Master Switch, Chapter 10, “Now We Add Sight to Sound” and Chapter 16, “Turner Does Television.”

Watch one hour of a local broadcast or ad-supported (“basic”) cable television station and list the content you saw, including programming segments, advertisements, bumpers, etc.

March 27 • Movies

  • Media and Culture, Chapter 7, “Movies and the Impact of Images.”
  • The Master Switch, Chapter 6, “The Paramount Ideal” and Chapter 17, “Mass Production of the Spirit.”

Find a movie trailer for a current or upcoming film.

April 3 • Regulation

  • Media and Culture, Chapter 16, “Legal Controls and Freedom of Expression.”

April 10 • Public Relations

  • Media and Culture, Chapter 12, “Public Relations and Framing the Message.”

Find a press release, published in the last month, for a company of whom you are consumer, employee or fan. Note their recent activity on Twitter.

April 24 • Advertising

  • Media and Culture, Chapter 11, “Advertising and Commercial Culture.”

May 1 • Convergence and Globalization

  • Media and Culture, Chapter 12, “Media Economics and the Global Marketplace.”
  • The Master Switch, Chapter 20, “Father and Son”

May 8 • Final Exam

Our final exam will be held on Thursday, May 8, 6:00 – 8:00 PM.