Introduction to Mass Comm
Information Center
Sample Chapter
Table of Contents
About the Author
What's New
Feature Summary
Supplement List
NBC News Archives

Student Edition
Instructor Edition
Introduction to Mass Communication: Media Literacy and Culture: Updated Media Enhanced 3rd Edition, 3/e

Stanley J. Baran, Bryant College

ISBN: 0072827580
Copyright year: 2004



ON SEPTEMBER 11, 2001, MILLIONS OF AMERICANS—IN FACT, millions of people around the globe—went to bed in shock. The world had changed. The United States no longer seemed invincible. Americans no longer felt safe at home. As everyone, from politicians to pundits to the people next door, said, “Nothing would ever be the same again.” Much, in fact, is the same; but not our view of the mass media. The questions we were asking about media in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and the questions we are raising now are shaped in large part by what happened on that horrific day.

At first we were impressed, even moved, by the performance of our mass media. The coverage of the attack and rescue effort in all media was thorough, knowledgeable, courageous, even-handed, and sensitive. But then we started asking, Why were we caught so badly by surprise? Why didn’t we know about the anti-American feelings in much of the world? Where were the media? Then, with the war on terrorism, new questions arose: How many restrictions on media freedom should we accept in time of war? Should we air, unedited, the videotaped ranting of Osama bin Laden? How much should we trust reports from the Arabic television network Al Jazeera? Are reporters Americans first and journalists second, or are they journalists first and Americans second? How much or how little should the press question government policy and our elected leaders?

But it did not take a cowardly terrorist attack on civilians to start people thinking and talking about the media. September 11 chased from the cultural forum the relentless criticism of the media’s performance in the 2000 presidential elections. Dan Rather said that media professionals did not have egg on their faces after that shameful failure of our democracy; they wore the entire omelet. People questioned the media’s priorities—missing interns garnered more coverage than world events. Others were complaining that movies were starting to look like extra-long commercials, while television commercials were getting increasingly briefer and all media, even novels, were seemingly drowning in more and more advertising. Critics across the political spectrum were concerned that media companies were merging at an unhealthy-for-democracy rate. Concern about media violence and sexual content remained unabated. Furor followed a television network’s proposal to air hard liquor ads. People who had lost their life savings wanted to know what the media were doing while Enron and WorldCom were stealing from them. To First Amendment advocates, new copyright rules designed to thwart digital piracy were undoing two centuries of fair use copyright protection, with consumers and democracy poorer for it.

The media, like sports and politics, are what we talk about. Argue over. Dissect and analyze. Those of us who teach media know that these conversations are essential to the functioning of a democratic society. We also know that what moves these conversations from the realm of chatting and griping to that of effective public discourse is media education—the systematic study of media and their operation in our political and economic system, as well as their contribution to the development and maintenance of the culture that binds us together and defines us. We now call this media education media literacy.

Regardless of what an individual course is called—Introduction to Mass Communication, Introduction to Mass Media, Media and Society, Media and Culture—media literacy has been a part of university media education for more than four decades. The course has long been designed to fulfill the following goals:
  • to increase students’ knowledge and understanding of the mass communication process and the mass media industries;
  • to increase students’ awareness of how they interact with those industries and with media content to create meaning;
  • and to help students become more skilled and knowledgeable consumers of media content.

These are all aspects of media literacy as it is now understood. This text makes explicit what has been implicit for so long: that media literacy skills can and should be taught directly and that, as we travel through the 21st century, media literacy is an essential survival skill for everyone in our society.

This focus on media literacy grows naturally out of a cultural perspective on mass communication. This text takes the position that media, audiences, and culture develop and evolve in concert. The current prevailing notion in the discipline of mass communication is that, although not all individuals are directly affected by every media message they encounter, the media nonetheless do have important cultural effects. Today, the media are accepted as powerful forces in the process through which we come to know ourselves and one another. They function both as a forum in which issues are debated and as the storytellers that carry our beliefs across time and space. Through these roles, the media are central to the creation and maintenance of both our dominant culture and our various bounded cultures.

This cultural orientation toward mass communication and the media places much responsibility on media consumers. In the past, people were considered either victims of media influence or impervious to it. The cultural orientation asserts that audience members are as much a part of the mass communication process as are the media technologies and industries. As important agents in the creation and maintenance of their own culture, audience members have an obligation not only to participate in the process of mass communication but also to participate actively, appropriately, and effectively. In other words, they must bring media literacy—the ability to effectively and efficiently comprehend and use mass media—to the mass communication process.

