HISTORY OF MASS MEDIA IN THE UNITED STATES
1:25 to 2:15, M-W-F, Room #401, Grady College
Dr. Janice Hume
Office: #228, Grady College
Phone: 542-5980; email: email@example.com
Office Hours: 10 to 11 a.m. M-W, or by appointment
Welcome to JRLC 5490/7490. Consider your experiences as practicing journalists here
at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. You use a computer to
write and edit stories, process photographs and design pages. You travel to newsworthy
spots by car or plane. You telephone sources on deadline. You broadcast live and your
stories move on-line. On the business side, your ad and PR campaigns are multi-media
and synergistic. No matter what your media job, your every move -- and thus every word
you write and image you record -- is a product of modern technology.
So what’s the point of studying media history? Today’s newsroom couldn’t be farther
removed from the tiny Boston print shop where James Franklin began publishing the
New England Courant in 1721. His newspaper had only two pages, no photos and type
that was set by hand. But Franklin’s work, too, was a product of his time and its
technology. He also dealt with economic problems. And legal problems. And cultural
problems. And family problems. Sound familiar? In the history of American journalism,
the more things changed the more they have remained the same.
In this course, we will think carefully and critically about journalism as an institution --
because to be the best reporter, editor, producer, photographer or designer you can be,
you need to understand, intellectually, the history of your profession. Journalism has
always been about people, our subjects, sources, audience and colleagues. Together, we
will consider what life was really like for our forefathers and foremothers as they
struggled to report the news. Understanding their challenges will help us face our own.
In JRLC 5490 we will also learn about history as a form of inquiry. History is about
patterns, structures and context, and it is about people who make a difference. As
historians, we will use sources both primary (based upon the material of a particular
time period) and secondary (later interpretations) to analyze various aspects of
American mass media. Historians, like journalists, use systematic reporting techniques
to tell meaningful stories.
READINGS AND LECTURES
Class sessions, for the most part, will coincide with readings for that week. For your
class time to have meaning, YOU MUST COMPLETE ALL THE READINGS BEFORE
YOU COME TO THE MONDAY LECTURE. This syllabus provides discussion questions
that will not make sense unless you are familiar with both readings and lectures. Your
text is: Jean Folkerts and Dwight L. Teeter Jr., Voices of a Nation: A History of Mass
Media in the United States, Fourth Edition.
As you read and listen, think about the weekly questions listed below so that you may
participate in a meaningful discussion.
You will complete two writing assignments.
• The first is a four- to five-page book review of a biography (no
autobiographies, please) of your choosing (and my approving). The biography
must be about a journalist/media worker who has made a significant impact in
the field. He or she need not be dead, but don’t limit yourself to the latter 20th
and 21st centuries. I will bring a list of suggestions to class, along with a detailed
description the questions you need to address in this essay. This assignment will,
in part, test your ability to analyze historical research methods.
• The second, longer assignment will seek a “mentor,” a prominent
journalist from another era. He or she must NOT be the person whose biography
you reviewed. And yes, this person must be dead. This 10- to 15-page paper will
outline what advice he or she might give to you as a media worker of the 21st
century. It will highlight specific issues or problems modern journalists face and
will address those problems through the eyes of this historic mentor.
Here’s the tricky part: You MUST use primary sources (either that person’s own
words, or writings about him/her FROM THE ERA) AND secondary sources for
this essay. You will be given more information about finding and using primary
and secondary sources as the semester progresses. And you will be given tips on
finding a workable focus for your project. I will approve in advance your topic
and source list. Have some fun with this one!
When completing these two assignments, remember that JRLC 5490/7490 is an
UPPER-LEVEL course. These essays should represent your best writing and thinking.
For a time, you will put aside the journalistic, inverted pyramid style you learned in
JOUR 3410 and revert back to an essay style.
* NOTE: Graduate students will have an additional assignment. We will meet early in
the semester to talk about it.
Deadlines are extremely important. Late papers will earn failing grades.
You will take three exams. They will include essays and some short-answer questions.
You will be expected not just to regurgitate facts but to interpret them. Opinions are
great ONLY IF THEY CAN BE BACKED UP WITH CONCRETE EVIDENCE.
List trends and issues that cross time periods.
List important individuals of each era and know why they were
Relate these elements to modern media issues and to the everyday worklives of
Your grade will be determined as follows:
Exams, 20 percent each for a total of 60 percent.
Biography review, 15 percent.
