COMM 229-W02, Week Two: Visual and Aural Signs

Posted February 1st, 2014 in Bridgewater State University by davecopeland

This week’s lecture is going to test the limits of our online format, in that this class works best when we can all look at the images in real-time and discuss what symbols we see and what emotions the media in question is trying to elicit.

But we’ll do our best. Like last week, the lecture is broken into several segments. Watch the videos in order and take notes. When you have completed the reading and the lecture, go ahead and take your second quiz. Continue Reading »

COMM 229-W01, Week One: Approaching Media Texts

Posted January 25th, 2014 in Bridgewater State University by davecopeland

This is the video lecture for the first week of the Foundations of Media Studies I am teaching online at Bridgewater State University this semester. Watch the five clips below, in order. I reference screens and visuals which I was unable to edit in before my deadline, so follow along with this Prezi as you watch the videos:

Continue Reading »

My Spring 2014 Teaching Schedule at Bridgewater State University

Posted November 4th, 2013 in Bridgewater State University, Teaching by davecopeland

Here’s what I’m teaching at Bridgewater State University in the spring, complete with the course description and my take on the course. Subject to change.

Social Media & Journalism

COMM 299-001 Tuesday-Thursday, 8-9:15 a.m.


Course Description: The Mexican drug war, Arab spring, Occupy Wall Street and even riots in Vancouver following the 2011 NHL playoffs have all been covered live on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook as they unfolded. This rise of citizen journalism often blurs the line between news reporting and activism, and often presents problems for the end user when news is being reported at a rate of thousands of messages per second. In this class, students will study the role social media has played in key national and international events between 2010 and 2012 while understanding how journalists are trying to use social media in their work without compromising it.

My Take: I designed this course, which is a second-year, writing-intensive seminar. Now in its fourth semester, i’m overhauling it to focus more on media literacy and how journalists use social media. Students will be able to try their hand at covering a beat and reporting stories as a means for better understanding the good, bad and ugly of social media’s intersection with journalism. Good for students considering careers in journalism or public relations, but also useful for students who want a better understanding of social media in general.

Textbooks: None. Weekly reading assignments in the form of articles available online or distributed in class.

Syllabus: Draft (please note this is a work in progress and it will change before the start of the course).

News & Politics

COMM 335-X01 Web Hybrid, Thursday, 9:30-10:45 a.m. and Web component

399px-Barack_Obama_Hope_posterCourse Description: This course is designed to introduce students to the intersection between media and politics. Students will develop an understanding of political, social, and cultural events as they affect print and electronic journalism. The goal of this course is to help students better understand how all forms of media—print, broadcast, and electronic—shape the course of public policy and beliefs about different people, places, things, events, and social phenomenon.

My Take: This offering is perfectly timed to take advantage of all the scholarship coming out analyzing the 2012 Presidential election while looking forward to the 2014 midterm elections. As a Web hybrid, students will have an opportunity to explore a wide range of multimedia and analyze news coverage of the 2012 and 2013 elections. Unlike the last time I taught this course in Spring 2011, this course will place much more of an emphasis on the role of social media on both journalism, government and political campaigns.

Textbooks: None. Weekly reading assignments in the form of articles available online or distributed in class.

Syllabus: Draft (please note this is a work in progress and it will change before the start of the course).

Cyberculture and Digital Media

COMM 397-001, Tuesday-Thursday, 11:00 a.m. -12:15 p.m.


Course Description: This course examines the Internet and related digital and new-media technologies as communication within a range of economic, political and cultural contexts. The core of this investigation focuses on the ways in which digital media offer innovative channels for humans to share messages and make meaning, with emphasis on the interrelated issues of access (digital divide) and the increasingly global nature of digital communication (globalization). Through a variety of online and in-class individual and group exercises, students will learn and use basic Internet and new-media skills, and develop critical-thinking skills while exploring new-media environments.

My Take: this is the first semester I have taught this course and it is one of my favorites to teach. I use a lot of social network theory to help students better understand how both online and offline social networks work, and primarily develop a semester-long theme around Melvin Kranzberg’s first law of technology, which states “Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.” I want students to develop a better understanding of how technology shapes their lives and their world. This semester the class in undertaking some group, research projects; if those projects are successful, they will be a significant component of the course in the spring.


