COMM 220-Introduction to Mass Communication

Fall 2014

Professor: Roya Akhavan, Ph.D.

Office hours: M, 1:00-2:00 and T, 1:00-3:30 pm


TA: Danielle Towner




The purpose of this course is to provide the students with an overview of the mass media in the United States and a comprehensive framework for understanding the economic, social, political, and legal determinants of their character and content.


Although this is an introductory course, we will go beyond a survey of the field to address major theories and concepts.  We will emphasize the social responsibility of the mass media, and take an analytical/critical approach to studying their role in shaping our images of ourselves and of other people, races, nationalities, and cultures.

A clear ability to articulate the role of mass media in a diverse society, and their role in creating or changing stereotypes, will be an important learning outcome in this course.

Student Learning Outcomes


At the end of this course you are expected to be able to:

1-   Understand the structure and functions of the media industry.

2-   Analyze the relationship between commercial profit motive and the character and quality of media content.

3-   Recognize the power of mass communication in shaping attitudes, opinions, and beliefs about self and others and about dominant and non-dominant groups.

4-   Identify the characteristics of ethical mass communication.

5-   Appreciate the importance of inclusiveness and representing diverse voices and groups in society with care and fairness.

6-   Articulate the nature and consequences of media convergence.




Joseph Dominick, The Dynamics of Mass Communication (12th edition), McGraw Hill, 2012.  ISBN: 978-0-07-352619-3.

Computer Software

In order to facilitate your active participation in the class, you are required to purchase a subscription from Tophat, which enables you to take quizzes and respond to discussion questions using your cell phone (mobile app/SMS), tablet, or laptop. An email containing the links and registration procedures has already been sent to you.  Please contact the Tophat support personnel with any questions at

Course Structure

This course consists of lectures, short videos, textbook readings, weekly quizzes, three full-length video/film analyses, a reflection paper, and a final exam.

This syllabus is your road-map for navigating this course.  Read it carefully, and follow it closely.

Attendance will be taken (once in the beginning and once at the end of the class session), and is mandatory in this course. 

PLEASE NOTE: It is important that you print-out this syllabus and refer to it at least twice a week!  No exceptions will be made for missed quizzes/exam or assignments. This means NO EXCEPTIONS!  Understandably, an unforeseen event (ranging from illness to car breakdowns to family emergencies) may force you to miss a class.  In order to accommodate for such a possibility, everyone in the course will receive TEN BONUS POINTS at the end of the course and prior to calculating the final grade.  If you miss any quizzes, these bonus points will make up for all or part of the lost points. If you attend all classes and keep up with all quizzes and assignments, you will get a boost in your grade from the bonus points. 

Regular attendance is indispensable to your success in this course.  Missing class means missing the quiz or quizzes for that week.  No make-ups.  So, please plan accordingly.


Extra-credit Opportunities

To ensure that you have a good understanding of the syllabus, we will take an in-class syllabus quiz during our first class meeting.  This quiz is extra-credit, and will add another ten bonus points to your total score for the course.

In addition, your participation in class discussions via the Tophat system will give you extra-credit participation points.

Quizzes and the Final

During this course, you will begin the first week by reading your first text chapter and familiarizing yourself with the course. You will also have the opportunity to take the extra-credit “syllabus quiz” during the first course session, in-class.

Starting the second week, you will have weekly quizzes onthe chapter covered in the earlier week.  During the last two weeks of the course, you will take two quizzes per week. Each quiz will have 10 multiple-choice and/or true-false questions; each question is worth one point, for a total of 160 points in the 16 quizzes. The quizzes will be taken during class. 

In addition to the textbook, and as a supplement to the information you receive through your text, there will be lectures by the course instructor, supported by PowerPoint slides.  The PowerPoints are available on D2L. The lectures and PowerPoint slides are independent of the textbook.  They supply additional critical and theoretical information. In other words, the textbook will provide you with descriptive information about the mass media industry, and the lectures and in-class materials will provide critical analysis of the media.  This comprehensive approach is meant to provide you with a solid foundation to become a savvy media consumer and/or a socially responsible mass media professional.

On occasion, we will have a guest lecture in addition to the instructor’s lecture as part of the class session.

