Mass Media & Social Institutions

Jour/EMC/RI 1020-H01

Fall 2014

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Syllabus (course introduction, procedures, requirements, etc.)
Class notes (PowerPoint)


College of Mass Communication

Fall 2014

COURSE: Mass Media & Social Institutions (Jour/EMC/RI 1020-H01), T-Th 9:40-11:05, COMM 151
TEXT: Shirley Biagi, Media Impact
INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Larry L. Burriss, Ph.D., J.D.
OFFICE: 204 Mass Communication Building
PHONE: 898-2983 (office)

Dr. Burriss is a professor in the School of Journalism and has served as dean of the College of Mass Communication, chairman of the Department of Journalism, director of the School of Journalism and director of graduate studies. He is a past president of the MTSU Faculty Senate, and served on the Tennessee Board of Regents.

Dr. Burriss received his bachelor's and master's degrees from The Ohio State University, where he majored in broadcast journalism. He also has a master's degree in human relations from the University of Oklahoma.

He received his Ph.D. in communication from Ohio University, where he minored in law. He earned his J.D. degree through the Concord Law School.

He is particularly interested in issues dealing with government-media relations.

Dr. Burriss has worked in both print and broadcast news, as well as in public relations. He has published extensively in professional research journals, as well as in popular magazines. He has won numerous awards for both writing and work with new technologies.

He was a lieutenant colonel in the Tennessee Air National Guard, where he was the director of public affairs. He served in Mali, Bosnia, Somalia, Central America, England and Germany.

Dr. Burriss enjoys travel, reading, and was ranked 3rd in the Tennessee Division, American Fencing Association.


The major goal of this course is to help students understand the nature, functions and limitations of American mass communications institutions; to help understand the social, political, economic and legal freedoms, responsibilities and limitations of the mass media; to help students understand the process of communications itself (what we might call "meta-communications," that is, communication about communication); to understand that the American mass media are an inter-related system, not a group of freestanding businesses; and finally, to understand your role in the mass communication process.


You should, of course, ask as many questions as you like about the readings for the course.

It would be a serious misunderstanding of the intent of the instructor to assume that because a tape or film is being shown that no important material is being presented. Quite the contrary is true.


Discussion of assigned reading topics will be featured in class. I do not lecture from the text. Active class participation is urged to the maximum extent possible.

Regular attendance is expected--if you aren't here you can't gain anything.

Your fellow students and I will be concerned, possibly insulted, if you do not take part in the conversations we will be having. Treat this class as if were a job. You wouldn't think of cutting a day of work without a good reason and without calling in ahead of time with a reasonable explanation. I and your classmates deserve the same courtesy. "I had to miss our class because I have a test tomorrow in physics, and I needed the time to study" is NOT a valid excuse.

Giving make-up exams and quizzes is unfair to your classmates who came to class and took the exam or quiz on time. In general, life's rewards to to those who get their work done on time. In this light, no tests or quizzes may be made up unless you can document, to the satisfaction of the instructor, that your absence was due to personal illness or death in the immediate family. Any make-up work will be essay in nature, and is more difficult than the original test material.


By enrolling in this course, you are indicating your recognition and acceptance of your responsibility to read, understand and meet the course requirements set forth, both in written and spoken form, and that you will not be exempted from these requirements because of ignorance, negligence or contradictory advice from any source.


1. Regular attendance and participation
2. Three exams
3. Quizzes
4. Project
5. Research component: The university requires students taking this course to engage with, and contribute to, research. You may fulfill this requirement by selecting a Communication Research Pool study to participate in as a research subject. More information, along with deadlines and an online registration link, can be found under the "Communication Research Pool" link at"

The tests will be objective, multiple choice and true/false. Quizzes will include fill-in-the-blank questions. The quizzes and exams will cover material from previous readings and lectures. The final exam is not comprehensive. There will be no extra credit assignments. Make-up quizzes and tests will be given only due to documented personal illness or death in the family, are essay in nature, and are more difficult than the regular test material.

We will discuss the project and research component in class.


Exam #1 1/5
Exam #2 1/5
Exam #3 1/5 Thursday, Dec. 11, 10:00-12:00
Quizzes 1/5 (quiz grades are averaged together)
Project 1/5
Research Component Pass/Fail

In a course with this many students, consideration of individual differences in learning styles, abilities, potentials, etc., is difficult, if not impossible. And, of course, different students respond differently to different teaching styles.

As you may know, the normal "90-80-70" grading scale has some severe problems (see, for example, William B. Gartner, "Dr. Deming Comes to Class," Journal of Management Education, May 1993, 143-158), which can be summarized in the following question: "Is the student who gets 90% of the questions right really that much better than a student who gets 89% right?" Obviously, the one student will get an "A," while the other will receive a "B." And, then, of course, the student who received the 89% wants the scale dropped so that 89% will be an "A." Then the student who receives an 88 wants the scale dropped again, and so on. At this point the grade scale becomes arbitrary, and has no basis in reality.

Therefore, I am going to let YOU determine the grading scale. Here's how it works: If any student receives a grade of 90 or above, the standard 90-80-70 scale will apply. However, if no student receives at least a 90, then the person(s) who received the highest grade will have enough points added to his/her score to bring the grade up to 90. The same number of points will be added to all other scores, and the 90-80-70 scale then applied. This will (1) remove the arbitrary nature of the "90-80-70" scale, (2) will allow for material that was unclear, etc (if everyone misses a question, is the problem with the students who just didn't "get it," or is the problem with the instructor who didn't present the material very clearly, or is the problem with the question?) and (3) will correct for any systemic "defects" in the course, environment, teacher, students, etc.

