Molded by media

Marie Albu, Staff Writer, Marie Albu, Staff Writer, and Marie Albu, Staff Writer

Time flies when you’re watching porn-even when you’re sitting in class. Such is the case for students enrolled in Communication 171 “Mass Media and Society” with Instructors Sarah Hock and Joyce Merek.
Hock’s section appears to be a typical class-the students talk animatedly amongst themselves (after all, many are communication majors)-until the day’s topic is announced.
Today, students watch a PBS documentary called “American Porn” that discusses that industry.
Students are asked whether porn should be considered obscene and therefore censored.
Almost everyone in the class joins in and the discussion is lively with a warm fuzzy comfortable you-won’t-get-called-stupid-here-feeling. When asked to discuss amongst themselves most students actually stay on topic while others discuss last nights partying or reality shows.
However, the class isn’t just about porn and watching reality TV. Students learn to analyze the media and how it significantly impacts their lives, Hock promises that the class will forever alter the way students watch TV.
According to the class syllabus, students also analyze clips from modern media such as “Office Space” and “The Bachelor.” No wonder this class has such a long waiting list.
Hock is a young, enthusiastic teacher who has been teaching the course for 4 years. “I love working with college students, it’s a passion of mine, it’s why I got into the field,” she said. Her passion is very evident in the classroom as she shows a PowerPoint presentation.
“As consumers we have to take social action,” she said-and that’s just what her students’ are doing. Every year her class writes letters to companies that are involved in the porn industry in reaction to the PBS documentary. Some of these companies, students learn, are big names, not generally known for their seedy ties to porn-AT&T and General Motors, for example.
This also brings up the issue of ethics in media. The course covers the fine line between free speech and obscenity and protection of people’s privacy.
Hock says, “Because of the media’s enormous impact on society it has opportunity for great good and not so good to come of it. That’s where the role of the consumer comes in.”
Her students seem to enjoy the interesting topics. Lael Kremer, a former student of Hock’s class calls it her “favorite class of all time.” Some are communications majors and others take the class for pure interest. “I’m interested in mass media and would like to do something in that industry,” said student Elizabeth Medsen.
Other students find out about the class from friends. “It was a more interesting choice and the course and teacher were recommended to me by friends,” said Ada Ruff, a current student taking Hock’s class.
However, slackers beware! This isn’t an easy class. Students do group presentations, papers, and have quizzes and exams. The hard work doesn’t seem to discourage students, however, both Hock and Merek say the classes tend to have a high retention rate.
Merek’s class is on Wednesday nights and has a slightly different curriculum. Her students viewed “Queer Eye For The Straight Guy,” a new reality television show on the Spike Network that displays several aspects to media.
Merek, who has been teaching the course for three-and-a-half years, also stresses how media affects our world. “The intention of the class is to transform students who use media for gratification, into analysts skilled in media literary,” she said.
“This class is really for anybody, a must for anyone who lives in a media culture-and we all do,” Hock says.