Communication in Contemporary Society (UW Oshkosh 96-118) Spring 2002 (MWF 8:00 - 9:00)

Dr.Tony Palmeri  
phone = 424-4422		 								

Office: A/C S105 Hours: Tuesday/Thursday 8-11 and by appointment


Required Reading:

Fraleigh, Douglas M. & Tuman, Joseph S. (1997). Freedom of Speech in the Marketplace of Ideas. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Course Description:

Most Americans believe falsely that citizens have an absolute freedom to communicate (or "freedom of speech"). In fact, our freedom to communicate is restricted in a variety of ways. Historically and today, the government places legal restrictions on communicators, the content of communication, and the medium of communication.

By learning about the ways free speech is constrained, this course might provoke students to join the centuries old struggle to preserve, protect, and defend the First Amendment. As students of communication, it is only logical that we should be the most forceful advocates of the right to communicate.

Course Objectives: After taking this course, students should be able to

  1. identify key events in the historical development of free speech.
  2. identify legal controls on the content of speech.
  3. explain the "special issues" in free speech: prior restraint, special problems of a free press, constraints of time, place, and manner, institutional constraints, technology and free speech.
  4. explain and critique the marketplace approach to free speech.
  5. articulate an intelligent defense of their free speech rights and responsibilities.
  6. make meaningful contributions to the marketplace of ideas.

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Course Requirements

  1. 13 on-line quizzes (weekly on-line; 150 points)
  2. Op-Ed Piece (March 6; 50 points)
  3. Midterm (April 3; 200 points)
  4. FA Resource Analysis (March 13 and April 26; 300 points)
  5. Final Exam (May 17; 200 points)
  6. On-Line Speak Out! (weekly on-line;100 points)

Grading Scale

A = 930-1000 C = 750-799

A/B = 890-929 C/D = 700-749

B = 850-889 D = 650-699

B/C = 800-849 F = Below 650

Some Necessary Policies For This Course

  1. Attendance is mandatory. Two absences are allowed without penalty. For each absence after the second, 50 points will be subtracted from the final grade unless a legitimate excuse is presented.
  2. Please arrive to class on time. Repeated lateness will be treated as an absence.
  3. Make-up tests will only be given under extraordinary circumstances.
  4. Academic dishonesty will be handled in accordance with Chapter 14 of the UWS administrative code.

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Description of Course Requirements

[Note: A good portion of Communication in Contemporary Society will take place on-line. See the attached page, "Communication in Contemporary Society: Blackboard Web Page"].

  1. On-Line Quizzes: There will be weekly textbook chapter quizzes on the class web page. Quizzes 1-9 are 10 questions each; quizzes 10-13 are 15 questions each. You will be given a maximum of 10 minutes to complete each quiz. While it is acceptable to treat these as "open book" quizzes, I strongly advise you to read the chapter before taking the quiz as 1 point will be subtracted for each minute over the maximum taken to complete it. (for example: You get 8 out of 10 correct but take 8 minutes. That reduces the grade to 7 out of 10).
  2. Op-Ed Piece: A 700-750 word essay taking a stand on any topic. A hard copy is due to me by March 6. I would also like you to post your op-ed on the course web page by that date. You do not have to submit your op-ed to a newspaper, but if you do I will provide you with extra credit according to the following scale:
    • Oshkosh Northwestern: 20 points
    • Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: 40 points
    • New York Times: 80 points
    • Other publications: 20-80 points depending on the quality of the publication.
  3. Midterm Exam: Covers the first 9 chapters of the textbook. May feature a combination of multiple choice, short-answer, T/F, matching column, and essay.
  4. First Amendment Resource Analysis: (see attached page)
  5. Final Exam: Same format at the midterm.
  6. On-Line Speak Out!: Each week there will be a new discussion question placed on the course web site. Each student must post at least one-comment per week dealing with the question. The comment can be a response to another person or a new "thread." Please try to keep your comments in the 100-300-word range.

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Blackboard Web Page

Each of you has an account on the course web page containing course information, daily announcements, a discussion board, quizzes, external links, and other features. To access the web page, follow the steps below.

