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CMST 1A03 Introduction To Communication

Academic Year: Winter 2018

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Terry Flynn


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 329

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 26977


Office Hours: Mon. 3.00 pm – 4:30 pm & Tues. 12:00pm – 2:00pm or by appointment

Course Objectives:

Description:                This course examines communication and media industries, content, and audiences in historical, social, political, economic, technological, and cultural contexts. Students will be introduced to basic theoretical perspectives, policy concerns, professional practices, and social issues foundational to communication studies.


Learning objectives: After taking this course, students should be able to:

  • Understand models of communication;
  • Think critically about the role of media in society;
  • Reflect on major social and political implications of media in society;
  • Debate major issues about media production, content, audiences, policy, and technology;
  • Discuss underlying tensions and debates in the field;
  • Consider how communication and media can be part of a toolkit for community engagement; and
  • Sharpen critical thinking, writing and presentation skills.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Gasher, M., Skinner, D., & Lorimer, R. (2016). Mass Communication in Canada, 8th Edition, Toronto: OUP, available at the bookstore. Any additional readings will be uploaded on Avenue to Learn.

Brian Knappenberger, (2017). Nobody Speak: The Trials of the Free Press, (Netflix documentary)

*For the purposes of your midterm exam, you are required to watch outside of class the 2017 Netflix documentary Nobody Speak: The Trials of the Free Press. This means that if you do not maintain a Netflix subscription, you will need to subscribe to the streaming service in order to complete your midterm exam (note that you can use a one month free trial as a new subscriber to Netflix; you pay a subscription fee of less than 10 dollars a month only if you decide to continue your membership beyond the first free trial month. The documentary requires two hours of watching.)  

Top Hat

We will be using the Top Hat ( classroom response system in class. You will be able to submit answers to in-class questions using Apple or Android smartphones and tablets, laptops, or through text message.  

You can visit the Top Hat Overview ( within the Top Hat Success Center which outlines how you will register for a Top Hat account, as well as providing a brief overview to get you up and running on the system.

An email invitation will be sent to you by email, but if don’t receive this email, you can register by simply visiting our course website:
Note: our Course Join Code is: 283713

Top Hat will require a paid subscription, and a full breakdown of all subscription options available can be found here:

Should you require assistance with Top Hat at any time, due to the fact that they require specific user information to troubleshoot these issues, please contact their Support Team directly by way of email (, the in app support button, or by calling 1-888-663-5491.

Method of Assessment:

Required Course Assignments:

Tutorial participation: ongoing, weekly

Op-Ed Piece:                                             Week 6

Take-home midterm exam:                        Week 9

Media and Society Analysis:                     Week 12

Final Exam:                                               Scheduled during the April exam session


Breakdown of assignments:

Tutorial participation:                                           20 per cent

Take-home midterm exam, two parts:                 25 per cent (Total)

             Part 1 (analytical):                                                    12.5 per cent

            Part 2 (creative/video rant):                                     12.5 per cent

Op-Ed Piece:                                                      15 per cent

Media and Society Analysis:                              20 per cent

Final Exam:                                                        20 per cent

A Note on Lecture Participation:

Being a student in this course comes with several responsibilities.

  • Please come to class with the readings completed, and ready to discuss readings and engage in class activities.
  • Please be punctual, and stay for the entire session, as you are responsible for any announcements made at the beginning and/or end of class.
  • If you miss class, it is your responsibility to get notes from a classmate, and to be prepared for the next class meeting, with all assignments/readings ready. Lecture notes will not be posted online or emailed.
  • Please also be present—existentially speaking—in class. If you are on your devices, social media, etc., you are not present and you are also disturbing the people around you.

Tutorials: Tutorials will begin the week of January 8, 2018. Each student must register for and attend weekly tutorials. Tutorials have two purposes: 1. to help you work through course material and apply the concepts to new situations; 2. to deliver skills-building activities relevant to your university studies.

Tutorial is mandatory; attendance will be taken. Participation is required, with the same guidelines outlined for lecture. TAs will assign additional assignments and activities. Evaluation will consist of participation and completion of assignments.

Take-home midterm exam: Your midterm exam will contain two parts, analytical and creative, due in tutorial, in week 8. The analytical part will require you to reflect on the relationship between free speech and the public sphere after watching the 2017 Netflix documentary Nobody Speak: The Trials of the Free Press. In approximately 1000 -1200 words you are expected to outline how questions concerning media content, free expression, politics, finance, media audiences and individual privacy shape the debates around the public sphere. Why freedom is central to all debates around media and the publics? Are there legal, ethical, aesthetic, normative, financial, or gender limits to media contents? What may justify such limits? What justifies the lack of limits? In the second, creative part, of your midterm you are expected to create a video rant on the topic of freedom of expression and the public sphere. In your video rant you should tell a story of no more than 120 seconds (2 minutes) that you have filmed yourself. The story should be a comment of social, political, cultural or economic issues related to freedom of expression and the public sphere. Your rant must have a point of view. This means you must take a position on the issue that you are highlighting. You are free to share your own comments on the documentary Nobody Speak in your video rant. You can criticize the main parties in the documentary or admire them, you can comment on whether Netflix was a responsible producer and objective ‘reporter’, or you can imagine a debate around the topic of the public sphere through the eyes of the main participants in the documentary. Details, suggested approaches and rubrics for both parts of your midterm will be provided in class.

