by Lauren Sigfusson
“Do people in here remember Barney?” Martha Hagan said. That was one of the many questions asked to spark a discussion on media awareness.
Hagan has taught at Whatcom Community College for 19 years and is the instructor of the new Communication Studies 102 “Introduction to Mass Media” course this fall.
Hagan proposed the class in mass communication when she realized there was “a gaping hole in that particular category,” she said. “I went ahead and proposed the class to begin offering students more courses in communication studies that relate to the media.”
The broad definition of mass media is how messages from the media are dispersed to mass audiences. Those messages are spread through newspapers, books, Internet, television and radio.
The five-credit course complements the current departmental and speech courses offered at Whatcom, Hagan said.
Mike Sanderson, an 18-year-old transfer student, decided to take the course because it fulfills the Whatcom speech requirement and fit his schedule. To this point there has been a large negative connotation towards the media in class, he said.
The curriculum, designed by Hagan, is based on her research of courses across the country. The textbook was recommended by a teacher from Pierce Community College in Lakewood, Wash., she said.
The main concepts of the course are media literacy, mass media and media culture.
At the end of the quarter students will compile five completed assignments into a portfolio, said Hagan.
On average, a person in the U.S. watches five hours of television each day, Hagan said. At the beginning of the quarter, Hagan asked students to keep a media log, tracking their media consumption for a few days.
“Part of the objective of that is to raise awareness of how much time people are actually consuming media,” said Hagan. “Whether it’s indirectly or directly.”
Sky Hester, a 20-year-old sophomore, said he spent five to six hours each day using media. “I was surprised by the amount of time I spent reading,” he said.
Fierra Patton, a 22-year-old sophomore, said she spent roughly four to five hours each day, mostly in front of the computer or phone for Internet. “It’s interesting seeing how technology is influencing the mass media,” Patton said.
It is important for students to know the role that communication plays in our lives, said Hagan.