MCOM 101 Introduction to Mass Communication

Mass Communication and Communication Studies Department | Towson University

Minimester 2018. Meets: M/Tu/W/Th from 9-12:25 p.m. in MC 201

Course description:

“Issues, theories and structures of mass communication and careers in the mass media” (Towson University Undergraduate Catalog 2017-2018).

This course is designed to introduce you to the history, models, theories, concepts and terminology of mass communication, specifically focusing on journalism, advertising and public relations. It will enable you to understand the complex interactions between media and society, and think critically about the ways in which mass media inform our everyday lives. It will introduce you to mass communication theories and concepts to help explain and/or predict causes and effects of mass communication.  It will also introduce you to the various careers in mass media, and help prepare you for the professional world.

Jenny Atwater
Office: Media Center, 204
Office Hours: Mondays 12:30-1:30



After successfully completing this course, you will be able to:

  • Understand the history and development of mass communication;
  • Identify major technological developments in modern mass communication;
  • Describe how basic concepts of media law and ethics are applied;
  • Use the vocabulary of mass communication to effectively communicate key concepts;
  • Think critically about the mass media as an integral part of our culture;
  • Recognize the effects of mass media upon society;
  • Apply prominent theories to explain and/or predict effects of mass media
  • Understand the complex role media economics play in shaping media practices and consumption;
  • Understand key developments in media ownership and their impact on democracy;
  • Understand the complex relationships between democracy, capitalism and mass media;
  • Become a better citizen and discerning media consumer;
  • Describe typical careers in various mass media fields;  and
  • Have a clearer idea of your aptitude for a professional career in mass media.


Required Textbooks: The following are required material for the course:

  • Media and Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication (9th edition), by Richard Campbell, Christopher R. Martin and Bettina Fabos. (Bedford/St. Martin’s).
  • Media Career Guide: Preparing for jobs in the 21st Century

Recommended Resources: The following are not required but are highly recommended as additional resources to improve your ability to excel in this course:

  • Working with Words, By B. Brooks and J. Pinson.
  • Elements of Style, By Strunk and White.

Your responsibilities: You are expected to complete reading assignments before they are discussed. This syllabus specifies the readings that are to be completed by each class meeting. Being prepared will not only allow you to clarify any questions you might have, but it will also help you offer constructive ideas during class discussions.

You are also expected to be a regular consumer of mass media, including newspapers, magazines, television, radio, film and the Internet.  Quizzes on current events, lecture notes and assigned readings will be given throughout the course to assess your understanding of the course content as well as to encourage your media consumption.

Attendance Policy: Attendance is mandatory. One or more absences can seriously impact your grade and endanger you from passing the course.  I will be keeping track of attendance throughout the session.  If you have more than one unexcused absence, you will lose all your participation points. I will keep track of late arrivals to class. If you are late to class (more than 5 minutes) three times, that will count as an unexcused absence.  Students should note the following points from the Academic Standards Committee’s policy on attendance and absences: Students are expected to attend all classes, however it is university policy to excuse absences for the following reasons – 1. Illness or injury,  2. Religious observance, 3. Participating in university activities at the request of university authorities, and 4. Compelling verifiable circumstances beyond the student’s control.

If you encounter any of these circumstances, you must contact me by telephone, email or in person well in advance of the absence, or on the same day of the absence in the case of an emergency, to let me know you will be absent during a class session.  You must also provide written documentation of the reason for your absence within 5 days of the absence. Examples of acceptable documentation include: physician’s note, traffic accident report, hospital bill, etc., all of which must be signed and dated. Other absences (weddings, funerals, etc.) will be addressed on a case by case basis.

Work missed for a known, excused absence must be turned in PRIOR to the absence to receive credit. Work for an unexcused absence will not be accepted and will receive NO credit. If you come to class late and miss an in-class exercise, quiz or assignment, you will not be allowed to make up the work, unless we have made previous arrangements. If you do not hand something in, I will not ask you about it. It is YOUR responsibility to keep up with assignments.

Quizzes and Examinations: There will be periodic quizzes given over the course of the session which will begin in the first 5 minutes of class. If you are late, you will receive a zero.

If you are unable to take a quiz or exam on a scheduled date, it is your responsibility to inform me at least 2 weeks in advance of the scheduled exam to make other arrangements.  In the event you miss a quiz or exam, it is imperative that you provide written documentation of the reason for the absence within two days of the scheduled date. A make-up quiz or exam will be administered only if legitimate written documentation is provided to me within two days of the scheduled exam.  Otherwise, students who miss an exam will receive a zero.

Students with Disabilities: If you are registered with Disability Support Services, please see me during the first week of class to arrange your specific accommodations. If you believe you may need an accommodation and have not registered with DSS, please do so by calling 410-704-2638.

Plagiarism and Cheating: Plagiarism, cheating and/or fabrication will not be tolerated and carry serious consequences in this course and in media careers.  You must properly attribute information used in your assignments to the appropriate source.  If you use a publication as a source, you must credit the publication.  Making up quotations or information is forbidden. Presenting another person’s work as your own, copying a classmate’s assignment, failing to attribute information to the appropriate source, recycling material or assignments from concurrent or previous sources, and/or making up quotations/information will result in failure of the assignment and may lead to failure in the course. It will also result in a referral to Judicial Affairs. I f you are unsure of what constitutes academic dishonesty, please read the Towson University Undergraduate Catalog 2012-2013. Please familiarize yourself with the MCCS plagiarism policy. All cases of plagiarism will be handled according to this policy.