You will have a Comprehensive Final Exam at the end of the course covering the lectures and PowerPoint contents, the guest lectures, and the information in the textbook. This exam contains 50 multiple-choice and true-false questions and is worth 100 points (each question is worth 2 points). 

There is a Course Topics/Final Exam study guide available on D2L.  Please review it in the beginning of the course to orient yourself toward the key points that will be covered in the final exam.

Final Exam: Monday, December 15, 5:00-6:00 pm, Miller Center 122.

PLEASE NOTE: The Lectures/PowerPoints constitute a separateprocess from the Textbook readings/Chapter quizzes. The Lectures/PowerPoints also cover topics in a different order than the Textbook readings/Chapter quizzes.  Together, they give you a comprehensive picture of the important issues in the media landscape.

Course Videos

During the course, you will view the following videos:

a)    A documentary entitled “Killing Us Softly 4.”

b)   A documentary entitled “Toxic Sludge is Good for You.” And,

c)   A movie entitled “The Boy in Striped Pajamas.”

These videos will be shown during class.  There will be a discussion session following each video, facilitated by the Tophat software capability.  You will receive participation points for responding to the questions posed by the instructor.

Documentary: “Killing Us Softly 4”: This video focuses on a critical analysis of images of women in advertising. 


Documentary:  “Toxic Sludge is Good for you”: This video focuses on the dark side of the PR profession, i.e., when it is practiced in the service of money and power, and without regard for communication ethics and the public good.


Movie: “The Boy in Striped Pajamas”: This movie is based on a fictional story, but is placed in the factually true historical conditions of Hitler’s Germany and portrays the Holocaust during the Second World War. A key feature of the movie is that it shows clear examples of the use of “education” and “propaganda,” including video news, to brain-wash the masses and to create deadly prejudice against a minority group; in this case the Jewish people. 



Diversity Assignment


As future professional communicators and world citizens, you will be working in an increasingly diverse global society. An in-depth understanding of diversity issues will help you to better succeed in your profession and enable you to have a positive impact on society. Therefore, it is essential that you have a good foundational knowledge of diversity and inclusiveness issues, including racism and other types of prejudice.

Assignment: Attend one Community Anti-Racism Education (C.A.R.E.) workshop by November 30th, 2014.  Upon completion of the session you will be issued a “certificate.”  Bring your certificate to class and hand it in to the instructor.  Please be sure to keep a copy for your records. The certificate will qualify you to get a full 20 points for this assignment.  The C.A.R.E. Workshops are conducted at the Atwood Student Center throughout the semester. Space is limited, so you are encouraged to sign up early in the semester.  You can register to attend any of the workshops at Call 320-308-2214 with any questions regarding the C.A.R.E. workshop details and schedule.

Written Assignment

Your written assignment for the course consists of an analytical reflection on the following:

“How the Media Have Shaped Me”: Write a statement (two pages, double-spaced) on how you believe the media have shaped your identity and have influenced who you have become. Relate your conscious choices of media types and channels to the effects that you believe they have had, or failed to have, on you. Conclude your reflection paper with at least one paragraph on how your relationship to the media around you might have changed (or may change in the future) as a result of having taken this course. Support your paper with at least one relevant research reference, and cite the reference at the end of the paper.

The reflection paper will be graded on originality of thought, clarity of analysis, awareness of media effects, and quality of writing.

This assignment has a maximum of 20 points. Due:  December 1, before 11:59 pm.  Submit to D2L drop box.


Course Schedule

Week August 25

a)    Attend class on Monday, August 25 (Introduction to the course; Explanation of the syllabus, policies, and expectations; Test-run of the Tophat software; Syllabus quiz).

b)   Review PowerPoint “Objective 1” on D2L.

c)   Read Chapter 1 in your textbook.

d)   Make a calendar of quizzes, final exam, CARE Workshop, and reflection paper dates.

Week of September 1 (Labor Day, No Class)

a)    Sign up for the CARE workshop.

b)   Read ahead on textbook chapters.

Week of September 8

a)    Attend class on Monday, September 8 (Guest Lecture by Prof. Julie Andrzejewski, Professor Emeritus, Social Responsibility program; Lecture 1; Quiz on Chapter 1).

b)   Review PowerPoint “Objective 2.”

c)   Read Chapter 2 of the textbook.

