Sociology | Media & Society
S339 | 4126 | VonDerHaar
OPEN TO UNDERGRADUATES ONLY
“The most important educational institution in the country is not
Yale or Caltech—it’s television.” ---Newton Minow (1979)
If Minow’s quotation intrigues you, but you are still not sure
whether you should register for this course, take the following
quiz. It will show you what you don’t know about media and society.
1. What’s the difference between a chiphead and a couch potato?
2. If the media serve as the watchdog of government, who serves
as the watchdog of the media?
3. Which of the following qualify as educational television:
Sesame Street, South Park, The Flintstones, America’s Funniest Home
Videos, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids?
4. How many hours per day do children watch television? How
much of that consists of commercials? How do these effect children?
5. How do media portrayals of race, gender, and social class
depart from reality? What effect does that have upon the viewing
6. What kind of media messages are not protected under the First
7. Which newspapers and networks have run stories that turned
out to be fabricated? Which of these have won Pulitzer Prizes?
8. How many commercials are shown during the Superbowl? How
much do they cost? How much time do they take up during this sports
9. What is feeding frenzy?
10. How has advertising shaped American culture? How has
American culture shaped advertising?
If you think you flunked this quiz, you should seriously consider
taking this course. It is your chance not only to learn more about
the media’s role in American society, but it is also an opportunity
to join a forum where you can express your opinion about it.
During the semester we will consider how the media shapes and is
shaped by American culture. This course is specifically designed to
help students improve their critically thinking skills. Every class
will, therefore, involve both the analysis of media and a discussion
of students’ opinions. The first part of the semester will be
devoted to an analysis of the evening news, newsmagazines, and major
newspapers. During the second part, we will examine the role of the
media as a watchdog and a player in national politics. The last part
of the course will be devoted to advertising and media that entertain
us, with a focus on the way ads, television programs, and films
distort our perceptions of race, gender, and social class.
The final grade for this course will be based on three exams, a
project, attendance, and participation.