Sociology | Social Problems and Policies (Topic: Media and Society)
S101 | 3653 | Chris VonDerHaar


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).