Back To School: A Syllabus For Media Studies

  • by September 16, 2004
It's that time of year again: back to school. Since education is a lifelong experience, and the new school year has just begun, I thought it would be a perfect time to review what could be the core curriculum that everyone in the on- and off-line media business should be studying this fall.

CIK 101

In this introductory seminar for majors and non-majors, we explore the fundamental relationship between content and audience. What makes Content king? Students will be exposed to a variety of media to evaluate how content adapts across outlets to attract and retain unique, loyal audiences.

CIK 301

Using historical and biographical texts, we trace content's evolution from Sanskrit through post-twentieth-century mass communications. We examine the changing nature of content in a high-speed, high-tech epoch with special attention to the dissolution of media brands and the ascendancy of Citizen Media. Students are given the opportunity to develop their own content for publication across any platform--with full credit for solutions that transcend impersonal subscriber boundaries--resulting in an involved, passionate media community.

ADV 101

Consumers are exposed to thousands of advertising messages per day. How has this super-saturated condition affected the ability of advertising to persuade? Does advertising work anymore? In Advertising 101, we explore the evolution of advertising in a crowded world from persuasive art form to blunt instrument. We examine the reactions of consumers to advertising and how those reactions can be affected by time and place. We pay special attention to how the advantages of time and place are enhanced by a fragmented media world, and how that advantage contends with advertising's desire to have the media world brought back together.

AM201 - LAB

You can't manage what you can't measure; you can't measure what you can't see. Audits and Measures exposes students to the tools that help create a visible media universe. Here, media innovation supports media intuition. Students will learn to work with standard formulas and reports, along with outside agencies (BPA Worldwide, Nielsen, Arbitron) to help with the calculative process of media planning. Weekly lab assignments will provide students with hands-on exposure to the essentials connected with problem solving and risk-taking.


Does media reflect society or shape it? First-year students will evaluate the media's ability to impact and define groups of people by demographic and psychographic characteristics. To what extent is there a cause-and-effect relationship between media content and audience predilection? This course sets aside standard texts in favor of current event periodicals and programming to study the impact of relevancy, bias, and environment on attitude and choice. Students will be required to follow the media migration of different audience subjects to understand the extent to which media has a determining effect on individuals.


It was said once upon a time about people in the railroad business that they didn't know they were in the transportation business, which led to the collapse of their industry when the market changed. Other observers suggested later that the problem with people in the railroad business was simply that they loved the railroad business, which made change impossible. In this 200-level requirement for media major candidates, we will examine the competing market forces that are helping to radically alter the media industry. We will explore the ways that technology is helping to empower a new generation of media players and the response of media barons. How has the Internet fundamentally affected the economics of the marketplace? Who controls the means of media distribution in the future? This course relies on recent case studies from the Internet bubble in addition to standard texts. Considerable rewriting involved.

Jarvis Coffin III is the president and chief executive officer of BURST! Media, Burlington, Mass.

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