Class Homepage -- MEDIA ANALYSIS & CRITICISM -- TCOM 204 --


Meeting With the Professor

Class Schedule

Attendance Policy

Syllabus -- for class beginning Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Current Notes -- where daily assignments and other information can be found.

Faculty: Mr. Jim Needham, Office: Letterman Building--204
Phone: office: 285-1782, home: 759-4900, FAX: 285-9278

E-mail:     Jim Needham's Homepage

Office Hours: Wed. -- 10-12, Thu. 11-1:30, or by appointment

I. Course Title. TCOM 204 -- MEDIA ANALYSIS AND CRITICISM, three of the nine hours of the BSU TCOM Core requirements to enter the major or minor.
II. Prerequisite: Completion of and a grade of "C" (2.0) or better in TCOM 101 or JOURN 101. Open only to approved Telecommunications majors or minors.

III. Catalog Description: Covers the fundamental critical approaches to narrative study as applied to the telecommunications discipline. See 2008-2010 BSU Catalog, p. 197.

IV. Materials: Specific materials will be made available online as needed, and will be announced in class or on the Current Notes page Link above. Check it daily for information you will need to complete the requirements for this class. No book is required, but you will be expected to print out the assignments, so you will be able to refer to them before they are due, and later when you take the final and will need them for an outline of what you will write.  This syllabus will continue to be available throughout the semester on the Internet.

Since Criticism is a written discipline, writing well is an essential part of this class. Diana Hacker's Pocket Style Manual by Diana Hacker (Third, Fourth, or Fifth Edition) is strongly suggested for those who need to strengthen their writing and editing skills. No other books are required.

V. Course Rationale. This course is intended to help you to understand the building blocks of what television critics call television texts and to learn to take television and the media seriously. While we will not engage in traditional academic criticism, we will study five different critical approaches and use these strategies in analyzing and criticizing program texts. While we will use videos, the criticism techniques developed are applicable for any media, and such applications will be encouraged. We will also address the importance of analysis and criticism to your success in each of the TCOM Options--Film and Television Studies, Multimedia, News, Production, and Sales and Promotion.

VI. Course Objectives. At the end of this course, you should be able to:

A. analyze and criticize a television text in clear and concise writing. This will include using correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation, and addressing your criticism to each of the component parts of that approach so that your writing is transparent, and readers think only of the ideas;

B. identify five approaches to criticism and be able to borrow from each as it assists you in appropriately and effectively analyzing and criticizing a television text;

C. analyze and discuss a selected television program text in a systematic manner by employing a critical approach. This approach will take an interpretive position, examine the separate and collective elements of the text, present logical arguments supporting your premise, and defend your premise--based on a reasonable and plausible presentation of the facts of the work and/ or audience; and
D. systematically identify and discuss the various elements of television texts and the choices employed by professionals in producing these works.

VII. Student Evaluation. Instructions for individual assignments are on the website and will be discussed in class. To excel, daily participation in class is essential. Much of our class time will involve watching videos, working in small groups, and discussing your impressions and your notes on what you have observed. Your written assignments responding to what you watch and discuss, will constitute most of your grade. (See

Grading Scale:

A= 100.00-90.00

A- = 89.99-86.67

B+ = 86.66-83.33

B = 83.32- 80.00

B- = 79.99-76.67

C+ = 76.66-73.33

C = 73.32-70.00

C- = 69.99-66.67

D+ = 66.66-63.33

D = 63.32-60.00

D- = 59.99-50

F = 49.99 or less

Correction code for papers can be found here. All Assignments are to be emailed to my Gmail inbox:  by 5 p.m. on the date they are due.

Assignments: when you email your papers to me, use the following "Naming Protocol:
    Naming protocol.
    Your first initial.last name.Name of Assignment.(due-date)mm-dd.doc  

                     (Example:)              j.needham.introessay.08.28.doc   

If you use an Apple, be sure to save it as a .pdf, so I can open it.

As soon as your paper is graded, your grade will be recorded on Ball State's Electronic Grade Book:

Table of Assignments:  ALL assignments are due in my Gmail inbox by 5 p.m. on the date due.

Intro. Essay #1—
can re-write for better grade within 7 days of return to you

30 points  (can be resubmitted once) 1-page

Due 8/28
Optional Re-write due 9/9

Essay #2 Genre
can re-write for averaged grade by 9/27

50 points  (can be resubmitted and grade  will be averaged with first submission)

Due  9/16; Optional Re-write due by 9/26

Rhetorical Quiz on Chapter 24

30 points


Essay #3 Rhetorical

100 points

Due 9/25

Essay #4 Gender

100 points

Due 10/9

Essay #5 Mythic

100 points

Due 10/21

Essay #6 Sociological

100 points

Due 11/4

Essay #7 Pick Your Favorite Approach

100 points

Due 11/21

Essay #8 --PowerPoint Presentation

100 points

Due 12/2 & 12/4

Essay #9 In-class Prof's choice (FINAL)

100 points

Due 12/11
Finals Week

 3-Media Events

  90 points  (30 points each) 

Due 9/19, 10/17, & 11/14

total points

900 points


At some point in the semester, I will announce an extra credit opportunity that will be available to everyone. Stay tuned. If you’re not in class that day, you will automatically disqualify yourself from this opportunity.  If you elect to do that extra credit, it will be due in my TCOM Inbox in BC-201 by 5 p.m. on  12/8.

