Professor Jim Carney

Com 418 Mass Media & Public Policy

CNR CMA 649 Corp Video Prod.
Com 418 Mass Media & Public Policy
Broadcast Workshop Com 200
Broadcast Journalism Com 317
Broadcast Programming COM 417

Spring 2006



COM 418  - Mass Media & Public Policy

Instructor – Jim Carney

Wednesdays 3:30-6:00 PM

Office Hours: Wed. 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM & By appointment

Phone: 960-7733; Carman Room 267  Email:


Course Description:

This course is designed to expose students to the history and processes which create, influence and regulate Mass Media and Journalism in America. Analysis of the legal, political and organic elements of media policy will be examined including significant Supreme Court rulings regarding communications matters. Extensive analysis of the ethics in mass media and journalism will also be a major component of the class. Class will include discussion and analysis of current examples of ethical and policy matters facing Communications professionals and journalists.

Course Objective

The objective of the course is allow students to gain an understanding of how mass media has been structured and continues to be influenced by many diverse in elements ranging from congress, the courts, capitalism and public sentiment.

               Course Requirements

This course requires a minimum proficiency in reading and writing English. Students must be able to prepare assignments in printed text form either through computer or typewriters.  Hand written assignments, except those prepared in class, will not be accepted. 


As we only meet once each week, attendance at all classes is extremely important and expected.  Any more than three absences may subject the student to a reduced grade. If you must miss a class, please let me know IN ADVANCE of your absence.  Material covered in missed classes is the responsibility of the student and absence does not excuse assignments from being submitted on time.  Media is a deadline-based business and so all assignments are due when indicated on this syllabus or as instructed in class. Late assignments will be reduced in grade.  Assignments may be emailed only by prior arrangement.


For the courtesy of fellow students and in order to fully get the most out of the course; please make every effort to get to class on time.  Chronic lateness may also result in a reduced grade.


               This class will be participatory and everyone is expected to join in discussions. A portion of each class will be set aside to discuss observations relating to course materials seen, read or heard during the preceding week. Students are encouraged to collect samples of written material or tapes of audio or video material for discussion.

Grade Evaluation

               A letter grade will be assigned to each student consistent with CUNY grading policy, upon the successful completion of the course.  Grade distribution will be as follows:

               Two quizzes                                                                                                  30 %

               Two 3-4 page papers                                                                                   20 %

               Final Exam                                                                                                    30 %

Attendance/lateness, Participation                                                                           20 %     

Statement of Academic Integrity

               Lehman College and CUNY seek to prepare students for professional roles within their fields. Congruent to the mission of the College, students are held to high standards of ethical and professional practice.  The knowledge of and adherence to standards of professional ethics and practice is an integral part of professional preparation.  Faculty members and students have an obligation to maintain high standards of academic integrity established by the City University of New York. Full information regarding these standards is available in the Lehman College bulletin.




                                                            Class Topics (approximate):

Week 1

2/1         Distribution of Syllabus, introductions and discussion of class objectives                                                                  Assignment (due 2/8): Read Chapter 1

Week 2

2/8         The US Legal System

                         Assignment ( due 2/15) Read Chapter 2 

Week 3

2/15       The Constitution and The First Amendment  (Guest Speaker)

                              Assignment (due 2/22): Read Chapter 3

Week 4

2/22         Public Safety

                              Assignment (due 3/1): Read Chapter 4                      

Week 5

3/1           Quiz #1(on Chap. 1,2,3 )  Defamation & Libel

                              Assignment (due 3/8) Read Chapters 5

Week 6

3/8         Right to Privacy

                              Assignment (due 3/15) Read Chapter 6  & 7            

Week 7

3/15       Access and the Media

                              Assignment (due 3/22) Read Chapter 8

Week 8 

3/22       Creative Property.  Paper #1 due

                              Assignment;  (due 3/29) Read Chapt. 9 & 10

Week 9

3/29       The FCC & Broadcast Licensing,

                              Assignment (due 4/26) Read Chapter 11

Week 10/11       

4/12 & 19            Spring Recess - No Class


Week 12

4/26       Quiz #2 (on Chapt.4 - 10)  Electronic Media & Content

                              Assignment (due 5/3) Read Chapter 12

Week 13

5/3         Obscenity & Indecency.


