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Academic Year: Fall/Winter 2014/2015

Term: 2

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Faiza Hirji

Email: hirjif@mcmaster.ca

Office: Togo Salmon Hall 305

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 21480


Office Hours: Thursday, 1:30-2:30 PM or by appointment

Course Objectives:

Course Description

This course provides an introduction to a wide range of communication forms and related theoretical concepts. Topics to be examined include the printing press, news, book and magazine publishing, film, television, and the Internet, while theoretical concepts will range from media effects to cultural studies. In every case, students will be asked to consider the role that communication plays in the social, political and economic underpinnings of various places and communities.

Course Objectives

  • To understand the role that media play in society
  • To acquire the ability to research and analyze specific issues related to media industries and texts
  • To acquire and/or improve the ability to critically assess media texts and operations
  • To improve the ability to convey ideas through structured written assignments
  • To improve the ability to express ideas verbally

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Course Text:

Gasher, M. Skinner, D., & Lorimer, R. (2012) Mass Communication in Canada. 7th ed. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press.

Method of Assessment:

Participation                           10%     (note tutorials begin January 12, 2015)

Presentation                            15%     to be scheduled in tutorials

Op-Ed                                     15%     due in tutorials, week of January 26, 2015

Personal reflection                  10%     due in tutorials, week of March 2, 2015

Essay                                      25%     due in tutorials, week of March 23, 2015

Final exam (cumulative)          25%     during the scheduled exam period


Students are expected to attend lectures and tutorials regularly and on time. Note that the exam will cover material from the lectures as well as the readings. Students will be responsible for catching up on any material missed. The participation mark will be derived mainly from tutorial participation e.g. contribution to discussion, answering questions and completing in-class exercises), although students are also encouraged to participate in lecture where possible. Disruptive behaviour (e.g. talking/texting during class) will negatively affect the participation mark.


Students will sign up for presentation dates in tutorials. Presentations will address a topic or issue related to the previous week’s readings or lectures.


Students will submit an Op-Ed to their teaching assistants on an assigned topic. The topic will be assigned in class and further details will be provided in class and on Avenue to Learn. Op-Eds should express an opinion about the assigned topic, should draw upon details from the course content, and should follow the proper format for an Op-Ed. The Op-Ed is due in tutorials during the week of January 26, 2015.

Personal Reflection:

Each student will submit a short personal reflection piece to their teaching assistants on an assigned topic. This can be written in the style of a journal entry or blog posting, and should be no more than 500 words (minimum 250). This piece is intended to demonstrate whether or not students can take a concept discussed in class and critically apply it to their own media habits. These should be submitted in tutorials during the week of March 2, 2015.


Students will choose an essay topic from a list provided by the instructor. Other topics may be used with the written permission of the instructor. More specific essay guidelines will be provided in class, but in general, students will be expected to create a specific argument, to provide supporting points backed by academic sources, and to present the argument convincingly and coherently in formal essay format. Although topics will be provided, students must use the topic as a starting point only, going on to choose a particular example and argument. Students should submit essays to their TAs in their assigned tutorials during the week of March 23, 2015.

The essay should be 8-10 pages long, double-spaced and typed, formatted using MLA or APA, and must include a bibliography. 


Assignments are due at the beginning of the student’s assigned tutorial. Do not attempt to submit your assignment to the CSMM Office, or to the instructor. E-mailed assignments will not be accepted. Once your assignment is marked, it should be picked up from your TA during tutorials. Late assignments will be penalized one letter grade for each weekday after the deadline (e.g. an A grade becomes an A-, a C- becomes a D, and so on). For your own protection, always keep a copy of any assignment you hand in.

You must submit your own original work, completed independently. Work that has been submitted elsewhere, uses unattributed passages from the work of others, or that has been borrowed from another source, is considered plagiarism and the consequences may be severe. Please see below for further information regarding McMaster’s policy on academic integrity.

Final exam:

The exam will take place during the scheduled exam period. Students are expected to answer all of the questions using key concepts learned from course readings and lecture material over the course of the semester. The format will be multiple choice.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Missed assignments due to illness, death in the family, etc.

Students who cannot complete assignments due to medical or family emergencies should contact the instructor as soon as possible, and must submit official certificates to their home faculty office for review.

Students with disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140, ext. 2865 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University’s Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Religious accommodation

Students who require accommodation due to religious holidays or events should contact the instructor and their home faculty office at the beginning of the semester to discuss alternate arrangements for assignment submission.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

This is a self-reporting tool for undergraduate students to report absences DUE TO MINOR MEDICAL SITUATIONS that last up to 5 days and provides the ability to request accommodation for any missed academic work. Please note, this tool cannot be used during any final examination period. You may submit a maximum of 1 Academic Work Missed request per term. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up with your Instructor immediately (NORMALLY WITHIN TWO WORKING DAYS) regarding the nature of the accommodation. If you are absent for reasons other than medical reasons, for more than 5 days, or exceed 1 request per term, you MUST visit your Associate Dean's Office/Faculty Office). You may be required to provide supporting documentation. This form should be filled out immediately when you are about to return to class after your absence.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:


January 6 & 9: Introduction

January 13 & 16: What is Communication?

Readings: Chapter 1

January 20 & 23: Role of Communication in Society

Readings: Chapter 2 + 3

January 27 & 30: Sender-Receiver Relationships: Effects & Audiences

Readings: Chapter 5

**Op Ed due in tutorials**

February 3 & 6: Digital Revolution? Technology and Society

Readings: Chapter 6

February 10 & 13: Regulating Communication: Broadcasting Policy

Readings: Chapter 7

February 17 & 20: Winter Break!

February 24 & 27: Film, Cinema, and Social Transformations

Readings: Chapter 8

March 3 & 6: Where Do Media Come From? Media & Convergence

Readings: Chapter 9

**Personal reflection due in tutorials**

March 10 & 13: Making the News: Challenges & Consequences

Readings: Chapter 10

March 17 & 20: Truth in Advertising

Readings: Chapter 4

March 24 & 27: Brand New World? Living in a Global Village

Readings: Chapter 11

**Essay due in tutorials**

March 31 (no class April 3): Present & Future: The Way Forward for Media

Readings: Chapter 12

April 7: Review


Exam will be scheduled during the examination period, April 10-30


Other Course Information:

Email & On-line Learning

It is the policy of the CSMM Department that all email communication between students

and instructors (including TAs) must originate from their official McMaster University email accounts. This policy protects the confidentiality and sensitivity of information and confirms the identities of both the student and instructor. Messages that do not originate from McMaster email accounts will be deleted.

Note also that in this course we will be using Avenue to Learn, McMaster’s electronic learning management system. Students should be aware that, when they access the electronic components of this course, private information such as first and last names, user names for the McMaster e-mail accounts, and program affiliation may become apparent to all other students in the same course. The available information is dependent on the technology used. Continuation in this course will be deemed consent to this disclosure. If you have any questions or concerns about such disclosure please discuss this with the course instructor.