Sociology | Social Problems & Policies
S101 | 3600-3601 | VonDerHaar


S101 Social Problems & Policies    Von DerHaar
2:30-3:45 MW 3600
6:30-9:00 M  3601
Topic: Media & Society

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).