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VIII. ATTENDANCE: Treat this class like a job! Attendance is required unless there are extenuating circumstances: Should you be unable to attend for any reason, (i.e. a death in your family, illness, or other) you must contact me IN ADVANCE, as soon as you know, or by calling 285-1782 BEFORE CLASS BEGINS and leaving a voice mail explaining your dilemma. Notification of your non-attendance after class is scheduled to begin, will void your opportunity to make up in-class work. Absences or being late to class may result in a lowering of your overall grade.

Treat this class like a job. If you would notify your employer, notify me. If you notify me in ADVANCE in person, by phone, or by email and make up your work or turn in your papers on time, you may take TWO (2) convenience or sick days without penalty; however, it is your responsibility to email your assignment to me and to get someone to take notes, collect handouts, and cover your group work. To expedite attendance taking, the seat you are in Tuesday, September 2nd, when I videotape you, is the one you are expected to occupy the remainder of the semester. Dress the way you want to be remembered.

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IX. PROFESSIONALISM: This course will be primarily a discussion, writing, and presentation course. You are encouraged to participate in all class discussions and projects and behave like a media professional. This class is professional practice, not a dress rehearsal. In addition, should you need to talk about what we are doing in class, I am available to discuss any assignment with you on any day, other than the date it is due. Therefore, plan ahead, and I’ll be happy to help you. If you wait until the last minute, you’re on your own.

Format for assignments: All out-of-class assignments are to be double-spaced with one-inch margins and 12 point type. Email them to me at my account.  Proofread your work carefully before turning it in. Have others proof your work if necessary for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors because each error will result in a deduction.

Grading: On time assignments will receive 100 points, less deductions for missing elements and mechanical errors--grammatical, spelling, and punctuation. For the first two assignments ONLY, if either assignment has no chance of passing because of mechanical errors but content is substantially complete, you will receive a D or F. Then, if you wish, you may correct the mechanical errors and resubmit it in no less than one week from the time I return it.  However, if the assignment content as first turned in is substantially incomplete, the grade of D or F will stand.

If on the second submission, your essay does not earn a passing grade, you will meet with me to discuss what steps you must take to pass this class. This office meeting is required for those with this challenge.

The TCOM writing desk is available to help you at the Learning Center in NQ-323. Our TCOM writing assistant can be reached at 285-3778, and appointments can be scheduled.

Grading your assignment will begin with 100 percent of points possible. Thereafter, I will reduce your score by 5 to 10 percentage points for each content element that is missing and by 2 percentage points for each mechanical error--grammar, punctuation, and spelling problems--your assignment contains. That means if your content is perfect and you have 5 mechanical errors, you will receive100 less 10 (5 x 2) = 90 percent. If you have 15 such errors and content is perfect, you'll receive 70 percent. Thereafter, you will get a D or lower.  Make sure you are thorough and that you address each element of each assignment I have spelled out for you.

On the return of your Introductory Essay which will be handed back to you with my comments, if you receive 70 percent (21 points) or less, you are required to meet with me to review your writing and discuss your strategy for improving.

To assist you, I will use notes from my page of
correction code. Click here to reach it. Unacceptable work will receive a total of 69 percent or less and may be result of omitting elements of the assignment or poor writing.  Poor writing may be characterized by incorrect word choice or usage, faulty sentence construction or logic, spelling, punctuation, poor grammar, sentence fragments, inappropriate sequencing of ideas, verb tense, or other construction flaws.

In your assignments, you will be required to write in first person and in present tense
(see example here), giving your opinions and supporting them with facts and observations about the video that is the subject of your essay.

Your assignments will be in present tense, not past or future tense, and will be written so that you can see the program unfold before your eyes as you read. An example of this would be to say: "As I read this Syllabus, I am acknowledging that Mr. Needham is requiring me to write in present tense." That means you are doing this very action, now. This is the verb tense in which you are to write your essays. The only exception will be for elements of the characters' lives that existed prior to the beginning of the program or that will take place after the program is over. Read Chapter 24 “The Non-discursive Rhetoric of Television: Spinning the Wheel with Pat and Vanna” available at the link I will give you. All of its commentary on Wheel of Fortune is written in present tense, as yours should be when you write about the programs we watch. If you prefer to read an expert and observe his use of present tense as he writes about a current film, go to this link and read one of Roger Ebert's criticisms of a film. You will note that as he writes about a film, his writing is in present tense. This is a good model for your writing.

