Communication and Media Studies 300

COMS 300: Media History

Prerequisite: COMS 130 or permission of instructor

Credit Hours: (3)

Tracing the tributaries of concepts and practices of American journalism, including events, personalities and institutions that influenced media from the colonial period to the present.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

This course fulfills the curricular objective of having all majors gain an understanding of the heritage and evolution of American media. It differs somewhat from the traditional course in media journalism history in that it systematically examines the main currents of thought and the great ideas of Western culture in periods of history that parallel development in media history.

For the study of media history, students are required to read The Press and America by Michael Emery and Edwin Emery, and to write a research paper on some aspect of American media history. Students will also examine documents relating to specific events or periods. Paralleling the study of the history of media, students will conduct group research and discussion of main currents of philosophical thought and the developing frontiers of knowledge in the fields of economics, science and technology, education and social development. Students will be asked to look for evidence that the institutions and practices of American media have been influenced by these ideas and movements. Paralleling the study of media in the periods of colonialism and the early republic is a study of the philosophical heritage of the 17th and 18th centuries (the ideas of such thinkers as Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, Rousseau).

Moving to the expansion of the press in the 19th century, students will be introduced to the parallel study of developing thought in the areas of economics and the social and political conditions of modern man (the ideas of such thinkers as James and John Stuart Mills, Marx, the French socialists, Darwin, and others). Into their examination of 20th century media history, students will integrate the study of developing science and technology, as well as the impact of American pragmatism (William James, John Dewey and others). Moving into the study of contemporary American media, students will examine the impact of newer media and the accompanying social criticism.


Detailed Description of the Conduct of Course

The required text in media history will serve to anchor the course and define the units of study. Each period of history will be explored through a combination of lecture and discussion. For the parallel studies of philosophical background to media history, students will work in groups, or panels, and make oral presentations of their findings. These reports will be followed by discussion periods with the instructor serving as moderator and facilitator.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

1. Students will learn the historical basis and antecedents of modern media practices and institutions.
2. Students will develop skills in historical research and to synthesize the findings from historical research.
3. Students will practice written and oral communication skills as they prepare papers and present their findings.


Assessment Measures

Three tests will measure student comprehension of American media history. A research paper will be used to evaluate the students' library research skills and writing skills. Students skills in preparing panel presentations, conducting research, and engaging in critical thinking and discussion, will be evaluated.


Other Course Information



Review and Approval

Joe Flickinger, Chair

May, 2011