Features of This Text
The features that made this text successful in its earlier editions have been retained in this revision.
  • Emphasis on developing media literacy. The pedagogical features of this book are designed to support and improve media literacy skills. Chapter 2 lays out the elements of media literacy, and an emphasis on media literacy is woven throughout the text. Each chapter from Chapter 3 to 15 contains a section, specific to that chapter’s medium or issue, on developing media literacy skills. For example, Chapter 4, Newspapers, offers guidelines for interpreting the relative placement of newspaper stories. Chapter 8, Television, discusses how to identify staged news events on television. Other media literacy topics include recognizing product placements in movies, evaluating news based on anonymous sources, and protecting personal privacy on the Internet.
  • Cultural perspective. The media—either as forums in which important issues are debated or as storytellers that carry our beliefs and values across people, space, and time—are central to the creation and maintenance of our various cultures. This book advocates the idea that media audiences can take a more active role in the mass communication process and help shape the cultures that, in turn, shape them.
  • Brief historical sections. Historical sections at the beginning of each chapter on a medium offer relevant background information for students. By providing historical context, these sections help students understand current issues in the media landscape.
  • Focus on convergence. Each chapter on a medium includes a section called Trends and Convergence. These sections emphasize the influence of new technologies on media and society.
  • Pedagogical boxes included throughout the text. These boxes give students a deeper understanding of media-related issues and the role of media in society.
Using Media to Make a Difference These boxes highlight interesting examples of how media practitioners and audiences use the mass communication process to further important social, political, or cultural causes. For example, Chapter 6, Film, highlights the African American films and film industry that grew up in response to the D. W. Griffith film, The Birth of a Nation.

Cultural Forum These boxes highlight media-related cultural issues that are currently debated in the mass media. Titles include, for example, Advertorials Aimed at Young Girls; Concentration, Conglomeration, and 9/11; and Does DVR Make You a Thief?

Media Echoes These boxes demonstrate that the cultural and social debates surrounding the different media tend to be repeated throughout history, regardless of the technology or era in question. For example, the public relations chapter discusses early PR efforts to encourage women to smoke, and the advertising chapter covers advertisers’ more recent attempts to attract teenage smokers.

Key Changes to the Third Edition Although the book maintains its commitment to critical thinking throughout its pages, several important changes were made to enhance and update this, the third edition.
  • A fourth pedagogical box, Living Media Literacy, has been added to each chapter. These brief, chapter-ending essays suggest ways in which students can put what they have learned into practice. They are calls to action—personal, social, educational, political. Their goal is to make media literacy a living enterprise, something that has value in how students interact with the culture and media. Several use the stories of “everyday people” who have made a difference. Indicative titles are: Start a City-Wide Book Conversation, Help a School Start an Online Newspaper, and Smoke-Free Movies.
  • Three important changes have been made to the text’s structure. First, cable is now discussed at length in its own chapter, Cable and Other Multichannel Services. This has been done in recognition of cable’s new (and potentially greater) role in the delivery of all media to consumers’ homes. Naturally, the economic, regulatory, and cultural issues surrounding this venerable medium are changing and worthy of comment. Second, mass communication theories and the effects of mass media have been combined into one chapter, producing a more seamless discussion of the relationship between how we think and what we think about media’s impact. Finally, the chapter on the Internet and the World Wide Web has been moved to follow the chapters on the more traditional media, placing it in a more appropriate chronological location for studying their relationship with other forms of mass communication.
  • Every chapter has been informed by the events of September 11 and the war on terrorism. Chapter 10’s discussion of privacy, for example, contains an examination of the difficulty in balancing privacy and security in time of war. Concentration and conglomeration and their contribution to the decline of international coverage are part of Chapter 1. The ethical questions raised by 9/11 and the war on terrorism are presented: Do a reporter’s patriotism and journalism conflict? What are acceptable levels of criticism of public officials in wartime? What are acceptable levels of government censorship? How much access should media professionals have to battle zones? How should advertisers make use of the tragedy?
  • Chapters are now introduced by graphically attractive historical timelines of the medium or issue under discussion and a list of the chapter’s learning objectives.
  • In previous editions each chapter closed with a chapter review, review questions, questions for discussion, and a listing of important resources. These pedagogical features are now accompanied by a list of key terms.
  • URLs of important or interesting Web sites are placed in page margins near concepts they are designed to support.
  • Boxes have been updated to cover current topics and issues. The coverage of international news, book censorship, the erosion of the firewall between newspapers’ sales and news departments, the Pentagon’s Office of Strategic Influence, mandatory cable access for internet service providers, and changes in the way we think about copyright are a few examples.
  • All statistical entries have been updated. These changes include new information on Internet demographics, new media consumption statistics, and new statistics for all media sales and circulation figures.
  • Coverage of media ownership has been updated to the extent possible. Although it is challenging to keep up with changes in media ownership, we have made a diligent effort to provide the most recent information on mergers and acquisitions in media conglomerate ownership.

