College of Mass Communication

Mass Media and National Security

Jour/EMC 4700

Spring 2015

[IMAGE: Free Speech Online]

COURSE: Mass Media and National Security (Jour/EMC 4700), Tuesday/Thursday, 2:40-4:05, COMM 151

See reading list below

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

Dr. Burriss is a professor in the School of Journalism. He is a past president of the MTSU Faculty Senate and former member of the Tennessee Board of Regents. He 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 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.

Dr. Burriss received his Ph.D. in communication from Ohio University, where he minored in law, and his J.D. from 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 and in popular magazines, and is the co-author of two books. He has won numerous awards for both writing and work with new technologies.

He was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, and served in Mali, Bosnia, Somalia, Central America, England, Germany and the Pentagon.

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


The major goals of this course are to help students understand (1) the historical background of the conflict between the public's "right to know," and the government's obligation to protect the nation, (2) how the government and media interact in relation to national security issues, (3) the legal issues involved in this interaction, and (4) the roles of reporters and public affairs officers in coverage of the "alphabet agencies" such as the DoD, CIA, NSA, DoJ, etc.

Our basic assumption here is NOT that the media and the government are natural enemies, but rather that both have role to play in insuring the security of the nation.


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 assignments is unfair to your classmates who came to class prepared by having read the assigned materials and prepared various exercises. In general, life's rewards go to those who get their work done on time. In this light, no assignments 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 more difficult than the original assigned material.

One thing we will need to be careful of is that the class not turn into a course simply dealing with propaganda. Rather, the focus will be on how the media fit into the national security process (including, but not limited to, propaganda). We also need to make sure it doesn't turn into a course that simply looks at how the DOD, CIA, FBI, etc. have been portrayed in movies and on television. I don't anticipate much, if any, discussion of Tom Clancy novels, or movies such as "Top Gun," "Crimson Tide," etc. The security review process and interactions between Hollywood and the government will certainly be a point of discussion, but not just a discussion that focuses on technical details, character development, etc.

We won't be spending any time on conspiracy theories unless a valid, direct connection with the national security process and the media can be made. No discussions of the Kennedy assassination, UFO's, black helicopters, tracking devices in 20-dollar bills, Denver International Airport, etc., unless you can find valid documentation of a national security/media connection (did CBS find out how Kennedy was killed and the CIA asked them not to run the story?). If you can find the operational plan that proves Denver International Airport is really a UFO landing site and show how the story is still being covered up by CBS and the New York Times, you'll probably get an "A" in the class!! Bring the reporter who covered up the story in to talk to the class and I'll give you extra credit. Little or no discussion of Art Bell, George Noory or Ed Danes.

"Wait a minute," you may be saying. "This is a mass media class, and you're not going to let us discuss how the government is hiding that military base on the moon? Isn't that a national security issue?' Well, yes it is, but read the above paragraph again. It mentions "valid documentation." That means, for example, an article in The New York Times or a government document that can be verified by the appropriate agency. So we'll discuss MJ-12, but only if you can get a current government official to go on the record.

We will watch several videos during the class. These will deal with specific incidents involving the media and national security, seminars that involved role playing situations, etc.


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. FOI request
3. Term project
4. Other projects as assigned

We will discuss the projects and assignments in class, but here is a start:
1. I would make the FOI request and the term paper deal with the same topic.
2. As noted above, simply doing a project on how the DOD, FBI, CIA, etc., assist (or don't assist) television and movie producers is not a good topic. A paper dealing with the security review process a movie producer went through would be a good topic. Try to focus on the national security procedures as they relate to media.
3. I am a firm believer in the sayings, "Document or die!" and "substantiate, validate, corroborate." In other words, you will be expected to find real documents to support your projects.


Class participation 1/4
FOI Request 1/4
Term project 1/4
Other assignments 1/4

We will NOT be using +/- grades.


To retain Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship (TELS) 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, FA, or I in this class may negatively impact TELS eligibility. Dropping or stopping attendance in a class after 14 days may also impact eligibility; if you withdraw from or stop attending 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 reaching 120 TELS attempted hours or earning a bachelor degree.

For additional Lottery rules, please refer to your Lottery Statement of Understanding form, or contact the Financial Aid Office at 898-2830.


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.

Please note that all faculty and staff must use their MTSU e-mail accounts when communicating with a student via e-mail. In addition, faculty and staff must send the e-mail to a student's MTSU-assigned e-mail account, rather than to a personal account such as G-Mail or HotMail. Faculty and staff cannot send educational data to or from a non-institutional e-mail account.


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.


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.


This course and its associated web site, readings, exercises, notes, etc., are designed to provide classroom instruction in an area that has numerous legal considerations. However, the materials related to the course were not necessarily prepared by persons licensed to practice law in a particular jurisdiction. Those persons directly connected with the preparation of this web site and delivery of course content are not engaged in the practice of law or in rendering legal or other professional advice, and this course and web site are not substitutes for the advice of an attorney. If you require legal or other expert advice, you should seek the services of a competent attorney or other professional.


In addition to the reading lists below, the following sites will prove useful as you prepare for class dicussions and work on your projects.
Three sites, Secrecy News, the National Security Archive and the DoD Early Bird Digest, have e-newsletters you can subscribe to.


1. This schedule, including exam dates, may be adjusted to fit the needs of speakers, availability of films, etc.
2. You will need Adobe Reader installed on your computer to read some of the documents below.

History and Background

The Freedom of Information Act The Classification System

Legal Issues

Coverage of National Security Issues and the Patriot Act

Class Discussion: Covering National Security Issues
Short discussion paper, "The Media and the U.S.A. Patriot Act"

Videotapes and DVD's (Shown in class)

Packaging American Wars
A Walk Through The 20th Century (World War II: The Propaganda Battle)
Walt Disney: On the Front Lines
"Why We Fight"
"Triumph of the Will"

The Constitution, That Delicate Balance (National Security vs. Press Freedom)
The Constitution, That Delicate Balance (War Powers and Covert Action)
The Military and the News Media Part I (Correspondents Under Fire)
The Military and the News Media Part II (A Question of Access)
The Military and the News Media Part III (A Matter of Intelligence)

Inside Story: Whose News Is It (Invasion of Grenada)
The Media and the Military
The Balancing Act: Security and Liberty Post 9/11