Course Descriptions

162: Mass Media in Multicultural America
An introduction to the roles and functions of print, film, electronic and digital media in multicultural America. International comparisons highlight differences and commonalities in the social and cultural position of mass media in societies with racially and ethnically diverse populations.

175: Media Fluency in the Digital Age
An introduction to what it means to be “digitally fluent,” which is considered a key 21st Century skill. Students critically examine and engage with the digital media landscape. Students will analyze how digital media content is created and digested by various audiences, across social, political, and economic environments. This course helps students determine which digital medium is best given what they want to say and who they want to converse with, and provides the opportunity for hands on learning with a variety of digital mediums. Counts towards the Digital Studies Certificate.

201: Introduction to Mass Communication
An introduction to how the mass media are organized and how they function in modern society, their technological bases, economic and political foundations, and social implications

Please note: Course website information is updated intermittently for some courses. Sample syllabi are posted only at the beginning of the semester and do not include recent schedule changes. Please refer to faculty announcements in class for updates to all schedules and assignments.

General description: This combined lecture/discussion course introduces students to the interlinked entertainment, strategic communication, and journalism aspects of our mass media, and to the broad theoretical, historical, and critical perspectives that mass communication scholars use to understand and analyze these media processes. This course also fulfills the campus Communications-B requirement for refining your communication skills through written assignments, peer review, and revision. For those students considering careers in the media, this course should help you make informed decisions about your professional life and will serve as the prerequisite to entering the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

202: Mass Communication Practices
Communication as a process involving sender and receiver, message and medium. J202 goals are threefold: 1) to lay a foundation of basic communication skills, including writing, editing, conducting research using traditional and online resources, numeracy, and elements of design and story presentation, 2) to help students develop an appreciation of how different media influence the nature of information presented, 3) to introduce students to technical skills that will be used in advanced professional classes—page layout, HTML authoring, digital audio and video editing.

Please note: Course website information is updated intermittently for some courses. Sample syllabi are posted only at the beginning of the semester and do not include recent schedule changes. Please refer to faculty announcements in class for updates to all schedules and assignments.

General description: This course is designed to lay a foundation for students and give them the beginnings of a toolkit of conceptual and practical skills in mass communication. We strive to develop a range of skills that includes research, writing, editing and presentation for news and strategic communication in print, audio and online. Students learn about both informative and persuasive communication in contexts that cut across the traditional barriers of print journalism, broadcast news, advertising and public relations. Students spend the bulk of their time in this course building writing skills and critical thinking abilities, as those are the two elements common to success in any field. Visit the course website.

335: Intermediate Reporting
Basic reporting for print and electronic media. This is a transitional course designed to develop the technical skills introduced in J202 such as digital audio, web use and composition, and to explore the concepts necessary for advanced reporting courses. Students bring together technical and conceptual skills by creating a variety of print, audio and web-based news stories that revolve around a current public issue of significance to the community.

345: Principles of Strategic Communication
Introduction to strategic communication for students interested in advertising, public relations, health communications and political campaigns. Course focuses on: 1) strategic communication industry, including advertising and public relations firms, 2) ethics and regulation of strategic communications, 3) role of strategic communications in the process of marketing products, ideas and people, 4) components of strategic communication campaigns, 5) professional specialties within the field of strategic communications.

J401: In-Depth Reporting

Advanced reporting with emphasis on critical evaluation of evidence and on recognizing the complex effects of government actions. Students develop investigative skills, study online and computer-assisted reporting techniques, learn how to follow the trail of a story and track the impact of decisions made by policymakers. Students also discuss journalistic ethics and the impact reporter’s actions and decisions have on this process.

J404: Interpretation of Contemporary Affairs

Preparing and writing editorials, columns and news analyses. Functioning in the role of opinion leaders, students analyze and comment on the news.

J405: Creative Nonfiction

Journalistic storytelling now defines some of the most successful and popular non-fiction of our time. Many journalists move directly from newspapers into serious non-fiction. Creative nonfiction is a class for journalism students who want to build a broad-based portfolio of writing skills, ones that foster good storytelling on multiple levels for print and electronic publications, for daily newspapers, weekly and monthly magazines, and some skills fundamental to book writing.

J411: Multimedia Graphics

Explores how the principles of visual communication influence communities that use new media. The revolution in digital media has fragmented traditional communities and it is no longer sufficient to think of an audience as a print reader, a television viewer or a demographic group. This class examines how communities of special interests, including ethnic groups, use multimedia and its graphic design to give voice and vision to members. Students learn the theoretical aspects of multimedia and community as they learn to analyze and think critically about content-driven design, typography, photography and digital technology.

J415: Science and Environmental Journalism

Instruction and practice in strategies for communicating science to the public. Emphases include: 1) how to explain difficult concepts and processes; 2) skills for telling interesting and artful stories, and 3) strategies for making reasonable judgments about scientific evidence. Students will focus on producing products useful for mass media channels, from newspapers to the web. The skills acquired in this course are relevant to practitioners in journalism, public relations and informal education settings such as science museums.