Week 14

5/10       Commercial Speech  - Paper #2 due


Week 15             

5/17       Last Class, Review & Supreme Court Cases


Week 16

5/26       Final Exam


Text (required): ISBN 0-534-61794-8        Suggested Reading: ISBN 0-205-28986-X

Communications Law - 4 Ed (2004)          Cases in Communications Law (2002)

John D. Zelezny                                                             Paul Siegel

Wadsworth/Thompson Learning                  Allyn and Bacon 

                                                                                                                                       Revised 2/5/06 ethical debate

On The Media
May 6 2005
FOIA'd Again

May 6, 2005

BOB GARFIELD: Last week, the Pentagon released more than 700 photos taken at Dover Air Force base and other military facilities depicting honor guard ceremonies for soldiers killed in war, taken by official military photographers. There's nothing terribly shocking in these images - just solemn processions of flag-draped coffins. But for the public, they were startlingly unfamiliar. The Pentagon bans media from Dover, and it wasn't until University of Delaware Professor Ralph Begleiter sued that the Pentagon granted his FOIA request for the photos. Begleiter took his cue from journalist Russ Kick, who last year also won access to Dover pictures through a FOIA request. Begleiter says this latest release of photos should make it harder for the government to (quote) "hide the human cost of the war from the American people. But it will be up to the people to keep filing those requests. As we just heard, ACLU lawyers have secured reams of documents through FOIA, but as Russ Kick told us last year, ordinary citizens can use FOIA just as effectively. It just takes persistence and time.

RUSS KICK: This is something that, truly, anybody in the country or anybody in the world can do. All you have to do, really, is send a letter to the FOIA office of the agency that you're interested in, and, and tell them what you want. You don't even need to be a citizen, actually.

BOB GARFIELD: Do you believe that FOIA is grossly under-utilized by American media?

RUSS KICK: Oh, definitely. There's been studies that have been done about who is using the FOIA. And it turns out that the media makes up just a tiny fraction of all the requests. It was something along the lines of 10 percent.

BOB GARFIELD: Do you have any evidence to suggest that government agencies intentionally make the process as cumbersome and unrewarding as possible to discourage reporters who, after all, are on deadline, from getting involved in the process to begin with?

RUSS KICK: Oh, definitely. If you'll remember the strategy game Othello, the slogan for that is - "A minute to learn; a lifetime to master." And that's pretty much the way it is [LAUGHTER] with FOIA, because you can learn how to make a request in a minute, but dealing with the stonewalling, the excessive fees and just sometimes outright lies, that's what takes a long time to learn how to work with.

BOB GARFIELD: Well, FOIA Master, bestow on us your, [LAUGHTER] your wisdom.

RUSS KICK: Well, one thing is, under FOIA you have one appeal when you're denied. Always use it. Because there are these various numbered exemptions having to do with national security or personal privacy. They have to name specifically at least one of those. If they don't, which sometimes happens, then you've really got a great case for an appeal. But even if they do name them, you know, you try to think like a lawyer, and figure out why they're wrong to have used that exemption. Most of the time, I've found the appeals don't work. But it's still important to try, and another thing is, one of the tactics that the CIA is using, and they're one of the most popular agencies that get FOIAs, they will automatically send you a letter back saying that you have to agree to pay at least one hundred and fifty dollars for each request before they'll even start processing. And the reason this is something of a trick is because they're hoping, of course, that most people will just say well forget it, you know, I can't afford that. The way I get around that is - when I send in the request in to the CIA, I automatically tell them in the letter that yes, I agree to pay up to one hundred and fifty dollars for this request, and so far I've never had to pay near that much.

BOB GARFIELD: Okay, so let's say I want to find out who paid for President Bush's flight suit in his stunt where he landed on the aircraft carrier to declare the mission accomplished in Iraq. I put a letter in the mail to the FOIA administrator at the Department of Defense and say I'm willing to pay a hundred and fifty dollars for the information. Please send me the appropriate documentation? That's it?

RUSS KICK: Oh, that's pretty much it. Yeah. The only thing is, when you write the letter, you have to say, you know, something along the lines of - This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act. And after that just tell them what you want. It also helps if you tell them whether or not you're an independent researcher or a member of the media or something like that, just so that they can assess fees. And if you're a member of the media, it actually - all fees are supposed to be waived. You know, you don't have to tell them anything about why you want this material, and by law, they're not allowed to ask you that, either.

BOB GARFIELD: All right, Russ. Well, thank you very much.

RUSS KICK: Well, thank you.

BOB GARFIELD: Russ Kick is editor and publisher of the [MUSIC]

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Up next, efforts to control content on PBS and cable, and how America got left in the dust on the information highway.

BOB GARFIELD: This is On the Media, from NPR.

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