Note about the midterm exam: your midterm exam will be designed in a way that tests knowledge from Chapters 1 – 6 in the textbook. It will be impossible for you to do the two parts of your midterm if you do not come regularly to lectures and go regularly to tutorials.

Op-Ed: This assignment will ask students to write an op-ed piece (800-900 words) on a topical issue of their choice. Students can submit the op-ed to a publication. Any published op-eds will earn extra credit. Further description and rubric will be provided. 

Media & Society Analysis: This assignment will ask students to write an analysis (1300-1500 words) on a core debate regarding media and society. A list of possible topics will be provided. Other topics must be cleared with the TA. This assignment may be completed as a written assignment. Further description of each option and rubric will be provided. 

Final Exam: Scheduled by the University. The final exam will cover topics from the second half of the course (Chapters 6-12): media audiences, technology and communication, media sectors, political economy of media, journalism, international communication, and media in the digital age. The final exam will be a mixed format (multiple choice and true/false questions). Comprehensive review and preparation for the final exam will be done both in lectures and tutorials.


Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Announcements: The instructor reserves the right to make adjustments in the schedule.

Regardless of attendance, students are responsible for all announcements made in class, including adjustments to readings and assignments. Students are responsible for regularly checking A2L for any information that may be distributed online.

Class Environment: It is important that this course be an inclusive classroom. The course will involve a high level of interaction, especially in tutorial, and some disagreement about issues is expected. It is important that each individual is free to contribute, so I ask that we respect each voice in the class, and build an inclusive classroom. Any online interaction must also follow these guidelines.

Avenue 2 Learn: In this class, we will be using A2L. 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 email 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 instructor.

Assignment Submission/Turn It In: All papers/assignments must be typed, dated and titled in 12-point font, stapled, and include page numbers. Heading must include TA’s name and tutorial section. Please use APA citation style for in-text citation and bibliography. Double-sided printing is fine. All assignments are due AT THE BEGINNING OF TUTORIAL. The TA’s and the instructor retain the right to demand submission of all written assignments to Turn It In (on A2L) in cases when plagiarism is suspected. For all assignments, you will find drop boxes on A2L.

Late Assignments:  ONLY the Op-Ed and the Media Analysis Assignments will be accepted without penalty within 5 days from the official deadline. After the passing of the five-day grace period, your TA’s will not accept late assignments and you will be assigned a grade of zero (0%). Please note, if you choose to use an MSAF for a late assignment that the MSAF is for a maximum period of three days, and can only be used for the assignment’s due date, so even if you submit an MSAF, you will not get additional time beyond the five-day grace period. Note that your midterm is worth 25 per cent of your final grade and as per the university policy you are not allowed to use MSAF for it. All late midterm exams will incur a late penalty of 10% per day late (starting immediately upon collection of papers in your tutorial group); weekend days are treated the same as week days, due to the fact that you can submit your assignments on A2L. Midterm exams more than 7 days late will not be accepted and will be assigned a grade of zero (0%)

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

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 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 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:

Course Schedule






Week 1

January 4

Introduction to the Course

Course Outline/Materials on A2L


Week 2

Jan 8 &11

Media & Society

Ch 1

Tutorials Begin

Week 3

Jan 15 & 18

Communication: Social and Cultural Forms

Ch 2


Week 4

Jan 22 & 25

Media History and Canadian Context

Ch 3


Week 5

Jan 29 & Feb 1

Media Content and Meaning

Ch 4


Week 6

Feb 5 & 8

Media Audiences


Ch 5


Op-Ed Assignment

(Due in tutorial)

Week 7

Feb 12 & 15

Technology & Communication


Screening and discussion:

Black Mirror, episode The Entire History of You

Ch 6


Week 8

Reading Week



Week 9

Feb 26 & Mar 1

Formation of Communication Policy




Media Sectors



Ch 7 & 8

Take-home midterm exam, Part 1 and Part 2 (Due in tutorial)

Week 10

Mar 5 & 8

Political Economy of the Media

Ch 9


Week 11

Mar 12 & 15

Journalism, News & Democracy

Ch 10


Week 12

Mar 19 & 22

Globalization and International Communication

Ch 11

Media & Society Analysis (Due in tutorial)


Week 13

Mar 26 & 29

Communication in a Digital Age


Screening and discussion:

Black Mirror, episode Nosedive


Ch 12


Week 14

April 2 & 5




Week 15

April 9



Final exam remarks


Final Exam

April Exam Period

Chapters 6-12 from the textbook. Cumulative, mixed format.