Possible project, presentation or debate topics for Intro to Mass Media

Here are some topics you can use for your project or presentation for the honors class of Introduction to Mass Media (you are not limited to these topics; in fact, you are encouraged to think of your own topics). Remember, you are required to do both a project (written or multimedia posted on this blog) and a presentation (solo presentation or debate in class), so you need to choose two topics. Here are some possibilities, with topics taken already by students noted in bold:

Profile a magazine: What is its niche? How is it successful (if it is)? How is it responding to digital challenges? What is its business approach? Porter is taken

Profile a dead magazine: How did it succeed? Why did it die? What did it contribute? Life and Double Dealer are taken.

Analyze coverage by the Louisiana media of this year’s race for the U.S. Senate.

Analyze a TV network: What is its history, its niche (if it has a niche), its audience? Why is it successful (if it is)?

Analyze coverage by the Louisiana media of this year’s race for the U.S. Senate.

Analyze coverage by the national media of this year’s race for the U.S. Senate.

Analyze an ethical issue in the news media that arises during the semester. What was the situation? What did the journalist(s) decide to do? What were the consequences? What (if anything) was the criticism? How (and why) might someone else have decided differently?

Analyze how a media organization handles an ethical scandal.

Analyze an issue of diversity in the media: Is it the same across platforms? Does one type of media reflect diversity better than others? What is being done to increase diversity? What are the obstacles to diversity? How much is the lack of diversity due to bias and how much to other cultural issues?

Choose one of the books from the Library of Congress list of Books that Shaped America, and tell how it shaped America and why it was influential. I do expect you to read the book and reflect some knowledge of the book in its contents. But a book report will not be acceptable for your project or presentation. You need to tell us about the influence of the book, not just about the story and the writing. Catcher in the Rye, Cat in the Hat, Streetcar Named Desire, Great Gatsby, Scarlet Letter, 1984 and Little Women taken.

Read a book about disruption and change in the media and discuss how the issues described in the book are playing out in some segment(s) of the media. Some possible books: Here Comes Everybody, What Would Google Do?, Private Parts, The Innovator’s Dilemma or We the Media. Again, your project or presentation should not be a report on the book, but applying what you read in the book to today’s media.

Read one of the books on John Kroll’s list of 100 books every journalist must read and comment on the issues it raises. Explain why every journalist should read it (or why not, if you disagree).

Analyze a cable TV network: its history, what its niche is, how it serves the niche, how (if at all) the niche has changed, why it succeeds or struggles or both. ESPN taken.

Analyze a public controversy in which the media plays/played a key role. This can be a current controversy that unfolds during the semester, or something in the past, such as the downfalls of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and former CBS anchor Dan Rather.

Read Post-Industrial Journalism and analyze how its conclusions are playing out in a segment of the media.

Analyze a radio show (national or local): What is its target audience? How is it serving the audience? How is it succeeding or struggling or both? Walton & Johnson taken.

Profile a newspaper: What is its history, its audience? How has it succeeded? How is it responding to digital challenges and opportunities?

Analyze a digital news product: How did it start? Who’s running it? How is it like traditional news organizations? How is it different? How is it funded? How is it succeeding, struggling or both?

Research and analyze the coverage of Hurricane Katrina by a particular type of media: local newspaper(s), national newspapers, local broadcast, national broadcast, digital.

Read and watch the book and movie versions of a historically and artistically important story (Gone With the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter). Comment on how the medium shapes the story, how the story is the same across media, on the cultural impact of the different versions of the story. Great Gatsby and Streetcar Named Desire taken.

Analyze the impact of a song that influenced America beyond its entertainment value.

Analyze the impact of a movie that influenced America beyond its entertainment value.

Analyze a similarity or a difference between the Gutenberg revoluton and the digital media revolution.

Analyze an advertising campaign. Share a Coke campaign and Bud Light: Down for Whatever are taken.

Analyze a news organization’s digital strategy.

Compare how different media critics or reporters covered a single issue. Or analyze a month’s worth of work by a media critic or reporter. If you’re interested in either of these topics, I’ll give you some possible critics or reporters to consider for the project.

Analyze the quality, reliability, impact and value of  “native advertising” by a particular company or in a particular media outlet.

