COMM 3000 (Sections 001 and 100)
Spring, 2001

Section 001: Monday 1:30-4
Section 100: Tuesday 6:10-8:50

Instructor: Paul D'Angelo
Office: St. Augustine Center 241
Office Phone: 519-7921
Office Hours: 2:15-3:45, MONDAY and WEDNESDAY
E-mail address:
Course website:

Course Description

This course considers how the modern mass media developed and what they are developing into. There are two major themes. First, we’ll examine how and why so-called "old," or "traditional" mass media of communication (like radio, TV, motion pictures, and newspapers) are converging with the digital formats used in industries that provide so-called "information" services (like telephone companies, computer companies, and satellite distribution services), becoming what many observers variously call the "new" or "digital" media. Even though mass media have long been part of the economic and technological infrastructure of our society, and have long had profound effects on individuals and social structures alike, many observers think that the new hybrid and digital forms of mass media are having even greater effects on such things as the economic make-up of traditional mass media, and the ways we live, work, play, are governed, and survive. Thus, one aim of this course is for us to investigate these changes and their social, political, and personal impacts.

Secondly, we will look in depth at the "old," traditional mass media that use print, broadcast, sound, and filmic ways of producing and conveying messages to audiences. We will be especially interested in conducting what I call a "social history" of technological change, by which I mean looking at changes in traditional mass media in conjunction with broader historical and cultural changes. Again, you will have a chance to engage core issues both in class discussion and written work.

Required Textbook and Readings

    The Dynamics of Mass Communication (6th edition), by Joseph R. Dominick (1999, McGraw-Hill)

    ADDITIONAL READINGS will be distributed in class or put on RESERVE in Falvey Library.

Course Requirements and Grading

Exams. There will be a mid-term and a final exam consisting of objective (true/false, fill-in-the-blank, and multiple choice) and essay (short- and long-answer) questions. We will do a review before each of the exams.

Assignments. All assignments will be described in detail in class. You should come having copied the assignment from the website.  The assignments are designed to help you integrate and develop certain class materials. Please consult the class schedule below to see what the assignments are, when I will discuss them, and when each assignment is due. Please be advised and forewarned that although the descriptions of each assignment are comprehensive, you will understand the assignment much better if you are in class when I discuss it in class.

Grading Structure

Mid-term Exam   100 points 20% (100 points)
Final Exam 100 points 20% (100 points)
Interview Assignment 100 points 20% (100 points)
Media Convergence 100 points 20% (100 points)
NO TV Assignment 100 points 20% (100 points)
Total 500 points 100 % (500 points)

Your final grade will be based on a 500-point scheme. Since each assignment is weighted equally, the grade you receive on each assignment will be tallied up at the end of the semester to create your final grade.

    Point Breakdown (Letter ranges):

    A = 450-500 points; B = 400-450 points; C = 350-400 points; D = 300-350 points; F = below 300 points

Course Policies

1. Exams

I greatly discourage make-up exams. If you must miss an exam, you must produce a legitimate excuse either via the University or via talking with me. Otherwise, you cannot make-up the exam and will lose all the points. Generally, an oral make-up exam will replace a scheduled exam.

2. Writing Style

I demand good writing and proper presentation for all assignments. All formal assignments must be typed and carefully proof-read for grammar, punctuation, and spelling. All assignments must be stapled. Assignments will be graded down if you do not follow directions. At times, I will allow for revisions if I think that your ideas are good, but your exposition poor. In these cases, I will help you revise and also require you to enlist the help of the Writing Center.

3. Attendance IMPORTANT!!

Since a class is a community, attendance is vital. You’ll get the most out of this class if you arrive on time, are prepared, and participate. I will take attendance at each class via the sign-up method. You will be allowed one (1) absence, either excused or unexcused. Absences above one are considered EXCESSIVE ABSENCES. You final grade will not be affected by one absence; it will be affected by more than one. You can do make-up work for excessive absences ONLY if they are legitimate, excused absences (Dean’s note, doctor’s note, etc.). If you have excessive absences that are accompanied by this documentation, you should see me to schedule make-up work. You are responsible for keeping track of your own attendance record.

If you have excessive absences and do not do make-up work, then I will penalize your final grade. If you have 2 absences, your FINAL grade will be lowered ONE SIGN. If you have 3 absences, your FINAL grade will be lowered ONE LETTER PLUS ONE SIGN. If you have more than three (3) absences, you will have earned a failure (F) for the course, regardless of the quality of the work that you turn in.

4. Late papers

I will grade down late papers. My policy is to deduct 10 points for each day a paper is late, including weekend days. If there is an extension, I will announce it and the new due date in class. Obviously, if you are absent you will most likely be unaware of these changes. However, it is still up to you to be cognizant of due dates for assignments.


(Note: There are 2 dates for each week in the schedule below, correpsonding to either the day or the night class.  DMC refers to the textbook, The Dynamics of Mass Communication.)

WEEK 1 (1/15 or 1/16)

Topics: Course Introduction; Defining Mass Communication

We will define mass communication and explore this definition based on some influential conceptions of the mass communication process. These conceptions include a traditional sender-receiver model, one based on the theory of technological determinism, and others that look at both "powerful" media institutions and "active" audiences. In the process, we will encounter some basic ideas about the power of mass communication in our society and in our lives.