J417: Magazines and Magazine Editing

Students study the modern magazine industry as they produce professional quality magazine articles for the class Internet magazine, Online Wisconsin. The class draws on a broad range of communication skills—critical thinking, writing, editing, interpersonal and managerial skills, design and computer layout, and HTML.

J419: Electronic News for Web and Broadcast

Students develop professional skills essential for competence in electronic news writing, editing and production for the web and for broadcast. They study issues and problems in electronic news, learn interviewing, use of electronic equipment and presentation, and combine their knowledge of concepts and skills to produce professional quality webcasts. During the course students work in a variety of roles—reporter, editor, producer and website manager.

J445: Developing Creative Messages for Media

Introduction to the creative aspects of message development for advertising, public relations and other strategic communication. Course focuses on: 1) basics of “concepting”—the strategic thinking that underlies developing creative messages, 2) creative writing techniques and general development of writing ability, 3) visualization methods and their application to message creation, 4) integration of copy and visual elements into fully realized creative messages, 5) application of class concepts in manual and computer-assisted message design.

J447: Strategic Media Planning

Introduction to media planning for students interested in careers in advertising, public relations, or other forms of strategic communication. Course focuses on: 1) challenges facing strategic communicators, especially media specialists, in an “era of choice,” 2) basic concepts involved in buying, planning and placing stories in traditional and “new” media, 3) data sources used in the process of strategic media analysis, 4) basic elements of a strategic media plan involving advertising and public relations, 5) tactical and strategic concerns in devising a media plan, 6) use of media planning software to aid in development of strategic media plans.

J449: Account Planning (Research and Strategy for Strategic Campaigns)
Introduction to account planning, for students interested in a career in strategy planning or account management in the fields of advertising, public relations, or marketing communications.  In the course, students conduct real secondary and primary research for a real client; then, they develop an overall strategy that is then used to guide creative and media plan development.  This is a “must have” course for students who want to better understand how to segment target audiences, uncover insights, translate insights in to positioning, and develop message strategy.  Both qualitative and quantitative research tools are used.

J463: Digital Media Strategies
Interactive Media Strategies explores a variety of digital and interactive mediums, ranging from online advertising, streaming and audio and video, social media/digital PR, SEM/SEO, gaming, and digital out of home. Students will also explore issues related to digital ethics and privacy. Students develop strategic plan to guide the development of an integrated interactive media plan for a real client. Course counts towards the Digital Studies Certificate.

J464: Public Relations Strategies
This course explores public relations strategic management and planning, as part of an integrated strategic communications plan. Students will learn and explore a variety of PR programs in the class, including: organizational PR (crisis communications, financial relations, reputation management, communication and government relations), media (media relations, spokesperson training), digital PR (social media), and word-of-mouth/viral marketing. Includes exploration of PR ethics and PR industry regulations and organizational structures. Students will write key public relations communication pieces throughout the semester, and also develop a PR plan for a real client. Course counts towards the Digital Studies Certificate.

J475: Strategic Communications Campaigns Capstone

Usually offered in the Spring semester each year, the Strategic Communications Campaigns capstone is designed to provide students with a real-world experience as they develop a strategic communications campaign for a real client. Each year, the client provides a case study that outlines a real business problem that the students need to solve, using research, strategy and real communications tools—marketing, advertising, public relations, creative, and media. Consent-by-instructor course, with applications open in October for November registration and Spring enrollment. To apply to the course, click here: Apply to J475: Strategic Communications Campaigns Capstone

(If you are a company, brand, or non-profit organization interested in being the ‘client’ for this course, please contact course instructor Deb Pierce at

J475: Special Topics in Advanced Concepts and Skills

Exploration of a particular set of concepts and skills in more depth. A special topics course may choose to focus on a particular issue, for example, a current public affairs topic or critical thinking strategies, or on an applied communication problem, such as designing a competitive strategic information campaign or producing a journalistic product. Subject varies.

J515: Public Information Campaigns and Programs
(Crosslisted with LSC Com and Fam Com)
Design, production and evaluation of communication programs aimed at informing and educating publics about agriculture, environment, science, health and human ecology issues.

J544: Introduction to Survey Research
(Crosslisted with Soc, Poli Sci, and Urb R Pl)
Theory and practice of survey research; planning, sampling, questionnaire construction, interviewing, content analysis, machine tabulation, analysis of data; two hours lecture; two hours lab or field work.

J558: Public, Community, and Alternative Media
(Crosslisted with Comm Arts)
Examination of media outside the dominant commercial model, especially local and alternative practices, and their cultural role.

J559: Law of Mass Communication

Freedom of speech and press with particular emphasis on major legal issues confronting media practitioners; introduction to such areas of law as censorship, libel, invasion of privacy, access to information, regulation of electronic media and commercial speech.

J560: History of Mass Communication
This course reviews significant changes in the American news media and the role of the press in important periods in U.S. History. Attention is also given to the evolution of modern advertising and public relations.

