Reading List: Mass Communication & Society

(J611, University Of Oregon, Fall 2018)

Today I kick-off the academic year teaching a new (for me) graduate class; one focussed on Mass Communication and Society. You can read the full syllabus here.

Given my background, there’s a strong emphasis on reading industry reports/data, work from more industry-orientated academic entities — such as the Tow Center for Digital Journalism (Columbia), the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (Oxford) and the Shornstein Center (Harvard) — articles by academics such as Dan Gillmor and Ethan Zuckerman published here on Medium, as well as materials from the trade and mainstream media related to the issues being explored in this class.

Unlike most graduate classes which are steeped in theory and “classic” texts, most of the reading is comes from the past couple of years — in fact much of it is from 2018 — which reflects how quickly this space is changing.

You can read the full reading list below. Suggestions and feedback welcome.

I’m also posting revisions/additions to this list here, as new material emerges.

We have one set text for the term, which brings together many of the themes from this course. Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech (2017), is written by a 2005 alum of the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication, Sara Wachter-Boettcher.

To accommodate different learning styles, where possible, most weeks, I’ve also tried to include one video/podcast too.

Course Background

This class will look at the rapidly changing media landscape, with an emphasis on mass communication platforms and mediums, examining how the transformations unleashed by the digital age are impacting traditional media business models and mainstream media behaviors.

We will explore market trends (including market and consumer data from the United States and elsewhere), as well as how media companies and policy makers are responding to changes in business and advertising/funding models, alongside changes in content consumption and creation.

In doing this, students will be exposed to some of the recurring issues and themes which will underpin their wider graduate study in journalism and communication.

You can find out more about this in the detailed class schedule outlined on the following pages.

Course objectives

• To deepen your awareness of important media issues and the intellectual traditions behind them.

• To heighten your understanding of the role of media in democratic societies, and their influence on public opinion, policy and belief.

• To increase your sensitivity to the personal and societal impact of media.

• To broaden your appreciation of communication studies.

  • To nurture critical thinking grounded by clear analysis and expression.

Week 1: Where are we now? A recent history of changes to media and society

· Special Report from the Economist (July 2011)

o The end of mass media — Coming full circle

o Bulletins from the future, by Tom Standage

o How newspapers are faring — A little local difficulty

o Making news pay — reinventing the newspaper

o Social media — the people formerly known as the audience

o WikiLeaks and other newcomers — Julian Assange and the new wave

o Impartiality — The Foxification of news

· Watch it while it lasts: our golden age of television, by Ian Leslie, Financial Times Magazine (August 2017)

· Are the New ‘Golden Age’ TV Shows the New Novels?, by Adam Kirsch and Mohsin Hamid, New York Times (February 2014)

· What constitutes the Golden Age of Television, and is this it?, by Jeff Ford (Fox Networks), MIP blog (October 2017)

· ‘Mad Men’ at 10: The Last Great Drama of TV’s Golden Age, by Sonia Sraiya, Variety online (July 2017)

· 7 reasons you should pay attention to podcasting, by Damian Radcliffe, Digital Content Next (May 2018)

· Experts Weigh In On The Future Of Advertising, by Giselle Abramovich, (September 2018)

· Key trends shaping technology in 2017, by Monica Anderson, Pew Research Center (December 2017)

· Journalism, Media and Technology Trends and Predictions 2018, by Nic Newman, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (January 2018)

· The UK Communications Market 2018: Narrative report (pages 14–27), by Ofcom (the UK Communications Regulator) Tl;DR version (August 2018)

· Watch/Read: Mobile Is Eating the World, 2016–2017 version, Benedict Evans, Andreesen Horowitz (a16z) Also available as a 30 min video presentation (see below)

Week 2: The new digital overlords

· Technically Wrong, Chapter 2: Culture Misfit (p.13–26)

· Americans’ online news use is closing in on TV news use, by Jeffrey Gottfried and Elisa Shearer, Pew Research Center (September 2017)

· Americans’ complicated feelings about social media in an era of privacy concerns, by Lee Rainie, Pew Research Center (March 2018)

· Americans are changing their relationship with Facebook, by Andrew Perrin, Pew Research Center (September 2018)

· “Facebook is eating the world,”, by Emily Bell, Columbia Journalism Review, Director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University (2016)

· The Platforms & Publishers Relationship, 2018 — transcript of panel with Google, Facebook, Huffington Post, New York Times and the Reuters Institute, hosted by the Tow Center at Columbia University. Read also the Executive Summary of this report Friend and Foe: The Platform Press at the Heart of Journalism also published by Tow. (June-July 2018)

· Should platforms be regulated? A new survey says yes. by Sam Gill, Knight Foundation (August 2018)

· Potential Policy Proposals for Regulation of Social Media and Technology Firms, draft White Paper by U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner, published by David McCabe, Axios, in “Scoop: 20 ways Democrats could crack down on Big Tech,” (July 2018)

· Zuckerberg-Chan To Do List, by Eric Newton, Innovation Chief at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Medium (March 2018)

· “Six or seven things social media can do for democracy,” by Ethan Zuckerman, Director Center for Civic Media at MIT, Medium (May 2018)

· How Duterte Used Facebook To Fuel the Philippine Drug War, by Davey Alba, BuzzFeed News (September 2018)


· Social Media use in the Arabian Gulf, SOJC Demystifying Media series, with Sarah Vieweg, User Experience Researcher at Facebook (5 min video + short written Q&A, podcast 18:35 mins, 2017.)