Week of September 15

a)    Attend class on Monday, September 15 (Lecture 2; Quiz on Chapter 2)

b)   Review PowerPoint “Objectives 1&2.”

c)   Read Chapter 3 of the textbook.

Week of September 22

a)    Attend class on Monday, September 22 (Lecture 3; Quiz on text Chapter 3)

b)   Review PowerPoint “Objective 3” on D2L.

c)   Read Chapter 4 of the textbook.




Week of September 29

a)    Attend class on Monday, September 29 (Guest lecture by John Bodette, Executive Editor, St. Cloud Times; Lecture 4; Quiz on

Chapter 4).

b)   Review PowerPoint “Objective 4.”

c)   Read Chapter 5 of the textbook.

Week of October 6

a)    Attend class on Monday, October 6 (Guest lecture by Jo McMullen-Boyer, Station Manager, KVSC FM 88.1 Radio; Lecture 5; Quiz on Chapter 5).

b)   Review PowerPoint “Objective 5.”

c)   Read Chapter 6 of the textbook.

Week of October 13

a)    Attend class on Monday, October 13 (Lecture 6; Quiz on Chapter 6).

b)   Review PowerPoint “Objective 6.”

c)   Read Chapter 7 of the textbook.

Week of October 20

a)    Attend class on Monday, October 20 (Lecture 7; Quiz on Chapter 7).

b)   Review PowerPoint “Objective 7.”

c)   Read Chapter 8 of the textbook.

Week of October 27

a)    Attend class on Monday, October 27 (“Killing us Softly 4” video; Instructor lecture on “Sexual Objectification of Women in the Media; Quiz on Chapter 8).

b)   Read Chapter 11 of the textbook. (NOTE:We are skipping Ch. 9 &10).

Week of November 3

a)    Attend class on Monday, November 3 (Guest lecture by Samantha Massaglia, Advertising and Marketing Strategy Director, Pixel Farm; Lecture 8; Quiz on Chapter 11).

b)   Read Chapter 12 of the textbook.

c)   Review PowerPoint “Objective 8.”

Week of November 10

a)    Attend class on Monday, November 10 (Guest lecture by Tim Johnson, Social Media Director, St. Cloud Hospital; Lecture 9; Quiz on Chapter 12).

b)   Review PowerPoint “Objective 9.”

c)   Read Chapter 13 of the textbook.

Week of November 17

a)    Attend class on Monday, November 17 (“Toxic Sludge is Good for You” video; Guest lecture by Danielle Towner, Graduate Student in Strategic Media Communication; Lecture 10; Quiz on Chapter 13).

b)   Review PowerPoint “Objective 10.”

c)   Read Chapter 14 of the textbook.

Week of November 24

a)    Attend class on Monday, November 24 (“The Boy in Striped Pajamas” film; Quiz on Chapter 14).

b)   Read TWO Chapters 15 and 16 of the textbook.

Week of December 1

a)    Attend class on Monday, December 1 (Guest Lecture, Prof. Marie Dick, Department of Mass Communications; Lecture 11; TWO Quizzes on Chapters 15 and 16; Submit CARE certificate).

b)   Review PowerPoint “Objective 11.”

c)   Read TWO Chapters 17 and 18 of the textbook.

d)   Submit “How the Media Have Shaped Me” paper to D2L Drop-box by December 1, 11:59 pm.

Week of December 8

a)    Attend class on December 8 (Lecture 12; Review for Final Exam; TWO Quizzes on Chapters 17 and 18).

b)   Review PowerPoint “Objective 12.”

c)   Make sure you can answer the questions on the Course Topics/Study Guide, available on D2L.

Week of December 15

a)   Final Exam: Monday, December 15, 5:00-6:00 pm. MC 122.


Your course grade will be assigned based on a total semester points of:

160 (quizzes) +100 (final) +20 (CARE) +20 (paper) +30 (attendance)

This makes for a total of 330 points.  Extra-credit points will be added on top of these course points.  There will be shaded grading, based on 90 percent average being an A-.  A total point average of 70 percent constitutes a C-. There are many opportunities in this course for you to learn and to get evaluated on your performance.  There are also many opportunities to obtain extra-credit.  Please follow this syllabus closely and do not miss any class sessions, quizzes/exams, or assignment deadlines.