I've already taught this college course on media literacy for one semester, with results that frustrated me (here's my
, including what students did and didn't get). Specifically, my students don't seem to understand how advertising influences the content of the media. I've been trying to remember where it was I developed the foundational ideas I have on the subject... and I realized, they're in a textbook I read in high school.
In a book which had its last edition that year.
I am no lover of textbooks, believe me -- in just about any circumstance I would avoid them like the plague. I haven't had to read one myself in years. But my students, who are largely advertising and PR majors, are not at a level where they can read academic articles or books; they get hung up on advanced terms, trying to use them over and over to impress me without really understanding them at a deep level. And this book, Don Pember's Mass Media In America
(which I have been carrying around with me since high school for reasons that were pretty much subconscious until last week) just lays out the economic foundations of media beautifully -- in neutral, simple, journalistic language written at my students' level (first year of college; I was reading it at a college prep school); with illustrative anecdotes from the industry; with a focus on economics without an overbearing political bent of one sort or another; considering news content alongside entertainment content (which is important, as the latter crowds out the former), and thinking about the consequences of ownership and other influence. I cannot find anything
like it, and believe me, I've looked.
So I wanted to ask all of you professors out there: am I nuts to want to assign a (text)book that was two decades old, to teach concepts to my students? Should I just be lecturing to them about the material instead? I am REALLY not the lecturing sort -- I did my doctorate in a school of education and I believe there's a time and place for lectures; it's after active student inquiry.
I wouldn't be asking them to memorize facts (ad buy prices, market shares, etc) from the book, as doubtless they are out of date. And I'm pretty sure my students wouldn't stand for it anyway -- last semester they scoffed at a researcher whose work was largely done in the 1960s, but who is hugely influential and respected in the field, simply because his research was old. I intend to have students scrutinize the claims of a number of texts (everything from Honey Boo Boo to Wikipedia to scientific journal articles to Malcolm-Gladwell-like stuff) anyway, so having them look at what from the text stands up and what doesn't is not out of the question. It's all media literacy anyway, in my opinion. What do you think, MeFi?
(Yes, there is of course the procurement question. First of all, there's a ton of used ones up online. Second of all, I plan to only use sections, so I might be able to use PDFs.)