Week 3: New actors and the old media establishment

· Technically Wrong, Chapter 3: Normal People (p.27–48)

· What is happening to television news?, by Rasmus Kleis Nielsen and Richard Sambrook, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (April 2016)

· ‘Forever old? Why TV news is losing younger viewers, and what can be done about it’, by Ben Tobias, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (September 2018)

· Overview and Key Findings of the 2018 Report, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Oxford University, by Nic Newman (lead author, Digital News Report 2018.) Read my Tl;DR take for What’s New in Publishing.

· The problem with real news — and what we can do about it, by Rob Wijnverg, Founder of The Correspondent, Medium (September 2018)

· The Outline and the curse of media venture capital, by Matthew Ingram, Columbia Journalism Review (September 2018)

· Netflix overtakes Disney to become most valuable US media company, by Edward Helmore, the Guardian (May 2018)

· Netflix’s history: From DVD rentals to streaming success, BBC Newsbeat (January 2018)

· Vice Media was built on a bluff. What happens when it gets called?, by Reeves Wiedman, NY Mag, June 2018 (See also: The cult of Vice by Chris Ip for CJR in July/August 2015)

· Americans are changing their relationship with Facebook, by Andrew Perrin, Pew Research Center (September 2018)

· Listen: Pick a podcast from the Media Voices archive, to hear how an old/new media company is addressing digital disruption, or a discussion of wider issues such as advertising, diversity or another topic that interests you. Includes US, UK, European and international companies.

(Search by topic, view the full list of podcasts chronologically on iTunes)

Note: interviews usually start 15–20 minutes in after discussion of the latest industry news.

Week 4: Show me the money: making media pay

· Technically Wrong, Chapter 4: Select One (p.49–76)

· Advertising is obsolete — here’s why it’s time to end it, by Ramsi Woodcock, University of Kentucky, The Conversation (August 2018)

· Project Feels: How USA Today, ESPN and The New York Times are targeting ads to mood, by Lucia Moses, Digiday (September 2018)

· Does Facebook Really Work? People Question Effectiveness Of Ads, NPR (September 2018) (3:41 mins if you wish to listen to it instead)

· Old media giants turn to VC for their next act, by Eric Peckham, TechCrunch (September 2018)

· Here is BuzzFeed’s first pitch deck to investors in 2008, by John McDuling & Zachary M. Seward, Quartz, (April 2015)

· Lessons From The Early Pitch Decks Of Airbnb, BuzzFeed, And YouTube, by Lydia Dishman, Fast Company (November 2015) NB: try and read the original post, not just the PDF, as this includes links/embeds to the decks.

· The Bezos Effect: How Amazon’s Founder Is Reinventing The Washington Post — and What Lessons It Might Hold for the Beleaguered Newspaper Business, by Dan Kennedy, Northeastern University, Shornstein Center at Harvard (Spring 2016)

· Funding the News: Foundations and Nonprofit Media, by Matthew Nisbet, John Wihbey, Silje Kristiansen& Aleszu Bajak, Shornstein Center at Harvard (June 2018)

· Beyond the Article, Frontiers of Editorial and Commercial Innovation, by Kevin Anderson, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (2017)

· Watch: Pick 3 x video case studies featuring different publishers and media organizations from around the world in this series from Reuters.

Each video is only a few minutes long, most of them focus on revenue, but there’s also videos on experiments with audio, developing talent and more.

Week 5: Reading Week (self-determined)

· Technically Wrong, Chapter 5: Delighted to Death (p.77–100)

This week, apart from the above, students will select your own reading and research based on your agreed Group Project.

Week 6: Policy, Inclusion and Societal Impact

· Technically Wrong, Chapter 6: Tracked, Tagged and Targeted (p.101–118)

· The Real Threat to Economic Growth Is the Digital Divide, by Rana Foroohar, Time (January 2014)

· The Unacceptable Persistence of the Digital Divide, by David Talbot, MIT Technology Review (December 2016)

· Exclusive: The Mayor of Seoul’s vision for payments & inclusion, by Medha Basu and Chia Jie Lin, Gov Insider (September 2018)

· The White House Startup, Led By Matt Cutts, Is Changing Government One Fire At A Time, by Savannah Dowling, crunchbase news (September 2018)

· Social Media Use Continues to Rise in Developing Countries but Plateaus Across Developed Ones, by Pew Research Center (June 2018) — see also the full report for more on digital divides.