Assignments can always be turned in early. Assignments are due in my email Inbox at by the beginning of class. If your assignment is late as time and dates stamped,  it will receive an immediate 20-point deduction. If your assignment does not arrive during class, absent advance notification of your professor as described above or unusual extenuating circumstances, your assignment will not be accepted.

COPY YOUR WORK: Be certain you make a copy of the assignments you submit. You will be encouraged to review your assignments after they are graded and discuss them with me if you so desire. Be sure you make a copy on a disk for yourself of every assignment. It is also your responsibility to provide copies for any lost or misplaced assignments. Be prepared to protect your work in the future by developing this habit now. "Lost" assignments (papers) happen in the real world too, and may happen, inadvertently, in this class. If I lose your assignment, you will not be penalized as long as you can reproduce the original if I request it.

X. EXAMINATIONS: There are no tests in this class. However, there will be a final in-class essay on Thursday, December 11th, or if you prefer, the 2 hour block from the
BSU Finals Schedule. Our final will require that you are familiar with all assignments and readings to date, that you bring with you the formats for the various critical approaches you have used in your essays, and that you can use the critical approaches studied to analyze and criticize a program you will watch.  

Some deviation from the schedule may be expected as discussion leads us to spend more or less time with a particular topic. Guest lecturers will provide additional information on various topics of interest.


MEETING WITH PROFESSOR: It has been my experience that those students who meet with the Professor during the first few weeks of the semester, find it easier to meet the class expectations. Therefore, you are invited to schedule a meeting with me to discuss this class. You may meet with me as often as necessary during the office hours listed above or by appointment at any time to stay abreast of your progress or discuss any of your assignments, interests, or concerns. Your performance will also be recorded regularly in the Ball State's Electronic Grade Book as soon as assignments are graded. Back to top


At Ball State University, we accept the obligation to model and uphold integrity for tomorrow's citizens and leaders. Honesty in all matters academic is an essential requirement of all members of our community

All Students are expected to maintain the highest standards of academic honesty. There will be no excuses accepted for plagiarism, cheating, or any other act which suggests that you have not individually fulfilled your own academic responsibilities in this course.

I hold every student responsible for knowing the honesty policy at Ball State University. The Policy can be found in the Ball State University Student Handbook. Ignorance or misunderstanding of the honesty policy will not serve as an excuse for academic dishonesty.

I fully support the college academic honesty policy. Acts of dishonesty include having others write your papers, sharing your paper with others, watching programs and taking notes for another, and taking ideas from other's essays on class topics and using them as your own. It does not include discussions of topics in class, or taking one's work to the Writing Center. I act in accordance with the procedures for handling acts of academic dishonesty. The formal procedure involves a judiciary committee composed of faculty and students. Penalties include assigning students to an integrity seminar, lowering or failing grades on an assignment or in the course, and suspension or expulsion from the college. The complete honesty policy and the procedure for processing students accused of dishonesty can be found in the Student Handbook and on the campus web site under Student Rights and Responsibilities.

Some common risk factors associated with cheating that can be addressed by campus resources include poor study habits, poor writing skills or inadequate training in how to prepare written assignments, procrastination, stress or depression, poor time management skills, poor refusal skills, feelings of alienation, too-high course loads, and fear of failure. Ball State offers help for almost all of these areas through the Academic Advising Center in NQ-324, Counseling & Psychological Services in LU-320, and through the Learning Center in NQ-323. In addition, there is a Grammar Crisis Line you can call that is paid for out of your Student Activities fee at 285-3778 or 285-8387.

Sometimes the rules regarding academic integrity can be confusing when you apply them to the work that you are doing in my class. If you have any questions or concerns, please see me directly and ask about them.

Finally, I invite you to approach me in private with any concerns you have about class or a classmate's behavior. I will hold your comments confidential unless you give me permission to identify you.

Note: If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, if you have emergency medical information to share with me, or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible. My office hours are Wednesday from 10-12 and Thursday from 11-1:30, and by appointment. I am available to speak with you about this at any point in the semester.

 Weekly Class Schedule and Description of anticipated activities:           
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 0826 Overview and Introduction to Pragmatic Analysis & Criticism; watch
Why Don’t We Do It in our Sleeves?  Essay #1—Introductory Essay-- assigned and due 8/28 (in present tense) in my Gmail inbox: Writing Center guest.

0902 Essay #1 returned on 8/28 with any re-writes of Essay #1 due 9/9.  The Nature of Criticism and a discussion of Genre Criticism -- discursive/non-discursive elements; form groups, exchange email and phone numbers. Watch Live Event coverage, and discuss Genre paper due Tuesday 9/16.

