Sociology | Social Problems & Policies
S101 | 3949 | VonDerHaar


S101 Social Problems & Policies  (3 CR)
Topic:  Media & Society
3849 3:35-6:15  M        BH103
Von Der Haar

The link between media and society is made nowhere more
self-evident than on the pages of a newspaper.  In fact, the
parts of a paper--the layout--actually reflect the key
components of the social structure.  Major sections are fully
devoted to certain social institutions: politics, the economy,
the justice system, the family, religion, education and, of
course, sports.

Culture has its place, too.  The "women's section" (i.e.
fashion, cooking, social affairs, and Dear Abby), "arts and
entertainment," and the "funny pages" reveal deep secrets about
who we are, who we want to be, and perhaps why the
contradiction between the two is so funny.

But the words that are exchanged through the pages of a
newspaper do not simply entertain the public.  Nor are they
designed just to inform us.  In fact, newspapers often create a
great deal of controversy.  Clearly, they intend to stir up
public debate--to engage the reader.  And the editorial pages
represent, at least symbolically, a forum where readers
consider the pros and cons of issues and ultimately judge them
against society's values.  Ironically, it seems that conflict
vented  through a free press promises to strengthen rather than
weaken society.

Media critics would caution us, however.  They blame television
for the deterioration of society.  Contemporary music lyrics
which spout hatred, racism, sexism, and defiance to authority
take credit for violence--homicides as well as suicides.  And
voters must beware of soundbite-slick, political campaign ads,
which don't always live up to "Honest Abe" standards.

As the above suggests, studying the relationship between the
media and society is challenging and extends far beyond the
scope of this course.  While we will not limit our imaginations
in an examination of media and society, we will divide our
attention into three main areas.  First, we will consider ideas
about how the media influences society.  Second, we will
examine specific relationships between the media and three
institutions: politics, the law, and business (advertising).
Finally, we will look at the relationship between the media and
popular culture (television, movies, and music).