· When local papers close, costs rise for local governments, by Dermot Murphy, Columbia Journalism Review (June 2018)

· How Facebook Has Flattened Human Communication, by David Auerbach, Medium (August 2018)

· YouTubers are not your friends, by Megan Farokhmanesh, The Verge, (September 2018)

· How search engines are failing suicidal users, by Lucas Chae, Fast Company (September 2018)

· Instagram is supposed to be friendly. So why is it making people so miserable?, by Alex Hern, the Guardian (September 2018)

· Many Facebook users don’t understand how the site’s news feed works, by Aaron Smith, Pew Research Center (September 2018)

How social media took us from Tahrir Square to Donald Trump. By Zeynep Tufekci, MIT Technology Review, (August 2018).

Watch: How NGOs blur the line between PR, Journalism and Advocacy, SOJC Demystifying Media series, with Dr. Matthew Powers, Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication, University of Washington (November 2016). Running time: 55 mins.

Week 7: Emerging Issues (with a focus on trust and misinformation)

· Technically Wrong, Chapter 7: Algorithmic Inequity (p.119–146)

· Here’s what Americans say it will take to rebuild their trust in the media, by Christine Schmidt. Nieman Lab (September 2018)

· Why don’t people trust the news and social media? A new report lets them explain in their own words, by Ricardo Bilton, Nieman Lab (November 2017)

· Threats to Journalists in India: Journalism in the Age of Intolerance and Rising Nationalism, by Furquan Siddiqui, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (2017)

· On the frontline of India’s WhatsApp fake news war, by Soutik Biswas, BBC (August 2018)

· Letter to the German Press, (observations on journalism in Germany and differences from the USA), by Jay Rosen, NYU (September 2018)

· Alex Jones Said Bans Would Strengthen Him. He Was Wrong, by Jack Nicas, New York Times (September 2018)

· Fake news. It’s complicated,” by Claire Wardle, Shornstein Center, Harvard University (2017)

· A Short Guide to the History of ‘Fake News’ and Disinformation: A New ICFJ Learning Module, (PDF) by: Julie Posetti and Alice Matthews for ICJF / International Center for Journalists (July 2018)

· Listen: How Journalists Can Rebuild Trust, SOJC Demystifying Media series, with Joy Mayer, Trusting News Project (June 2018) Running time 25 mins.

· Listen: Stories by, through, and about algorithms, SOJC Demystifying Media series, with James T Hamilton, Stanford University and SOJC’s Seth Lewis, (January 2018) Running time 22 mins.

Week 8: Emerging Issues (Part 2 with a particular focus on automation, voice and AI)

· Technically Wrong, Chapter 8: Built to Break (p.147–172)

· This Media Startup Is Beating the Competition With a Newsroom Run by Robots, by Shoko Oda, Bloomberg (May 2018)

· The world’s most prolific writer is a Chinese algorithm, by Douglas Heaven, (August 2018)

· Bots and the future of automated accountability, by Nick Diakopoulos, Northwestern University Asst Professor of Communication & Tow Center fellow, Columbia Journalism Review (September 2018)

· Detecting ‘deepfake’ videos in the blink of an eye, by Siwei Lyu, University at Albany, State University of New York, The Conversation (August 2018)

· How artificial intelligence can detect — and create — fake news, The Conversation, by Anjana Susarla, Michigan State University (May 2018)

· Implications of Voice for Marketing Purposes — A Market Snapshot Report, IAB, May 2018

· From search to smart speakers: Why voice is too big for media companies to ignore, by Damian Radcliffe, Digital Content Next (June 2018)

· Presentation: Media Manipulation, Strategic Amplification, and Responsible Journalism, Dana Boyd, talk given at at the Online News Association conference in Austin, Texas. Read it here, or watch the video from 16:00 to 59:11 followed by a Q&A (September 2018)

Week 9: Looking Ahead

· Technically Wrong, Chapter 9: Meritocracy Now, Meritocracy Forever and Chapter 10: Technically Dangerous (p. 173–200)

· 25 Years of WIRED Predictions: Why the Future Never Arrives, by David Karpf, Wired (September 2018)

· What can we do for journalism?, by Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford (September 2018)

· Stop Being Loudspeakers for Liars, by Dan Gillmor, Medium (June 2018)

· Dear Journalists, The War on What You Do Is Escalating: To fight back, work together, by Dan Gillmor, Medium (August 2018)

· It’s Time for the Press to Stop Complaining — And to Start Fighting Back, by Chuck Todd, The Atlantic, September 2018

· Presentation: Ten Year Futures (slides + video, runs for 24 mins), from Benedict Evans (December 2017)

· 2019 Journalism, Media and Tech Trends Report, Future Today Institute, (September 2018) Read the summary; skim per your interests.