  • Christakis, Nicholas A., and James H. Fowler. Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives — How Your Friends’ Friends’ Friends Affect Everything You Feel, Think, and Do. New York: Back Bay Books, 2011.

  • Pariser, Eli. The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You. New York: Penguin Press, 2011.

  • Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. New York: Basic Books, 2011.

Syllabus: Draft (please note this is a work in progress and it will change before the start of the course).

Foundations of Media Studies

COMM 229-XXX, Thursday, 2:00-4:40p.m.

COMM 229-XXX, Online Course


Course Description: The primary objective of this course is to foster a broad understanding of the field, hone critical skills and increase understanding of the theoretical and philosophical discussions taking place in media studies. The course considers questions such as the interrelationships between production and consumption, the notion of what constitutes a “text,” and the ways in which social power shapes how we understand and experience media.

My Take: This is the first time I have taught this course, and there will be some differences between the online version and the traditional offering. In short, I want to use examples of media students are familiar with and )hopefully) enjoy to illustrate the more complex theories they are required to master in this course.

Textbooks: Straubhaar, Joseph, Robert LaRose, and Lucinda Davenport. Media Now: Understanding Media, Culture and Technology. Eighth Edition. Boston: Wadsworth, 2014.

Syllabus: Draft (please note this is a work in progress and it will change before the start of the course).

2012 Summer Reading List

Posted May 9th, 2012 in Bridgewater State University by davecopeland

Update, 5/9/12, 6:19 pm: This auto-published before I could finish it. Ill update it eventually but for now I figure the partial list is better than hiding it until it’s done.

Spring semester finals ended yesterday at Bridgewater State University….

Sometimes I have students who want to keep learning over the summer. For students who have taken classes with me in the past, will be taking classes or working on the Comment with me in the fall, or for anyone who is just looking for something good to read, I offer the following 2012 Summer Reading List…

Just Good Writing

On Writing Better


Reporting Know-How

Social Media Basics and Best Practices






Blogging Basics and Best Practices

Content Creation

A different kind of final exam: The Twitter Scavenger Hunt

Posted May 2nd, 2012 in Bridgewater State University by davecopeland

To test the digital reporting skills they developed over the course of the semester, I assigned my Intro to Journalism students a Twitter scavenger hunt instead of a traditional final exam. They had a week to collect quotes and photos on campus and post them to the #fin240 hash tag.

Here’s the full assignment.

And here’s a link to a Storify highlighting some of the words and pictures they collected at Bridgewater State University.

This is as scenic as BSU gets. Taken outside Moakley/Hart Hall by Sean Kierman.

In case you read anything about me today…..

Posted April 28th, 2012 in Bridgewater State University by davecopeland

Adam Kissel of FIRE

The Boston Globe probably has the best take about what has been happening to the student newspaper I advise, and what my response has been thus far. The why, however, is perhaps best characterized by the introduction I gave for Adam Kissel of the Foundation For Individual Rights In Education when he spoke on campus Friday in response to the recent controversy:

Continue Reading »

One Of My Students Was Attacked Because She Wrote In Support Of Gay Marriage

Posted February 16th, 2012 in Bridgewater State University, Journalism by davecopeland

This opinion piece about Prop 8 is from the college newspaper that I serve as faculty adviser to at Bridgewater State University. The student who wrote this article was attacked on campus after being confronted by a man and a woman who asked her if she had written the article, which appeared on the opinion page of this week’s paper.

Here’s the spot news article the students posted on Facebook tonight. They’ll be updating their Web site tomorrow and as the story develops.

Fortunately, she is okay but understandably shaken up. If you’re on the BSU campus and have information on the incident, which happened around 6 pm tonight in the Chapel Parking Lot, please contact the Bridgewater State University Police, who are investigating it as a hate crime, at (508) 531-1212.

If you believe in free speech and that people should be able to express their views and opinions without the threat of violence — regardless of how you feel about those views or opinions – please share/retweet/+1/like this post.

Better Than The Book? “Everything Must Go” Vs. “Why Don’t You Dance?”