Learning Aids
Several types of learning aids are included in the book to support student learning and to enhance media literacy skills.
  • World Wide Web URLs in the margins of every chapter enable students to locate additional resources and encourage students to practice using the Internet.
  • Photo essays raise provocative questions, encouraging students to further develop their critical thinking and analytical skills.
  • Important Resources, an annotated listing of books and articles for further reading, provides additional information for students.
  • Chapter Reviews allow students to make sure they have focused on each chapter’s most important material.
  • Questions for Review further highlight important content and provide a review of key points.
  • Questions for Critical Thinking and Discussion encourage students to investigate their own cultural assumptions and media use and to engage one another in debate on critical issues.
  • Historical Timelines, Chapter learning objectives, and chapter-ending lists of key terms guide and focus student learning.

Margin icons throughout the text direct students to the CD-ROM Media Tours and NBC video clips encouraging them to further develop their thoughts about the chapter concepts.
  • An exhaustive list of references is provided at the end of the book

Introduction to Mass Communication: Media Literacy and Culture is divided into four parts. Part One, Laying the Groundwork, as its name implies, provides the foundation for the study of mass communication. Chapter 1, Mass Communication, Culture, and Mass Media, defines important concepts and establishes the basic premises of the cultural perspective on mass communication with its focus on media literacy. Chapter 2, Media Literacy and Culture, provides an overview of the development of mass communication and the media and elaborates on the meaning and implications of media literacy.
Part Two, Media, Media Industries, and Media Audiences, includes chapters on the individual mass media technologies and the industries that have grown up around them—books (Chapter 3), newspapers (Chapter 4), magazines (Chapter 5), film (Chapter 6), radio and sound recording (Chapter 7), television (Chapter 8), cable and other multichannel services (Chapter 9) and the Internet and the World Wide Web (Chapter 10). All of these chapters open with a short history of the medium and continue with discussions of the medium and its audiences, the scope and nature of the medium, and current trends and convergence in the industry and technology. Each chapter concludes with a section on developing a media literacy skill specifically related to that medium and a call to action in the form of the Living Media Literacy essays. Throughout each chapter there is a focus not just on the industry and technology but also on cultural issues and the interaction of culture, medium, and audience. For example, in Chapter 10, advances in digital technology and computer networking are discussed in terms of our ability to maintain control of our personal data and our privacy. Chapter 3’s examination of book censorship asks students to challenge their personal commitment to free expression and to reflect on how that commitment speaks to their belief in democracy. Radio and rock ‘n’ roll are connected to a discussion of race relations in America in Chapter 7.
Part Three, Supporting Industries, carries this same approach into two related areas—public relations (Chapter 11) and advertising (Chapter 12). As in the medium-specific chapters, each of these chapters begins with a brief history, continues with a discussion of audience, the scope of the industry, and current trends and convergence, and concludes with guidelines on developing relevant media literacy skills.
Part Four, Mass-Mediated Culture in the Information Age, tackles several important areas. Chapter 13, Theories and effects of Mass Communication, provides a short history of mass communication theory and compares and evaluates the field’s major theories. It then explores the ongoing debate over media effects. The chapter considers such topics as media and violence, media and gender and racial/ethnic stereotyping, and media and the electoral process. Chapter 14, Media Freedom, Regulation, and Ethics, provides a detailed discussion of the First Amendment, focusing on refinements in interpretation and application made over the years in response to changes in technology and culture. The chapter analyzes such topics and issues as privacy, the use of cameras in the courtroom, and changing definitions of indecency. The chapter concludes with an extended discussion of media ethics and professionalism. Chapter 15, Global Media, looks at media systems in other parts of the world and concludes with a discussion of local cultural integrity versus cultural imperialism.

New and Updated Supplements
The supplements package available with the text includes a full array of tools designed to facilitate both teaching and learning.
  • An Instructor’s Resource Guide, available on the online learning center, provides teaching aids for each chapter, including learning objectives, key terms and concepts, lecture ideas, video suggestions, a guide to using the Media Literacy Worksheets, and a test bank of more than 1,000 test items.
  • Questions in a computerized test bank can be edited and new questions can be added.
  • The Introduction to Mass Communication Student CD-ROM offers students interactive quizzes, summaries, key terms flashcards, activity worksheets, web links, and NBC and Media Tours video clips.
  • New video tapes feature brief clips that bring to life the concepts discussed in the text. Clips are from “NBC News,” “The Today Show,” and McGraw-Hill’s “Media Tours” of a television station and Vibe magazine. An instructor’s guide is packaged with the videos.
  • The Online Learning Center ( has been thoroughly updated. The new site includes Media Literacy worksheets, PowerPoint® slides, a Web tutorial, a bulletin board, a syllabus builder for the instructor, an online study guide, chapter self-quizzes with feedback, hot links to media resources for the student, and more.
  • PowerWeb: Mass Communication is a password-protected Web site that includes current articles from Annual Editions: Mass Media, curriculum-based materials, weekly updates with assessment, informative and timely world news, Web links, research tools, student study tools, interactive exercises, and much more.
  • An Instructor’s CD-ROM (compatible with both Macintosh and IBM computers) offers electronic versions of the Instructor’s Resource Guide, PowerPoint® slides, electronic transparencies, and worksheets.
  • Media Literacy Worksheets and Journal, now online, has been revised to include worksheets for each chapter. Activities direct students to selected Web sites, suggest topics for entries in an ongoing Media Journal, and further explore the media literacy skills highlighted in each chapter. There are more than 75 worksheets in total.
  • PageOut: The Course Website Development Center All online content for this text is supported by WebCT., Blackboard, and other course management systems. Additionally, McGraw-Hill’s PageOut service is available to get you and your course up and running online in a matter of hours, at no cost. PageOut was designed for instructors just beginning to explore Web option. Even the novice computer user can create a course website with a template provided by McGraw-Hill (no programming knowledge necessary). To learn more about PageOut, ask your McGraw-Hill representation for details, or fill out the form at