J561: Mass Communication and Society
Examines major social transitions in America and their interaction with the communications system: the rise of an early democratic society in the Republican period; the growth of association in the 19th Century and the industrial transformations of the newspaper and telegraph; the rise of mass society in the early to mid–20th Century, and growth of a post-industrial network society from the late 20th Century to the present. For each period we look at the effect that the communication system has had on community, society, and democracy. This course requires significant reading  (100 pages or more per week) and is writing intensive, requiring weekly responses and includes an introduction to framing arguments in research. Honors section taught by professor.

J565: Effects of Mass Communication
Use and effects of mass communication for individuals and societies. Course examines who is affected, what effects occur and how much, what different media content is involved and what situations make effects more or less likely.

J570: History of Books and Printing
(Crosslisted with LIS and History)
History of print culture in the Western World from the invention of moveable type in 15th century Europe to 1900, and in the U.S. from colonial times to the present. Emphasis on print’s influence on social intellectual and cultural life.

J601: Undergraduate Colloquium in Professional Careers
Weekly colloquium on current issues and career options in journalism & mass communication, featuring professional speakers from academia, industry, government, and the non-profit sector.

J614 Communication and Public Opinion
Theories and assumptions surrounding public opinion formation and change; measurement and reporting of public opinion trends; public reactions to polling, news information and marketing communications; analysis of public opinion data.

J616 Mass Media and Youth
Children’s and adolescents’ use of mass media and mass media effects on them. Particular attention is given to changes in comprehension and other cognitive activities that give insights into media and effects.

J617 Health Communication in the Information Age
Classic and contemporary health communication theories and applications, drawing also from other disciplines (e.g., psychology, marketing, public policy, sociology, etc.) that apply to health communication settings.

J618 Mass Communication and Political Behavior
Interrelationships of news media, political campaigning and the electorate. Considers the impact of media coverage and persuasive appeals on image and issue voting, political participation and socialization.

J620 International Communication
Theoretical, practical and ethical issues related to historical and contemporary contexts of international communication.

J621 Mass Communication in Developing Nations
Development, structure, and role of mass communication systems in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

J646 Mass Media and the Consumer
The relationship between the citizen/consumer and the mass media, with particular attention to the role of advertising. Considers both the positive and negative aspects of the media-advertising-consumer relationships.

J658 Communication Research Methods
Survey of methods for investigating mass communication process and effects. Provides a framework for evaluating communication research and some hands-on experience in the process of conducting empirical investigations.

J662 Mass Media and Minorities
Representations of minority groups in U.S. news and entertainment mass media. Historical, social, political, economic, and other factors influencing the mass mediated depictions of minorities.

J666 Professional Responsibility in Mass Communication
Explores concept of “professionalism” in journalism and strategic communication, with emphasis on societal expectations for media and ethical systems. Applies theory to specific cases.

J669 Literary Aspects of Journalism
Critical reading of reporting and writing, including in-depth reporting, extended writings by journalists.

J670: Technology for Social Change
The course is an upper-level undergraduate/graduate service learning course that integrates the study of the social impact of new communication technologies into community engagement practices.  The course will illuminate social, political, psychological, and policy implications of the adoption and use of new and emerging technologies and provide an educational opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills obtained from the class to a local, community-based collaborative project (i.e. integrated social media campaign) that aims to strengthen the community.  This collaborative project is a hands-on experiment that demonstrates how to use new communication technologies for social change.

J675 Topics in Government and Mass Media
The meaning and intersection of law and ethics; pressures t o put legal sanction behind ethnical standards; legal and ethnical questions in a variety of mass communication contexts.

J676 Special Topics: Colloquium in Professional Communication Careers.
This course explores the wide range of communication careers spanning the journalism and strategic communications fields.  Guest speakers offer their unique perspectives regarding challenges and opportunities in advertising, news reporting, public relations, broadcast, radio, marketing in the private and public sectors.

J676 Special Topics: Cyberspace, Hypermedia and Society
New media as product and process; the production of “cyberspace”; investigates the “new information society” through theoretical discussions, geographical mappings, and historical case studies.

J676 Special Topics: Digital Media Law and Ethics
Legal and ethical questions raised by digital media and their effects on society and individuals.

J676 Special Topics: The Future of News
The shift from print to digital consumption of news; new forms of multimedia that characterize the new news universe; new audiences for news “reading.”

J676 Special Topics: Internet and Political Mobilization
Impact of new communication technologies on political mobilization; empirical observations of digital divides, social networks, public opinion, political knowledge, deliberation, the public sphere, political campaigns, government and community.

J676 Special Topics: New Media and Society
This class examines the history and social influence of new media in society. The lectures and class discussions are organized around such broad themes as new media and their likely impact on nationalism, democracy, history, values, privacy, and manyother issues.

J676 Special Topics: Video Games and Mass Communication
Video games and social, economic and cultural artifact; controversies over their contributions to violence and stereotyping, lawlessness and addiction, as well as their potential for enhancing education, community-building and artistic production.