Note: plan to sign up to "GET INVOLVED" Thursday, September 4th, 6:00-7:30 p.m., at the CCIM SuperParty -- (Art & Journalism--Ball Communications & Letterman Buildings) -- second level.

0909 Watch live event coverage, and discuss Genre paper due Tuesday 9/16. Re-writes of Essay #1 due 9/9. Go to the Writing Center and see a TCOM writing tutor if you need to do this. The clips from Live Event coverage will be discussed and previewed in class.  Discuss Required Media Event papers. Special guest on Thursday, 9/11.

0916   Genre paper due 9/16 at beginning of class. Take VALSTM survey. Review VALSTM Types. First Media Event paper is due by 9/19. Discuss Rhetorical Criticism and watch Wheel of Fortune. Read rhetorical criticism article for Thursday, 9/18. There may be a quiz. It is available online through Bracken Library's Reserve Desk under my name. See Current notes for instructions. Friday, September 19th, ALL DAY, is the Fall News Roundup.

0923 Discuss Rhetorical Criticism and watch Wheel of Fortune ; review requirements for Rhetorical Criticism essay, due 9/25. Re-write of Genre, Essay #2, due 9/26.                                                                                                                                                                             Back to top
0930   Discuss Gender Ideology Criticism—small groups—class makes listing of gender characteristics. Class watches
Death in the West and discusses Gender paper, due 10/9. VALSTM

1007 Reminder--Essay #4 on Gender Ideology Criticism due on Death in the West is due 10/9 at 5 p.m. Discuss Mythic criticism paper due on 10/21, group topics, and Class Presentations week of December 2nd. Start watching It's a Wonderful Life.  Here's the cast and crew for It's a Wonderful Life. Finish watching and discussing Mythic Criticism assignment for It's a Wonderful Life.

1014   Continue to watch It's a Wonderful Life.  Paper is due for Mythic Criticism on Tuesday, 10/21.   Second media event due by 5PM on Friday, 10/17.  1017-19 .FALL BREAK – 10/17-19... Take a break… kick back, relax.


1021   Discussion of Sociological Criticism. Watch The Rosa Parks Story 10-21 through 10-30 and discuss Sociological Criticism in small groups.  Cast List is here.   Sociological Criticism paper of The Rosa Parks Story is due on  Tuesday, 11/4.
1028 Finish watching The Rosa Parks Story. Discuss Pick Your Favorite paper (Gender, Rhetorical, Sociological, or Mythic) for Essay #7, . Assign teams; draw for order of presentation.
1028 Sociological Criticism assignment is due on 11/4 by 5 p.m. More of
Christmas Kindness which will be seen next week.

1104  Teams select programs on first-reserved basis for PowerPoint A & C Presentations on December 2nd & 4th. Watch
Christmas Kindness. for  Paper #7, due on 11/21. Discuss PowerPoint presentations for week of December 2nd & 4th.  11/6 is a shortened day to watch Christmas Kindness again or to set up appointments for PPT presentations.

1111  All classes meet on Tuesday, 11/11.


Special guest on Tuesday, 11/11 -- Dr. Joe Misiewicz, Chair., TCOM Department, on The Future of Media

Special guest on Thursday, 11/13 -- Heather Herron, TCOM Alum. & Evening News Anchor, WANE-TV, Fort Wayne

For my 8:00 class only, you will not meet as a class on Thursday, 11/13. You may schedule PPT consultations with me during the 8-9:15 hour Thursday, 11/13.


For my Thursday, 11/13 -- 9:30 and 3:30 classes, we will meet with Heather Herron.


1118 TCOM 204-001 (my 8:00 class) will meet on 11/18.

  For 11/18, TCOM 204-002 (9:30 a.m. class) and TCOM 204-006 (my 3:30 p.m. class) will not meet on 11/18,  No formal class on 11/20 or 11/25, but appointments with me to go over your PowerPoints are highly encouraged.

11/27 Happy Thanksgiving...    Gobble……
gobble……gobble .......relish!   ..........................................................................................................burp!

1202 PowerPoint presentations December 2nd and 4th

1209 On 12/9, formal and informal evaluations. On 12/11, optional in-class final in place of Finals Week final. Students with an A or A- going into the final are exempt from taking the final. Although those with an A- may take the final in an effort to improve their grades. If you intend to take the final during finals week, you need not attend class on 12/11, but you must attend 12/9 and tell me you are taking the final on the date assigned for your class during finals week: See the University Finals Schedule for 12/15-12/19, below.

BSU Finals Week Exam Schedule --


This listing presents a projected but not an absolute set of activities and programs. Any of the above elements may vary at the Professor's discretion when he believes it is in the best interest of the class.                          
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