Cell phones: Please turn off all cell phones when you come into class. We will have breaks during class when it will be appropriate to check your phones.

Grading Distribution:  Your final grade will be determined as follows:

Quizzes:                                    10%

Exams:                                       50%

Career Assignments:       30%

Participation/Attendance:  10%

Grading Criteria:

90-100 (A+, A & A-) The work meets and exceeds assignment objectives. It is exceptionally clear, well written, thorough and free of errors.  It is organized well and contains effective transitions, quotations, citations, descriptions and anecdotes. It also is an effective discussion of the topic. In terms of the course, this means you have almost perfect attendance, scores in this range on assignments and tests and make constructive, insightful contributions to class discussions.

80-89 (B+, B, B-) The work meets assignment objectives, and is adequate but not exceptional.  It is well organized, with appropriate citation usage. However, the assignment contains a few minor errors and might be more interesting, thorough or cohesive. In terms of the course, this means you have good attendance, scores in this range on the assignments and tests, and make constructive, insightful contributions to class discussion.

70-79 (C+, C, C-) The  work minimally meets assignment objectives; however, it may omit important information or require extensive editing. The assignment may be disorganized, and/or contain several minor errors. Some sentences may be, for instance, vague, complicated and use passive rather than active verbs. Some sentences may have to be rewritten because they are awkward, wordy, or confusing. Citations are used, but may be used inappropriately or inadequately. In terms of the course, this means you have poor attendance, scored in this range on the assignments and tests, and have not participated in class discussions.

60-69 (D+, D, D-) The work does not meet assignment guidelines and is superficial, confusing or requires extensive rewriting.  It also may contain as unacceptable number of punctuation, spelling, and/or grammatical errors.  Citations are used inappropriately or not at all. In terms of the course, this means you have missed more classes than you attended, scored in this range on the assignments and tests, and have not participated in class discussions. Students may receive upper level elective credit with a D, but this course will not count among MCOM credits.

Below 60 (F) The work may be so poorly organized, ineffective, or outside assignment objectives that it cannot be revised effectively.  The information presented is completely incorrect.  It does not meet the requirements in page length, focus or format. It may also contains significant misspellings and/or grammatical and/or factual errors.  Citations are not used. In terms of the course, this means you have missed more classes than you have attended, scored this way on the assignments and tests, and have not participated in class discussions. If you are caught cheating in any way, you will automatically receive an F in the course. If you attend the final exam and your average is below 60, you will receive an F rather than an FX.

(FX) This is an administrative failure for non-attendance or failure to withdraw. If you do not withdraw from the course by Towson University’s preset deadlines for the semester and stop attending the class, this is the grade you will receive.

(I)Incomplete. At Towson University, students may only receive an incomplete with “verifiable circumstances prevent students from completing a course within the term.” (Towson University Undergraduate Catalog 2006-2007, p. 23)

Final grades will follow the above scale for percentages with the following exceptions: no A+, C- or D- can be awarded as a final grade in this class. Please note that you must earn at least a C to progress in the major.

Final grades in this course will be based on the following grading scheme. The points per credit hour are consistent with the Academic Regulations Section of the Towson University Undergraduate Catalog, 2012-2013.

Grade                         Grade Points per Credit/Unit

A                                        4. 00

A-                                       3. 67

B+                                      3. 33

B                                        3. 00

B-                                       2. 67

C +                                     2. 33

C                                        2. 00

D+                                     1. 67

D                                        1. 00

F                                         0. 00

FX                                      0. 00

Letter grades will be assigned according to this scale (I do not round up):
93-100 A
90-92 A-
87-89 B+
83-86 B
80-82 B-
77-79 C+
70-76 C
60-69 D
0-59 F

Legal Liability
In all assignments, students must comply with all laws and the legal rights of others (e.g., copyright, obscenity, privacy and defamation) and with all Towson University policies (e.g., academic dishonesty). Towson University is not liable or responsible for the content of any student assignments, regardless of where they are posted.

College of Fine Arts and Communication Civility Code

All COFAC students, staff, and faculty are expected to exhibit and practice civil behaviors that exemplify: (1) respecting faculty, staff, fellow students, guests, and all university property, policies, rules and regulations; (2) taking responsibility for one’s choices, actions and comments; (3) delivering correspondence – whether verbal, nonverbal, written, or electronic – with respectful language using professional writing standards and etiquette; and (4) accepting consequences of one’s choices and actions.
The use of offensive, threatening or abusive language, writing, or behavior will not be tolerated and can lead to academic dismissal. Further information about civility can be found in Appendix F of the university catalog.

TU Weapons Policy

Towson University prohibits students from bringing weapons to campus. Please click on the link above for more information.

And finally…

Towson requires me to remind you that you may not attempt a class for the third time without prior permission from the Academic Standards Committee. Information regarding this policy can be obtained through Enrollment Services.