John W. Warnock

Introduction to the Mass Media



University of Regina

Department of Sociology and Social Sciences

Social Studies 110-001 - Introduction to Mass Media

Instructor:  Dr. John W. Warnock                                          

Winter, 1999  


This course is an introduction to the analysis of the role of the mass media in society, with emphasis on Canada.  Special attention will be given to the role of the mass media and communications in relation to the state, ideology, the socialization of the individual, the economic and political development of Canada, and the structure of power.  Students will be introduced to different social science theories on the role of the mass media in state societies. The class is a requirement for all students planning to enter the School of Journalism.


Readings for the course:


Rowland Lorimer and Jean McNulty, Mass Communications in Canada. Toronto:  Oxford University Press, 1996. 3rd edition. 

Other readings will be handed out in class or placed on the Social Studies 110 overnight reserve in the Main Library. 


There will be a mid term examination on Thursday, February 12. It will count for 25% of the final mark for the course.


There will be one essay assignment, due on Thursday, April 9. It will count for 25% of the final mark.


The final exam will count for 50% of the final mark.

Class Schedule and Readings:


January 6, 8.      Introduction to the Course.


                        Morton Fried, "On the Evolution of Social Stratification and the State."


January 13, 15     The State and social control. 


                           Clifford Jolly and Fred Plog, "The Rise of the State."
                           John Bodley, "Religion in the Service of the State."

January 20, 22     The origin of patriarchy.  


                          Marvin Harris, "The evolution of human gender hierarchies."


 January 27, 29     Social Control and the role of religion.


                           Randall Collins, "The Sociology of God."

February 3, 5      Ideology and domination.  


                         John B. Thompson, "The Concept of Ideology." 

 February 10      Socialization and structural functionalism.


                        Murray Knuttila, "Socialization." Chapter 4 in Sociology Revisited.

                        Copies of this book are on two-hour reserve in the Main Library.


February 12        Mid-term examination.


February 15         Mid Term Reading Break. No classes. 


February  24, 26  Harold Innis and the metorpolitan-hinterland model of culture and the mass media.

                          Lorimer & McNulty, Chapters 3 and 11.
 March 3, 5        Structural Functionalist theory of the mass media in Canada.  


                        John Porter, "The Ideological System: The Mass Media."  

                        Lorimer & McNulty, Chapter 1.

March 10, 12     Noam Chomsky and the propaganda model of the mass media. 


                        Noam Chomsky, "The Propaganda Model."

                        Lorimer & McNulty, Chapters 2 and 5.

March 17, 19     The problem of American domination of the mass media in Canada.


                        Lorimer & McNulty, Chapters 6 and 10.

March 24, 26    Concentration of ownership of the mass media in Canada.


                       Lorimer & McNulty, Chapters 7 & 8.
                       Robert W. McChesney, "The Global Media Giants; the Nine Firms that Dominate the World." Extra, Nov-Dec 1997, pp. 11-18.

March 31, April 2    Mass media in times of crises and the concept of the gatekeepers. 


                       A. Kent McDougall, "Boring Within the Bourgeois Press." Monthly Review, Vol. 40, Nos. 6 & 7, November-December 1988.

April 7, 9       Canadian mass media in the era of the new technologies.


                    Lorimer & McNulty, Chapters 9 and 12.


April 9        Essay due. 


April 14      Final exam


Essay Assignment: Due Date: April 9, 1999 Prepare an essay of around 5 pages of text (1200 words), double-spaced, and typewritten if possible. The essay is worth 25 marks. There will be discussion in class of the individual topics. 


Sociologists and anthropologists have focused on the role of ideology in creating social cohesion in egalitarian society and  providing social control in state societies which are characterized by significant differences in power due to inequalities of wealth, income, status, race and gender.  


In the present era of neoliberalism, there is a world wide trend by governments to cut back the welfare state, one of the primary techniques used in industrialized societies to reduce conflict among disaffected groups and classes. As a result governments have had to rely more on coercive techniques to achieve social control.


But in addition, the mass media plays a very important role in creating social control. This course focuses on three sociological theories which attempt to explain the role of the media:


     (1) The structural functionalist theory, represented by John Porter's The Vertical Mosaic.
     (2) Conflict theory, represented by John B. Thompson's Rethinking Ideology.
     (3) The propaganda model, represented by Noam Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent. 


Within the context of the ideological role of the mass media in the creation of social control, address one of the following topics in your essay: 


(1) The expansion of spectator sports, particularly on television. 


(2) The role of talk show radio or television. 


(3) Newspaper coverage of youth crime. 


(4) Newspaper coverage of minorities. 


(5) Sex role stereotyping in either programming or advertising on Canadian television.




(a) The essay should include an introduction defining the question you are addressing and a conclusion summarizing your findings. 


(b) The student must carry out a research survey of the appropriate media and describe the approach used. 


(c) You must include an analysis of what you have found. Explain which of the three sociological theories of the mass media listed above appears to best explain your findings. 


(d) Students are expected to use footnotes and a bibliography, where relevant, and to write clearly using good English. 


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: For the above essay topics, there are individual readings on the Social Studies 110 reserve in the Main Library which illustrate some aspects of the issue. They are as follows: 


(1) Douglas Kellner, "Sports, Media Culture, and Race - Some Reflections on Michael Jordan," Sociology of Sport Journal, XIII, July 1996, pp. 458-467; Mariah Burton Nelson, The Stronger Women Get, the More Men Love Football. New York:  Harcourt Brace & Co, 1994.


(2) Wayne Munson, All Talk; The Talkshow in Media Culture. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993.  


(3) Bernard Schissel, "The Study of the Hatred of Children." Chapter 1 in Blaming Children.  


(4) John Miller, "How Canada's Daily Newspapers Shut Out Minorities," Media, I, No. 2, July 1994, pp. 30-32. 


(5) Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). Task Force on Sex-Role Stereotyping in the Broadcast Media.  Final Report, 1982, 1985. 


(6) Mallory Wober and Barry Gunter. Television and Social Control. New York:  St. Martin's Press, 1988.

John B. Thompson, The Concept of Ideology:  


   "The analysis of ideology, according to the conception which I shall propose, is primarily concerned with the ways in which symbolic forms intersect with relations of power. It is concerned with the ways in which meaning is mobilized in the social world and serves thereby to bolster up individuals and groups who occupy positions of power. Let me define this focus more sharply: to study ideology is to study the ways in which meaning serves to establish and sustain relations of domination."

Herbert Schiller, Information and the Crisis Economy:   


"The media's great myths. These myths are the media's greatest manipulative triumphs. They create the ‘symbolic environment' for the society as a whole. The myths penetrate the innermost recesses of consciousness and affect the basic values, attitudes, and beliefs - and eventually volition and action themselves - of viewers,  listeners, and readers.    


     (1) the myth of individualism and personal choice;
     (2) the myth that key social institutions are neutral instead of serving concentrated wealth and power;
     (3) the myth that human nature does not change, despite the myth makers' successes in helping to change it;
     (4) the myth of the absence of serious social conflict; and
     (5) the myth of media pluralism.

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