JOUR 411 - Race & Diversity in Media
Course description Student learning objectives
Course materials Class protocol
Course basics Assignment policies
Grading & percentages Other stuff you really need to know

Course description

This course uses historical and contemporary media portrayals in exploration of how we develop our perceptions of race and group identity. Diversity is approached from a multicultural perspective that examines how various factors impact the media we, as a culture, consume and the biases we, as individuals, hold.

In particular, we will examine how race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, physical ability, social class, income, education and age are represented in legacy and digital media, as well as how individuals who identify with aspects of those groups function as media audiences and creators of media messages.

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Student learning objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, you should be able to:

  • Evaluate the influence of media representations of race and diversity on U.S. culture;
  • Understand how stereotyping evolves and is perpetuated by media messages;
  • Discuss stereotyping and assess media representations for a range of stereotypes;
  • Identify how cultural and social privilege can influence media and media consumption; and,
  • Critically analyze various assumptions about the difficulties in reaching diverse audiences in historical and the contemporary media climates.

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Course materials

Required textbooks

Pop Culture Freaks: Identity, Mass Media & Society (2014), Dustin Kidd
Social Media Freaks: Digital Identity in the Network Society (2017), Dustin Kidd

Plus online readings assigned in the daily schedule on the course website.

Note: Please do reading for the day’s discussion before you come to class. This will allow you to contribute to the conversation and ask questions, both of which will help your understanding of the material and grade in the class.

Required program

Adobe Spark (free online app that you'll use on your journaling assignment)

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Class protocol

  1. Show up. This should be a big DUH, but there are times when life gets in the way. But if you miss class, you can’t participate and you miss content that will be helpful for assignments and exams.

  2. Be prepared. Most classroom activities are lectures/discussions. Do your reading before class so you have a basic understanding of the topic at hand. There are no wrong opinions or stupid questions. There are, however, questions that reflect a lack of attention to reading and class topics.

  3. Be on time. Tardiness is disruptive and will result in lower participation grades. That said, I’d rather have you in class a few minutes late than not at all.

  4. Consume media. We will discuss current topics relating to race and diversity in the media, which includes, traditional print and online sources, made-for-television programs (both network and streaming), social media, movies (in the theater, on DVD, streaming), music, etc. Be on the lookout for media that reflects trending topics regarding power, privilege, race and diversity.

  5. Stow your devices. I don’t want to see your phone, tablet and/or laptop in class unless you are invited to get it out to participate in an in-class exercise. Please do not record, shoot video or take photos during lectures or class discussions without prior consultation with your instructor and classmates.

  6. Open your mind. Look at the course title… What are the odds that you will not feel challenged, offended and have your identities and biases exposed at some point during the semester? But I also expect you will feel enlightened and empowered and the honest and open sharing of your personal experiences will be embraced and supported.

  7. Practice restraint and respect. You are not expected to agree with everything you read or hear. You are expected to be considerate of other viewpoints and respectfully provide your own. Tall order, but we’ll work on this very important skill together.

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Course basics

Preparation and Participation

This class comprises lecture and discussion, but the emphasis will clearly be on discussion.
All students should expect to actively participate in class. Over participation and active participation are not the same thing. The success of this class depends on everyone feeling like they can contribute, so be willing to listen to others as well as be willing to speak up.

Active participation means you should:

    • Read. Think. Write down at least three questions, ideas or insights gained from the reading and you’ll be ready to participate.

    • Attend. Just can’t emphasize this enough.

    • Actively listen. This means you need to be paying attention to and hear what others are saying.

    • Synthesize. Pull together what has been said to form a new insight, question, or conclusion.

    • Share. Contribute materials you find outside class, such as videos and news articles relevant to the course.

    • Respect. It’s OK to disagree, but please do so constructively. Part of our work together is to contribute to a supportive learning atmosphere.

Please refer to the Participation Rubric (linked here and in BBLearn) for information on how participation over the course of the semester will be graded.

Attendance Policy

Regular attendance and being ready for class are not only encouraged, but required to pass this course. A sign-in sheet will be passed around in each class.

One absence will be excused without penalty. Additional absences will not be excused without official written documentation (e.g., from a medical doctor, mental health care provider, court of law, funeral home). Each unexcused absence will result in a reduction in your final grade.

There will be no make-ups for in-class assignments or quizzes missed due to unexcused absences. An excused absence is one for which arrangements have been made with me prior to the absence.

Please arrive to class on time. Recurrent tardiness will result in a grade reduction. Three late arrivals = one unexcused absence.

Dropping the Class

You may drop classes via the portal without restriction until Friday, Sept. 1. After that date adds and/or drops will require the instructor’s signature. Drops after Sept. 15 will result in a “W” notation on your transcripts and require signatures from the instructor, department chair and dean, along with documentation of a “serious and compelling reason” for late withdrawal.

Email & Office Hours

Office hours are your time. Please feel free to stop by with questions about lecture or assignments, advising or other help relating to your academic success.

Email is a great way to ask me questions and I enjoy the flexibility of answering at my convenience wherever I may be. But please keep in mind that I do have set office hours and that your 2:45 a.m. Saturday email may not be answered until my office hours Monday. Then again, if I’m having insomnia, you may hear from me at 3 a.m.

Even if you never come to my office because we’re solving your issues via email, please remember that you’re actually getting the benefit of office hours.