Any project of this magnitude requires the assistance of many people. My colleague Bob Mendenhall of Southwestern Adventist University was particularly helpful with his sharp eyes and good suggestions.
Reviewers are an indispensable part of the creation of a good textbook. In preparing for this third edition, I was again impressed with the thoughtful comments made by my colleagues in the field. Although I didn’t know them by name, I found myself in long-distance, anonymous debate with several superb thinkers, especially about some of the text’s most important concepts. Their collective keen eye and questioning attitude sharpened each chapter to the benefit of both writer and reader. (Any errors or misstatements that remain in the book are of course my sole responsibility.) Now that I know who they are, I would like to thank the reviewers by name. Third Edition Reviewers: Jenny L. Nelson, Ohio University; Terri Toles Patkin, Eastern Connecticut State University; Alyse Lancaster, University of Miami; Deborah A. Godwin-Starks, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne; Kevin R. Slaugher, George Mason University; Enid Sefcovic, Florida Atlantic University; David Whitt, Nebraska Wesleyan University; Roger Desmond, University of Hartford; Carol S. Lomicky, University of Nebraska at Kearney; Jules d'Hemecourt, Louisiana State University; Junhao Hong, State University of New York at Buffalo; Gary J. Wingenbach, Texas A & M University. Second Edition Reviewers: Rob Bellamy, Duquesne University; Stephen R. Curtis, Jr., East Connecticut State University; Lyombe Eko, University of Maine; Beth Grobman Burruss, DeAnza College; Junhao Hong, State University of New York at Buffalo; Carol Liebler, Syracuse University; Robert Main, California State University, Chico; Stephen Perry, Illinois State University; Eric Pierson, University of San Diego; Ramona Rush, University of Kentucky; Tony Silvia, University of Rhode Island; and Richard Welch, Kennesaw State University. First Edition Reviewers: David Allen, Illinois State University; Sandra Braman, University of Alabama; Tom Grimes, Kansas State University; Kirk Hallahan, Colorado State University; Katharine Heintz-Knowles, University of Washington; Paul Husselbee, Ohio University; Seong Lee, Appalachian State University; Rebecca Ann Lind, University of Illinois at Chicago; Maclyn McClary, Humboldt State University; Guy Meiss, Central Michigan University; Debra Merskin, University of Oregon; Scott R. Olsen, Central Connecticut State University; Ted Pease, Utah State University; Linda Perry, Florida Today newspaper; Elizabeth Perse, University of Delaware; Tina Pieraccini, State University of New York-College at Oswego; Michael Porter, University of Missouri; Peter Pringle, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; Neal Robison, Washington State University; Linda Steiner, Rutgers University; and Don Tomlinson, Texas A & M University.
This edition is the first I have written with the support of my new team at McGraw-Hill. My development editor, Jennie Katsaros, proved to be as polished a professional as she is a lunchtime conversationalist. She intuitively understood the soul of this text and encouraged me to write in its spirit. My editor, Phil Butcher, was questioning and imaginative. Confident in me, he let me write my book. I also want to acknowledge my original editor, Holly Allen. She waited for me to want to write this book. If I had known how skilled a colleague and delightful a friend she would have become, I would have been ready years sooner.
Finally, my most important inspiration throughout the writing of this book has been my family. My wife, Susan, is educated in media literacy and a strong disciple of spreading its lessons far and wide—which she does with zest. Her knowledge and assistance in my writing was invaluable; her love in my life is sustaining. My children—Jordan, Matthew, and Simmony—simply by their existence require that I consider and reconsider what kind of world we will leave for them. I’ve written this text in the hope that it helps make the future for them and their friends better than it might otherwise have been.

Book cover graphic

To obtain an instructor login for this Online Learning Center, ask your local sales representative. If you're an instructor thinking about adopting this textbook, request a free copy for review.