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COMM 621 (online): History of Journalism (and other mass media)

3 credits.

Instructor: Ross F. Collins, North Dakota State University, Fargo.

Course Overview/Syllabus Summer 2012

Bulletin description
The history and development of journalism as shaped by the political and social environment. Prereq: COMM 310.

Ross Collins, professor of communication, Department of Communication, Box 2310, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND 58108-6050 USA. Tel (701) 231-7925, email ross.collins@ndsu.edu; fax (701) 231-7784.


The online course is designed to offer a graduate-level general survey of the development and impact of the mass media in the United States. Students who complete this course should gain a basic understanding of history and development of the mass media, and insight into how these developments affect today's media. The student will have an opportunity to gain a facility with traditional research methos for historical study, and will have the opportunity to develop a historical research paper based on this method.

The instructor covers newspapers and magazines, television, radio, advertising, public relations and photography using an “archeological model,” beginning with the Gulf War of 1991, and working back to colonial press. Students have the opportunity to complete several short written assignments, and one longer term paper. The online version of this course is divided into eight sections, beginning with contemporary mass media history, and ending with colonial and European journalism history. Students complete readings, activities, and writing assignments as indicated for each section. The course's capstone requirement is a historical term paper. Course grade will be based on the term paper and other assignments; no examinations are required of graduate-level web-based students. The sections are outlined below.

Required text: William David Sloan, The Media in America. A History. Eighth Edition. Northport, AL: Vision Press, 2011.

Recommended: William David Sloan and Michael Stamm, Historical Methods in Communication, 3rd ed. Northport, AL: Vision Press, 2010.

About the instructor
Ross F. Collins holds a Ph.D. in journalism history (University of Cambridge, 1992). He combines academic background in history with a decade of media experience, work in media writing, photojournalism, design and public relations. He was department director of graduate studies for the master's program from 1995-2011. His research interests include French journalism history, World War I history and United States frontier journalism history. He was treasurer of American Journalism Historians Association from 2000-2008. For a complete vita and other student resources, visit his web site: www.rossfcollins.com.

As a summer session class, due dates for work below must be submitted before the final class day. For 2012 this is Aug. 3. Suggested due dates for each section's assignments (summer 2012) are listed below. The instructor strongly advises students to submit work by these dates, as this work will help prepare them for the final research paper assignment, and will help them to avoid the procrastination that leads to submissing sub-standard work toward the end of the term.

Term paper: 300 pts.
Activities and assignments, 115 pts.
Reflective essays, 200 pts.
Total possible points: 615.

Grading will be on a standard percentage: 90-100 percent=A; 80-89.9=B; 70-79.9=C; 60-69.9=D; below 60=F.

Note: The assignments and total number of points may change slightly.

Class schedule summer 2012

See course lecture notes for lecture synopses covering each subject below.

Section One: Beginning at the end; the media today; war and propaganda
1. Introduction: history as archeology.
2. Where we are today.
3. Wars, protest and propaganda.

Assignment due date: Friday, June 1.

Section Two: Television; the media and contemporary political history
1. Television and the presidency
2. Watergate.

Assignment due date: Friday, June 8.

Section Three: Radio and jazz journalism; development of “celebrity.”
1. Development and power of radio.
2. Changing philosophies.
3. Growth of entertainment industries and mass media.
4. Introduction: how to write a research paper.

Assignment due date: Friday, June 15.

Section Four: Advertising and Public Relations
1. Development of public relations.
2. Origins and growth of advertising.

Section Five: An eruption of change: the Civil War, new journalism, yellow journalism, and technology.
1. Journalism and control in the U.S. Civil War.
1. New journalism, 1870-1900.
2. Yellow journalism and New York City.
3. Technological revolution.

Assignment due date: Friday, June 22.

Section Six: Photography and photojournalism.
1. Development of photojournalism, 1925-present.
2. Beginnings of photography, 1839-1900.

Assignment due date: Friday, June 29

Section Seven: From polemical to penny press: beginnings of a new nation.
1. Development of the Penny Press and the “common man.”
2. Antebellum press.
3. Importance of political/polemical press in early United States evolution.

Assignment due date: Friday, July 6.

Section Eight: Origins of colonial journalism: respect to revolt.
1. Influence of journalism in the American Revolution.
2. Origin of the press in colonial America.

Assignment due date: All assignments including the final research paper must be submitted by the last day of summer session, Friday, Aug. 3.

Official university notices

The academic community is operated on the basis of honesty, integrity, and fair play. NDSU Policy 335: Code of Academic Responsibility and Conduct applies to cases in which cheating, plagiarism, or other academic misconduct have occurred in an instructional context. Students found guilty of academic misconduct are subject to penalties, up to and possibly including suspension and/or expulsion. Student academic misconduct records are maintained by the Office of Registration and Records. Informational resources about academic honesty for students and instructional staff members can be found at www.ndsu.edu/academichonesty. 

Disabilities notice: If you need special accommodations for learning or have special needs, plese let the instructor know as soon as possible.