Please remember that emailing me is an exercise in professional communication. All emails to faculty and staff should include a clear subject line (JOUR 411 question), a greeting (Hi, Dr. Wiesinger), a clear request, a closing (Thank you for your time.) and your name at the end.

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Assignment policies

Assignments will not be accepted beyond their due date and must be presented in person. If you know you will be gone the day an assignment is due, make arrangements to get the work to me in advance.

Written Assignments

Written work will be evaluated in terms of content but also style and grammar.
All assignments must be typed, double-spaced and written using Associated Press style unless otherwise noted by the instructor. Font should be Times or Times New Roman with 12-point size and one-inch margins on all sides. Papers should be stapled in the upper left-hand corner, if more than one page.

It is your responsibility to print out assignments. Papers sent via email will not be accepted. It is in your best interests to keep a copy of all assignments until the end of the course.

Team Assignments

The class requires a combination of individual and team work. I expect you to adhere to all deadlines and/or communicate any challenges well before your assignments are due. You’re expected to show up for your teammates and fully participate in the completion of your team’s final project. Feedback from your team members will factor into your grade for the final assignment.

Late Work     

I do not accept late work nor do I accept emailed assignments. All assignments are due at the beginning of class on the date indicated by me and/or in the syllabus. After I collect the papers, the assignment will be considered late and a grade of 0 will be recorded for that assignment.

In the case of extenuating circumstances, I may allow late work to be submitted. This is on a case-by-case basis and arrangements must be made prior to the date the assignment is due. Any claim of illness must be supported with a relevant doctor’s note or some other sort of documentation. Miscellaneous printer problems, while tragic, will not be accepted as an excuse for late assignments.


As a senior-level class, I expect students to conduct themselves as they would in the workplaces they’re preparing to enter. You should arrive on time, turn in work on time, be prepared for class and be attentive to class discussions. All homework, unless specified by the instructor, should be neatly typed, with the student’s name and the date at the top. As in any journalism class, grammar and spelling errors will result in a deduction.

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Grading & percentages


Attendance & Participation    300 points   30%

Spark Synthesis Journal   100 points   15%

Media Consumption   200 points   15%

Auto-ethnography   200 points   20%

Final Project   300 points   20%


Total =   1,000 points   100%

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Grade Definitions/Grading Scale

A= 90-100% – Outstanding; always exceeds expectations
B= 80-89% – Above average; sometimes exceeds expectations
C= 70-79% – Meets expectations
D= 60-69% – Fails to meet expectations in most areas
F= >=59% – Fails to meet basic course requirements

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Other things you really need to know

Academic integrity

All assignments will be discussed in detail in class. All work submitted by you should be your original effort for this class only. Plagiarism of any kind will result in an automatic fail.

 If you need a brush-up on what might constitute plagiarism, please review the university's policy, EM 04-36. If you violate the policies of this class or the student conduct codes for this university, particularly those relating to academic integrity, you will face consequences ranging from an "F" on the offending assignment, an "F" in the course, an appointment with Student Judicial Affairs, and/or expulsion from the university.

Disability Accommodation

If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, injury or chronic illness, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible or see me during office hours.

Please also contact Accessibility Resource Center, which is the designated department responsible for approving and coordinating reasonable accommodations and services for students with disabilities. ARC will help you understand your rights and responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act and provide you further assistance with requesting and arranging accommodations.

General Conduct

Chico State and the Department of J&PR are committed to creating a positive, supportive learning environment that welcomes a diversity of opinions. At no time will racial discrimination or harassment, sexual discrimination or harassment or discrimination based on age, ability, sexual orientation, religion, political persuasion or socio-economic status be tolerated.

Confidentiality & Mandatory Reporting

I have a mandatory reporting responsibility under Title IX. It is my goal that you feel able to share information related to your life experiences in classroom discussions, in your written work and in our one-on-one meetings. I will seek to keep information you share private to the greatest extent possible. However, I am required to share information regarding sex discrimination and/or sexual misconduct (such as harassment or violence) with the university. Students may speak to someone confidentially by contacting the Counseling and Wellness Center, Safe Place or Student Health Center.

Safe Zone

I am part of the Safe Zone Ally community network of trained Chico State faculty/staff/students who are available to listen and support you in a safe and confidential manner. As a Safe Zone Ally, I can help you connect with resources on campus to address problems that interfere with your academic and social success on campus with regard to issues surrounding sexual orientation/gender identity.

Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry

The Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry provides nutritious food, CalFresh food program assistance and referral services for students experiencing food insecurity (those not having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food). If you are a Chico State undergraduate or graduate student who is experiencing food insecurity, then you are eligible to use the Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry. Questions? Call the Pantry: 530-898-6131

Hours & locations:

Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry, Siskiyou 109A, Monday – Thursday from Noon – 4 PM.
Student Affairs, Kendall Hall, Room 110, Monday - Friday from 8 AM - 4 PM.
Center for Healthy Communities, CalFresh Outreach Office, 25 Main Street, Monday - Friday from 10 AM - 4 PM

No Smoking Campus

Chico State is a tobacco- and smoke-free campus. This means use of cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, e-cigs and vaping are prohibited in indoor and outdoor spaces, including parking lots, sidewalks, and both on- and off-campus University housing grounds.

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Susan Wiesinger  |  Department of Journalism & Public Relations |  California State University, Chico