  1. Start an Internet browser such as Netscape or MS Internet Explorer.
  2. Type in the address
  3. Click the Login button on the left side of the page.
  4. Type in your username. This is the same as your UWO email account. It is formed by the first five letters of your last name, followed by your initial, then the last two digits of your social security number
  5. Type in your password. (It is initially set to your 7-digit student ID number).

You will be taken to you "Bb" page. The page will contain a list of the courses you are enrolled in that have blackboard pages. Choose Communication in Contemporary Society Spring 02 under My Courses. Please email me ( when you have successfully logged in to the page.

The opening page contains class announcements. On the left side, you will see buttons for Announcements, Course Information, Staff Information, Course Documents, Assignments, Communication, External Links, and Tools. These links will take you to different areas of the page. Under Tools, you may select the Personal Information option to modify your account information. By the next class period, you must change your email address in Personal Information if you use an e-mail address other than the one provided to you by UW Oshkosh!

Our web page will have a very active discussion board. Each week there will be a new discussion question. For this week, our "discussion" will consist of introducing ourselves. Click the Communication link on the page and then go to Discussion Board. You'll see that I have started the discussion with "A Little Bit About Your Professor." When you send your introduction, please place your name in the subject line.

If you have trouble accessing the page, please e-mail me (

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Date Material Covered Work Due

Week #1

February 4(M):Course Intro

Week #2

Week #3

Week #4

Week #5

Week #6

SPRING BREAK: March 16-24

Week #7

Week #8

Week #9

Week #10

Week #11

Week #12

Week #13

Week #14

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Any student planning to become a Speech Communication major or minor must complete 96-111, 96-118 and 96-236. 96-111 can be taken at the same time as 96-118 and is a pre-requisite for 96- 236.

118 & 236 must be completed with an average of "BC" or better with no grade lower than a C in either course for a student to be admitted to the Speech Communication major or minor. If you do not meet the GPA requirement and you still wish to major or minor in Speech Communication, you may re-take the course(s).

In the spring of 1999 the Speech Communication faculty approved another method of waiving the B/C requirement for 96-118 & 96-236: the student must demonstrate a grade point average of 2.75 in the 200-level required courses (96-214, 96-215, 96-275).

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First Amendment Resource Analysis

Each student will be assigned a web site (the "resource") dealing with First Amendment issues (see attached list). The analysis consists of three parts:

  1. An on-line annotation (400-500 words) of the web site (100 points). The on-line annotation is due on our course web page by March 13. An annotation is simply a short description of the content and style of the website.
  2. An in-depth evaluation of the web site (200 points)

The in-depth evaluation is due in hard copy by April 26th. The URL's for all student assigned web pages are attached. The evaluation must answer all of the questions in the "Checklist for Evaluating Web Resources"

Checklist for Evaluating Web Resources:

  1. Authority:
    • Who are the author(s) of the site?
    • Credentials and affiliation. What is the background of the author(s)? With what organization(s) are they affiliated?
    • Are the organizations reputable? How do you know?
    • Are the sources of information stated? Can you verify the information?
    • Can the author(s) be contacted for clarification?
    • What are the biases of the author or organization? How do you know?
  2. Scope:
    • Is the purpose of the resource clearly stated? Does it fulfill its purpose?
    • Is the information factual or opinion? Provide examples of information that you consider to be factual and that you consider to be opinionated.
    • Does the site contain original information or simply links? How many links lead to a dead end?
    • How frequently is the resource updated?
    • Does the site have clear and obvious pointers to new content?
  3. Format and Presentation:
    • Is the information easy to get to? How many links does it take to get to something useful?
    • What is the quality of the graphical images? Do these images enhance the resource or distract from the content?
    • Is the target audience or intended users clearly indicated?
    • Is the arrangement of links uncluttered?
    • Does the site have its own search engine?
    • Is the site easily browsable or searchable?
  4. Overall Evaluation:
    • Is the material at this site useful for students of the First Amendment? Why?
    • How could the site be improved?

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First Amendment Resource Analysis Web Sites:

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