Mentor essay, 25 percent.
I do not offer “extra credit.” Class attendance is mandatory.
The course syllabus is a general plan for the course; deviations announced to the class by
the instructor may be necessary.
August 19: Introductions and class goals.
Week of August 22: Introduction to historical research methods. Early Roots of
Readings: Voices of a Nation, Preface (first segment), chapters 1 and 2.
Q: How was “news” defined differently in colonial America, and what impact did that
have on newspaper content?
Week of August 29: The National Period
Readings: Voices, chapters 3 and 4.
Q: How did controls over freedom of expression of early American news workers lay a
foundation for American civil liberty, and what does that liberty mean to you, the
Week of September 5: The Mass Press and the “Log Cabin Campaign.”
No class Monday, Labor Day
Readings: Voices, chapters 5 and 6
Q: Was the American Penny Press an evolution, or a revolution? And how did the notion
of objectivity change the American press forever?
Week of September 12: Our Sister Editors -- Women and Media in the 19th Century
Voices, chapters 8 and 9.
Q: Is there a link between the rise in women’s magazines in the mid-19th century and
the origins of the women’s movement?
Week of September 19: The Multi-Cultural Press and Civil War
Readings: Voices, chapter 7.
Q: How did contributions of alternative and mainstream press contribute to pre-war
Week of September 26: Journalism Illustrated: From Wood-Cut Engravings to
Q: How was the idea of “visual journalism” received by early journalists, and how have
visuals changed media content?
Readings: Voices, chapter 15.
FIRST EXAM FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30!!!
Week of October 3: Mass Media and American Public Memory
Q: What did sociologist Michael Schudson mean when he said newspapers are the “most
representative carrier and construer and creator of modern public consciousness”?
BIOGRAPHY REVIEW DUE FRIDAY, OCTOBER 7!!!!
Week of October 10: Technological Wonders, Mass Markets and Outrage
Readings: Voices, chapter 10
Q: How did the economic support systems of the mass media relate to journalists’
Week of October 17: Magazines, Muckraking and Money
Week of October 24: Progressivism, then Disillusionment -- A World War
No class on Friday. Have a nice (and safe) Fall Break.
Readings: Voices, chapter 11.
Q: This week you have read about the ideals of progressivism and the disillusionment
and darkness of war. How did these two threads affect the media?
Week of October 31: Post-war Residue, Social Change and Media Technology
Readings, Voices, Chapter 12.
Q: How did economic and technological factors affect news content?
Week of November 7: Depression and Journalism
Voices, chapter 13
SECOND EXAM, FRIDAY NOVEMBER 11!!!
Week of November 14: Propaganda and World War II
Readings: Voices, chapter 14
Q: What impact did World War II have on both the media worker and news content?
Week of November 21: Public Relations: The Rise of a Movement
No class Wednesday and Friday. Happy Thanksgiving!
Q: How has the rise of public relations affected journalism?
Week of November 28: The Cold War and the Media Worker
Readings: Voices, chapter 15
Crisis, chapters 10 and 11
Q: What can modern media workers learn about professionalism from Edward R.
Murrow and his work in the Cold War?
MENTOR ESSAY DUE FRIDAY December 2!!!
Week of December 5: Idealism vs. Reality: Modern Media Ownership and Controls
No class Friday, December 9, “Reading Day”
Readings: Voices, chapters 16, 17 and 18
Q: Connect two modern mass media problems to earlier eras in journalism history.
FINAL EXAM: noon to 3 p.m., Friday, December 16.
ACADEMIC HONESTY: Plagiarism and cheating are serious offenses and will result
in your failing this class. I will also forward such cases for university-level discipline.
All academic work must meet the standards outlined by the University’s publication “A
Culture of Honesty.”
responsible for informing themselves about those standards before performing any
ATTENDANCE: Class attendance is mandatory. I will take roll every day.
Absences due to illness must be documented with a note from the doctor. You will be
allowed three excused absences. After that, your final grade will be dropped one letter
for each absence.
PROFESSIONALISM: Students should act professionally, both in class and when
working on class assignments. We treat sources and each other with respect. All
assignments must meet professionally accepted standards of good taste and decency.
DISABILITIES: Students with disabilities who require reasonable accommodations in
order to participate in course activities or meet course requirements should contact the
instructor during regular office hours or by appointment.
“When a nation goes down...
or society perishes, one condition
may always be found. They forgot
where they came from. They lost
sight of what had brought them