Posted January 24th, 2012 in Books, Bridgewater State University, Movies, Teaching by davecopeland

This blog post is a slightly-fleshed out version of the notes for a lecture I gave in my “Better Than The Book?” class at Bridgewater State University this evening. The class explores films based on books, short stories and news articles and tries to help students understand the two different mediums. It is a writing intensive class designed to fill Bridgewater State’s second-year seminar class.

Today was our first class meeting: after going over course policies I introduced tonight film, “Everything Must Go” starring Will Ferrell and based on the Raymond Carver short story “Why Don’t You Dance.” Students are also encouraged to tweet in and out of class and particularly during screenings. For more insight check out the #299ENGL hash tag on Twitter.

This is a film class. Or maybe you signed up for it because you thought it was a literature class. Either way, you love films or books, and, hopefully both. But to me, this is really a class about storytelling.

My theory — or I should say a theory I share with a lot of people who are a lot smarter than me — is that storytelling as well as story-listening are nearly genetic, something we’re born with as a way to make sense of a big and, at times, fucked up world that we live in.

Here are some things I know about people who write and tell stories for a living. These are broad generalizations, but every time I share them with a group of writers, there’s a lot of head nodding:

  • They suck at math and science

  • They suck at math and science because they’re uncomfortable with the concept of infinity. They like “the end” and “happily ever after.”

  • The concept of infinity is closely related to death, so writers tend to obsess on their own mortality more than other people.

  • The concept of a big, complex world is also intimidating to writers, because writers tend to be control freaks.

  • And the best way to control the world is to create it: whether they are writing a short story or a trilogy of complex films, writers are trying to grab a small piece of the world and control it. This holds true for the newspaper reporter trying to get all the facts straight in a routine, Friday night shooting story on deadline, the blogger who likes to over-generalize in summing up the current state of the world and the novelist who creates plot twists so thick and complex you wouldn’t dare question their realism

Whether we consider ourselves storytellers is irrelevant. Writers and filmmakers make stories and we consume them because — I would argue — we need them. We need the universal truths within these stories to know we’re not alone in this world, that there really is a human culture that transcends across cultures and makes us feel a little more connected and a little less unique.

If you read the course description, the premise of this class is that books are always better than the films they’re based on, but — spoiler alert — I’m going to fast forward to our class when we’ll screen “Leaving Las Vegas” and tell you that premise is not true: sometimes the film is better than the book, sometimes the book is better than the film, and sometimes both are great on their own merits. And a lot of times, the book and the film suck, but I have tried to avoid those films and books as I designed this class. All of this comes down to personal taste: you may like a film better than the book when I say the book is better, and while all of these are films and books I either like or outright love, you’re allowed (and even encouraged) to hate them.

This is really a class about story-telling medium: for young writers starting out, one of the most frequently-heard (and discouraging) reasons for rejecting your book idea is that it works better as an article (non-fiction) or short story (fiction). Sometimes, stories work better as books. Sometimes they work better as films. Often a good story is just something you tell over drinks at a bar or around a campfire. Picking the medium — and understanding the advantages and disadvantages of telling a story in that medium — is crucial for people who tell stories. But it also can help those of us who consume stories.

We’re going to start this class by playing Hollywood producer. I’m going to give you a short story to read and then I’m going to break you into small groups. This is your movie studio, and a big-name actor has told you he (or she) has bought the film rights to this short story.It’s your job, as a group, to figure out how you’re going to make it into a film. Be creative: is this Hollywood blockbuster or small independent film? Who are you going to cast in the key roles? Who do you want to direct it? Most of all, give me a beginning, middle and end — does this film have a happy or sad ending?

Have them read Why Don’t You Dance?

Have them present their film ideas.

Intro film “Everything Must Go,” noting that it is based on the story they just read. 


John Updike, who has a style often compared to Carver’s, defined a grown man as “a failed boy” and that is what I think you will see in this film. But this is a sad failed boy: not the guys from the Hangover, and not even the Will Ferrell you’re used to seeing in a lot of other films. One of the things we see a lot ion American literature and film is the American Dream gone horribly wrong, and you will see that, both literally and figuratively in this film.