Suppose, for example, the high grade is 92%. The grade scale would look like this:

0-59 60-69 70-79 80-89 90-100

If the high grade is 85%, the scale would look like this:

0-49 50-59 60-69 70-79 80-85

This method allows you and your classmates to set the standards for the course. I believe all students want to learn as much as they can, and want to do as well as they can. So, if you are as good as everyone else in the course, then you will get an "as good as" grade. If you do a lot better than everyone else (either because you really ARE better, or because you work harder), you will be rewarded accordingly. If, on the other hand you are not as good as everyone else in the course . . . well, we don't want to go there, do we?

In determining your final grade, A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1

Final grades will not be curved beyond the criteria described above.

We will NOT be using +/- grades.


To graduate from the Honors College, students must complete 20 hours of lower-division Honors coursework, and 11 hours of upper-division Honors coursework, including a thesis or creative project. For benefits related to the Honors program, graduation requirements, or the thesis project, please contact the Honors College advisor, Ms. Laura Clippard in HONR 227;; or at 615-898-5464.

Honors College representatives would like to speak with students individually to determine their research or creative interests and goals. Honors students are encouraged to begin planning their thesis or creative project as soon as possible.


To retain Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship eligibility, you must earn a cumulative TELS GPA of 2.75 after 24 and 48 attempted hours and a cumulative TELS GPA of 3.0 thereafter. You may qualify with a 2.75 cumulative GPA after 72 attempted hours (and subsequent semesters), if you are enrolled full-time and maintain a semester GPA of at least 3.0. A grade of C, D, F, or I in this class may negatively impact TELS eligibility. Dropping a class after 14 days may also impact eligibility; if you withdraw from this class and it results in an enrollment status of less than full time, you may lose eligibility for your lottery scholarship. Lottery recipients are eligible to receive the scholarship for a maximum of five years from the date of initial enrollment, or until a bachelor degree is earned; students who first received the lottery scholarship in Fall 2009 or later will additionally be limited to 120 TELS attempted hours. For additional Lottery rules, please refer to your Lottery Statement of Understanding form, review lottery requirements here or contact the Financial Aid Office at 898-2830.

You also need to know that if you repeat a course, both are counted towards your lottery scholarship GPA. Suppose, for example, you receive an "F" in a course but then repeat the course and receive an "A" grade. Your MTSU GPA is now 4.0. But your lottery scholarship GPA is only 2.0, not high enough to keep the scholarship.

Finally, please be aware that these rules and proedures have been established by the Tennessee Legislature, not by the Board of Regents, MTSU, your college or department.


In general, under FERPA I am not permitted to disclose your academic progress to anyone not allowed to receive such information. Thus I cannot discuss your academic progress, grades, etc., over the phone or via e-mail. All such discussions must be in person. At the end of the semester I cannot disclose your final grade over the phone or via e-mail. Nor can I "post" your grades on my door. You will receive your final grades via PIPELINEMT or WEBMT. Additionally I cannot access your grades if you have a "hold" on your records.


Plagiarism, cheating and other forms of academic dishonesty are prohibited. Students guilty of academic misconduct, either directly or indirectly through participation or assistance, are immediately responsible to the instructor of the class. In addition to other possible disciplinary sanctions which may be imposed through the regular institutional procedures as a result of academic misconduct, the instructor has the authority to assign an F or a zero for the exercise or examination; or to assign an F in the course. If the student believes he or she has been erroneously accused of academic misconduct, and if his or her final grade has been lowered as a result, the student may appeal the case through the appropriate institutional procedures.


If you have a disability that may require assistance or accommodation, or if you have a question related to any accommodations for testing, note takers, readers, etc., please speak with me as soon as possible. Students may also contact the Office of Disabled Student Services (898-2783) with questions about such services.


1. This schedule, including exam dates, may be adjusted to fit the needs of speakers, availability of films, etc.

2. The numbers beside the topics are chapter numbers from the text.

3. The topic discussions do not necessarily correspond to the dates under the chronological reading list. That is, for example, we may or may not be discussing Perception and the Mass Media on Sept. 24, the date by which you should have read Chapter 4 (Magazines).

4. Exams will follow the discussion of the topics "Perception and Mass Media," "Law of Mass Communication" and on Thursday, Dec. 12. This is one exam approximately every four weeks.

Topical Reading List Chronological Reading List
Introduction Sept. 10 Books 2
Nature of Communication 1 Sept. 17 Newspapers 3
Perception and Mass Media Sept. 24 Magazines 4
Media and Society 13, 14, 15 Oct. 1 Recording 5
Four Theories of the Press Oct. 8 Radio 6
Media Law and Control Oct. 22 Film 7
Law of Mass Communication Oct. 29 Television 8
Media Business and Economics 16 Nov. 5 Digital Media 9
Media History Nov. 12 Advertising 10
Selected Topics Nov. 19 Public Relations 11
Nov. 26 News and Information 12
Final Exam, Thursday, Dec. 11, 10:00-12:00 p.m.