1. DMC, ch. 1

    ASSIGNMENT 1: Go over Interview Assignment (DUE 4/2 or 4/3, Week 11)


WEEK 2 (1/22 or 1/23)

Topics: Functions of Mass Communication for Society and Individuals; Evolution of Printing and the Impact of the Gutenberg Printing Press

We will look at some classic statements in the functional analysis of mass communication (micro- and macro-analysis). In the process, we’ll look at the intellectual climate and research communities that place functional analysis in a context of media effects. Then, we’ll go back in time to the origins of printing in both the East and West. We’ll look at the enormous impact that mechanical printing had on Europe in the 1400s and beyond.


1. DMC, ch. 2
2. Harold Lasswell, "The Structure and Function of Communication in Society" (RESERVE)
3. Paul F. Lazarsfeld and Robert K. Merton, "Mass Communication Popular Taste and Organized Social Action" (RESERVE)
4. Rudi Volti, "Printing" (RESERVE)

    ASSIGNMENT 2: Go over No TV Assignment (DUE 2/11)


WEEK 3 (1/29 or 1/30)

Topics: The Information Society and its Sectors; The "New Media"

We will gain an understanding of what an "information economy" and "information society" means. We will use an historical perspective at first, trying to see how developments in economics, society, and culture shape our current communications media. Then we will look at the written work of several astute observers and "players" in the emerging Information Society.

We will also introduce key terms in the study of the changing communications environment, such as "digital," "multimedia convergence," "information superhighway," "channel abundance" and "interactivity." We’ll also briefly look at the historical background to the Internet, WWW, and the PC (personal computer).


1. DMC, chapters 3, 11

ASSIGNMENT 3: Go over Media Convergence Team Assignments (Presentation date and paper due 4/29 or 5/1, Week 15)


WEEK 4 (2/5 or 2/6)

Topic: The Print Media in America

This week we begin to look at printing beginning with colonial America. We will examine the political and commercial aspects of newspapers, books, and magazines from then to the present. We will take note of how "old" print media are being digitized in the process of becoming "new media."


1. DMC, chs. 4-6

ASSIGNMENT: This is your No TV week. From Tuesday, February 6 to Thursday, February 8, you will refrain from watching TV. See WEBPAGE for details about the assignment. It is due on February 12 03 13.


WEEK 5 (2/12 or 2/13)

Topic: Printing, cont’d

     NO TV assignment due


WEEK 6 (2/19 or 2/20)

Topics: Continue on Stages of Print Media; Introduce Formal and Informal Controls; The Print Model of Formal Controls

While looking at the development of the print media, it is unavoidable that we also encounter the concept of "media controls." Think of mass communication as operating in a vast sea of influences and you can imagine that some of these influences have to do with political and economic systems that the media operate within. We will look at the interaction of governments and media systems both in a comparative perspective (across different nations or countries) and in relation to how government structure affects the ownership structure of mass media industries. We will observe the differences between public and private ownership and the ongoing trend toward a consolidation of ownership in mass media industries in systems like ours that have the media operate predominantly in the private sector. We will also look at both formal (legalistic) and informal (non-legalistic) types of controls, and focus on one type of formal control, called the "print model." This model is based on the First and Sixth Amendments to the Constitution.


1. DMC, chs. 15-16


WEEK 7 (2/26 or 2/27)



WEEK 8 (3/12 or 3/13)

Topic: Audio Media

For the next two weeks, we examine radio and recording, including what radio transmission is, how the first radio networks were formed, how and why they declined, and the contemporary relationship between the radio and recording industries. We will also look at the "broadcast model" of formal controls and the ways that both radio and recording are entering the digital age.


DMC, chs. 7-8


WEEK 9 (3/19 or 3/20)

Topic: Audio Media, cont’d


WEEK 10 (3/26 or 3/27)

Topic: Audio Media, cont'd


WEEK 11 (4/2 or 4/3)

Topic: Visual Media, cont’d.

During the next three weeks we will examine the evolution of the film and television industries, paying particular attention to how the emergence of television networks in the late 1940s radically changed the course of the film industry. We will also pay particular attention to the new TV content ratings and the controversy over the V-chip. Finally, we’ll discuss the recent development of digital High Density Television (HDTV).


DMC, chs. 9-10


WEEK 12 (4/9 or 4/10)

Topic: Visual Media, cont’d

     Interview Assignment due


WEEK 13 (4/16 OFF due to EASTER BREAK; 4/17 NO CLASS)


WEEK 14 (4/23 or 4/24)

Topic: Visual Media, cont'd


WEEK 15 (4/30 or 5/1)

Topics: Multichannel Media (Cable); Review for Final Exam

This week we continue our study of the innovations to mass communication brought about by the introduction of cable television in 1948. We examine how cable was developed, how this industry grew, the first attempts at "interactive television" that grew out attempts to improve cable TV, and the recent growth of the satellite TV industry.

In addition, we will consider several reasons why the telephone is essential to the study of mass communication.


1. DMC, ch. 10

      Team Media Convergence Presentations and Paper due


*Final Exam: As scheduled by the University.*