College of Media & Entertainment

American Media & Social Institutions
Jour/EMC/RI 1020-H02
Fall 2017

[IMAGE: Free Speech Online]
COURSE: American Media and Social Institutions (Jour/EMC/RI 1020-H02)
Tuesday-Thursday, 11:20-12:45, COMM 151

Richard Campbell, Media & Culture
Class Notes

INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Larry L. Burriss, Ph.D., J.D.
OFFICE: 204 Mass Communication Building
PHONE: 615-898-2983 (office)
E-MAIL: lburriss@mtsu.edu

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 United States Air Force and 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

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 in class.


Exam #1 1/5
Exam #2 1/5
Exam #3 1/5 Tuesday, Dec. 12 10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Quizzes 1/5 (quiz grades are averaged together)
Project 1/5

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

However, in no case will a grade of less than 80% result in an "A" grade.

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; laura.clippard@mtsu.edu; 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.


Do you have a lottery scholarship? To retain the 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. A grade of C, D, F, FA, or I in this class may negatively impact TELS eligibility.

If you drop this class, withdraw, or if you stop attending this class you may lose eligibility for your lottery scholarship, and you will not be able to regain eligibility at a later time. For additional Lottery rules, please refer to your Lottery Statement of Understanding form, or contact your MT One Stop Enrollment Coordinator.


Middle Tennessee State University is committed to campus access in accordance with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Any student interested in reasonable accommodations can consult the Disability & Access Center (DAC) for assistance at 615-898-2783 or the Disability & Access Center with questions about such services.


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.


Middle Tennessee State University takes a strong stance against academic misconduct. Academic Misconduct includes, but is not limited to, plagiarism, cheating, and fabrication.

For purposes of this section, the following definitions apply:

Academic Misconduct: Plagiarism, cheating, fabrication, or facilitating any such act.

(1) Plagiarism: The adoption or reproduction of ideas, words, statements, images, or works of another person as one’s own without proper attribution. This includes self-plagiarism, which occurs when an author submits material or research from a previous academic exercise to satisfy the requirements of another exercise and uses it without proper citation of its reuse.

(2) Cheating: Using or attempting to use unauthorized materials, information, or study aids in any academic exercise. This includes unapproved collaboration, which occurs when a student works with others on an academic exercise without the express permission of the professor. The term academic exercise includes all forms of work submitted for credit or hours.

(3) Fabrication: Unauthorized falsification or invention of any information or citation in an academic exercise.

To be clear: going online and taking information without proper citations, copying parts of other student’s work, creating information for the purposes of making your paper seem more official, or anything involving taking someone else’s thoughts or ideas without proper attribution is academic misconduct. If you work together on an assignment when it is not allowed, it is academic misconduct. If you have a question about an assignment, please come see me for clarification.

Any cases of academic misconduct will be reported to the Office of Academic Affairs for violating the academic honesty requirements in the student handbook. They will also result in failure for the course.

Remember – ignorance is NOT a defense.


MTSU comprises students, faculty and staff from a variety of diverse backgrounds. Please be mindful and respectful of these differences, but also recognize that debate and discussion on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that the debate and discussion may well be vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasant. To quote one of my favorite philosophers, Lt. Nyota Uhura of the Starship Enterprise, “We've learned not to fear words.”


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

2. Exams will follow the discussion of the topics "Perception and Mass Media," "Mass Communication Law and Regulation" and "Mass Media Business and Economics."