This is about a functioning alcoholic, which Roger Ebert called “the kinds of alcoholics who break your heart: They mean to do well, they’re not mean or violent, but over the years, the need for booze has moved into the foreground.” Nick has done a lot of bad things and you will see him do some more throughout the film, but think about whether you like him or not at the END of the movie, and think about why you feel this way.

Talk about Kenny, and his flaws: Spike Lee’s “Magic Negro;” see Ebert review.

Mass Censorship

Posted December 7th, 2011 in Bridgewater State University, Journalism, Newspapers, Umass by davecopeland

After the night I had Tuesday in my role as faculty adviser to the Bridgewater State University Comment, it seemed appropriate to revisit the last column I wrote for my own college newspaper at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 1996. The importance of free speech — and its importance both in newspapers and in college campuses — is one of the few views I hold that hasn’t changed much since I was in college:

“Mass censorship”
from the Massachusetts Daily Collegian
May 15, 1996

by Dave Copeland

“Censorship cannot be employed selectively; when anyone’s freedom of speech is denied, everyone else’s is threatened.”

- Alan M. Dershowitz

“And stupid stuff, it makes us shout.”

- line from the song “UMass” by the Pixies.

A few weeks ago I was sitting in on a friend’s radio show and we got to talking about a guy he had met who had one of those crappy jobs you inevitably end up taking at one point or another to make your way through school. His job wasn’t as nasty as shoveling out septic tanks or as tedious as telemarketing, but it wasn’t the type of thing you’d want to do for the rest of your life, either.

One of us made a comment on the air along the lines of “That guy’s job sucks.” We didn’t say the guy sucked, we didn’t say his mother sucked — if anything, we were sympathizing with a guy whose job entailed sitting alone in a barn on the outskirts of campus. But no sooner had we made our comment then the phone line lit up with a complaint from a caller who felt we were being unfair to the guy.

“I think what you said about that guy is pretty disrespectful and you probably shouldn’t be saying it.”

And this is the stupid stuff at UMass that makes people shout. One of the only reasons why I am looking forward to getting away from here for good is to finally be liberated from a consolidation of people like this caller who feel it is their right to tell others what they should be saying and thinking.

Pretty much anything that is considered controversial that manages to find a way not this paper gets there only after the already overworked editors ask the question “Will our office get stormed if we run this?” and “How can we cover our asses on this one?”

Two years ago the Collegian was heavily criticized for running a pro-life advertisement that clearly stated it did not reflect the view of the paper. Last year, people couldn’t believe the paper would run an anti-Semitic letter from a retired professor. Another racist letter from a member of the campus community never made it to the pages of the paper this semester.

A satirical piece I wrote on Amherst “townies” last year was greeted with a slew of letters asking “How could the Collegian run this?” even though it explicitly states at the top of this page that the opinions expressed here are those of the individual writer.

No newspaper should be subjected to demands to suppress information. It’s contrary to their only public purpose. As a society, we have created a cruel and twisted world, and for me, information has been the only defense I’ve had against the bitter truth that reality doesn’t always have a happy ending.

But there remains an abundance of people in these parts who are brimming with dopey optimism and would rather not know that there are indeed racists, bigots and other wretched people thinking bad thoughts not just in this world, but right here in the “happy” valley. It is a lot easier to nix the thoughts and ideas of the wicked and mean than it is to actually deal with them.

Other denizens of the valley run around like the cast members of “The Simpsons,” making a knee-jerk crisis out of every little issue before they’ve even taken the time to get information on it. “If we don’t like it, we’re not gonna think about it! We’re going to storm Mayor Quimby’s office!”

The First Amendment is the only right you have that ensures the protection of all your other rights. To attack that right in any shape or form is to attack your own freedom.

When I leave next week, the greatest advantage I take away from UMass is the ability to express myself and speak freely in a way that is drastically more effective than plastering my politics in the form of lame cliches on the bumper of my car. To me, that is the price of admission I paid to toil away here for eight semesters and five years.

And if there is anybody out there who wants to take that right away from me, I’d have to say that they suck.

Dave Copeland is a Collegian columnist.

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