Analyze the various versions of a single news outlet’s coverage and discuss how the organization tailors the content to platform and repeats content across platforms.

Research/analyze product placement in some movies or television shows. Two students doing this. That’s enough.

Analyze a movie (does not have to be a current movie) with strong media-related themes. What is realistic? Discuss the journalistic issues, business issues, ethical issues, etc. Possibilities: All the President’s Men, The Devil Wears Prada, State of Play, Broadcast News, Network, Newsies, Good Night and Good Luck, Anchorman, The Help, Capote, Deadline USA, etc. Or you can analyze the media themes in a TV show, such as House of Cards or Mad MenWest Wing is taken.

Read the Pew Research Center’s State of the Media report and analyze the conclusions and the impact of the conclusions in a particular section.

Read and watch “All the President’s Men” and analyze how that story might have played out differently in today’s media environment.

Compare an advertiser’s traditional ads with its native advertising and content marketing. Analyze the differences.

Analyze the success of an Internet video performer such as Jessica French.

Analyze the impact of an important radio performer: disc jockeys such as Alan Freed, Casey Kasem, Todd Sturz, Gordon McClendon or Wolfman Jack, or a talk-show host such as Rush Limbaugh, Jim Rome, Laura Schlessinger or Bruce Williams, or a news broadcaster such as Paul Harvey or Nina Totenberg.

Analyze the theories and impact of a media theorist such as Marshall McLuhan or William Gibson.

Analyze a company’s use of social media for public relations. Nike is taken.

Analyze how a company’s public relations professionals respond to a potential threat to its brand.

Analyze the evolution of a particular type of device for producing or distributing content.

Analyze how the net neutrality issue might affect you as a media consumer and in the profession you hope to pursue.

Analyze the development and role of Al Jazeera.

Compare BBC’s coverage of an international news event or issue to the coverage by US TV networks.

Analyze how Google, Facebook and the New York Times have responded to China’s efforts to suppress media freedom. This is taken.

Analyze the differences in media regulation and freedom between the United States and another Western democracy. This is taken.

Analyze how an emerging democracy is dealing with media freedom and regulation issues.

Analyze media coverage of a contemporary event or issue through the lens of a current or historical media theory. How does the coverage support and/or contradict the theory?

Analyze media coverage of a particular contemporary event or issue through the lenses of two contemporary or historical media theories. Which theory better explains the coverage of this issue or event?

Analyze coverage of a political event by multiple media and by voters using social media.

Other topics that are taken:

Cherry Sisters libel case.

Hays Office and movie rating system.

Pulitzer/Hearst rivalry (“Murder of the Century”). 

Comparing media coverage of the Israel/Gaza conflict.

The Pentagon Papers case.

Media coverage of government scandals.

History of USA Today/Al Neuharth’s contributions to journalism.

YouTube celebrities.

Media coverage of Ferguson.

Differences in casting and roles for males, females, and transgenders.

Possible debate topics

To choose a debate, you and a partner must give me a topic and a date and tell me which positions each of you will take on the topic. In most cases, it would be a good idea for you to focus the topic more sharply than I have here, though you don’t have to do that to claim a topic. Many topics are not really argued in black-and-white (or shouldn’t be), but in shades of gray. You don’t have to take diametrically opposed positions that oversimplify and polarize the discussion. You can agree on some basic issues but debate nuances. But you must have different positions that you can debate.  Some examples (but you are not limited to these):

Media bias: You can debate a particular outlet, such as Fox News or MSNBC and discuss whether it is biased or how the bias helps or hurts its credibility. Or you can debate media bias as a whole.

Paywalls: Should news organizations charge for access to their content or make it publicly available at no charge?

Was broadcasting as profound a media revolution as movable type & digital media?

Can (or should) games become a valid journalism tool or are games just for entertainment?

Should journalists be allowed to livetweet/liveblog coverage of trials?

Argue pro and con on some existing or possible regulation of media.

How well does a particular media giant (Murdoch, Google, Facebook, NY Times) serve the public interest? This could be multiple debates, for instance, one pair of students on Murdoch, another on Google, etc.

Argue pro/con about some metric for measuring media success (TV ratings, digital metrics, newspaper audience, etc.

Debate the relative importance of two media pioneers: Edison vs. Berners-Lee, for instance.

Debate the validity and accuracy of two different media theories.

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