MCOM 350 Media Law, Fall 2017
Department of Mass Communication & Communication Studies
Dr. Stacy Spaulding | Office hours | Contact Info | Schedule | Blackboard
MCOM 350.001 | T/R 2-3:15 p.m. | VB 200

Course description

Examination of libel, slander, invasion of privacy and copyright. Legal considerations in reporting on judicial and governmental activities.

Class outcomes

By the end of the course, you should be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of the legal framework that shapes the mass media.
  • Demonstrate comprehension of key issues and dilemmas in the areas of: libel, slander, invasion of privacy, copyright, and reporting on judicial and governmental activities.
  • Comprehend and analyze landmark cases in media law.
  • Apply an understanding of media law to legal and ethical dilemmas.

Textbook & Materials

Reading assignments should be completed before the day they are scheduled for discussion. Texts will include:

Assignments & Grading

Grades will be tracked on Blackboard. There will be a minimum of 220 points possible in this course:

  • Attendance, 20 points (10%). See attendance policy below.
  • Midterm exam, & Final exam, 50 points each, 100 points total (45%). These will be traditional tests with multiple choice, true-false, short answer and essay questions. These questions will focus on your understanding and recall of information in lectures and readings.
  • Case analysis x 4, 25 points each, 100 points total (45%). In this assignment, you will read and analyze a landmark case in media law. We’ll discuss how to read a case and the format of your analysis in class. You’ll choose your case from a list provided to you in class.
  • Reading and lecture quizzes. Quizzes may be given periodically to gauge comprehension of materials given in lecture and readings. Quizzes will increase the number of points possible in the course.

Final letter grades will be given out using the following scale:

A = 94-100%
A- = 90-93%
B+ = 87-89%
B = 84-86%
B- = 80-83%
C+ = 77-79%
C = 70-76%
D+ = 67-69%
D = 60-66%
F = Below 60%


If you know you will be absent, it is your responsibility to 1) Submit homework to Blackboard before class starts. 2) Check with classmates and the course website to keep up to date on readings and assignments. 3) Meet with me during office hours if you have questions.

Excused absences: Graded assignments may be made up in the case of an excused absence. It is the policy of the university to excuse absences for illness, injury, religious observance, participation in university activities and compelling, verifiable circumstances beyond your control. To request an excused absence, you must provide documentation.

Unexcused absences: All other absences are unexcused absences, and graded assignments may not be made up. I will allow you one unexcused absence during the semester and will allow you to make up your work. This absence may not be used on a day when we have a project, test or paper due. Work will not be accepted for subsequent unexcused absences.

Attendance points: You will receive up to 20 points for attending class. I will track attendance through Blackboard, which will be linked to your Blackboard gradebook. Absences-–unexcused or excused–-will not receive attendance points. Because I take attendance through Blackboard and these settings are not modifiable, there are no exceptions to this policy.

Tardy policy: If you come to class late and miss an in-class exercise, quiz or assignment, you will not be allowed to make up the work. Three tardies will be counted as one unexcused absence. Please be on time.

Late and missing work

Work missed for a known, excused absence must be turned in prior to the absence in order to receive full credit. All assignments must be turned in at the beginning of class on the day due. Anything submitted after that time is considered late.  Late assignments may be penalized one letter grade per day. Assignments submitted more than one week late risk not be accepted. Exceptions to this policy must be agreed upon between the student and the instructor. Medical excuses will be accepted in the form of a letter signed by a physician.


I expect you to:

  • Do the readings before the discussion date for which they are assigned. Attend and actively participate. This ensures that our discussions will be richer and more interesting. It also guarantees you the opportunity to ask questions in order to prepare for tests and assignments. It’s also helpful to read the news. As a student, you have free online access to the New York Times, USA Today, and the Washington Post. Use them–you’ll be shocked at how often First Amendment issues are up for debate and deliberation.
  • Act professionally: Put away your cell phones and refrain from texting and social media during class. Also, refrain from interrupting class by leaving for frequent water or bathroom breaks.
  • Act ethically: This includes taking all care to be sure that your work is original and properly cited in order to avoid the appearance of plagiarism. It also includes taking all measures to refrain from even giving the appearance of cheating during exams.
  • Let me know if you’re in trouble: If you need help, please reach out. I want to do all I can to be sure you have a fair shot at understanding and applying the material.

It is my goal to:

  • Explain concepts clearly: I want to be sure you have as much support as you need to meet the requirements of this course. I’m happy to answer your questions, review concepts and skills, or provide material to help you grow in new directions.
  • Challenge you intellectually and encourage you to do your best. In this class, I think that means learning the basic principles of law so that you can apply them to legal and ethical dilemmas. I hope to provide plenty of scenarios in class so that you can hone your analytical skills.
  • Clearly design, explain and organize the course, its learning objectives, assignments and grading: It is very important to me to provide you with well-designed course that features clear assignments and sensible deadlines. If you have a question, please don’t hesitate to ask. I am happy to explain or, if necessary, to refine the course design in a way that is fair to everyone.
  • Provide helpful feedback: I will be sure your assignment is returned in a timely fashion, usually within a week of the due date. It is my goal to provide you with feedback that will help you identify areas in which you excelled and areas in which you can improve.
  • Select appropriate materials for class: I’ve selected a variety of low-cost and widely available materials in order to keep your textbook costs down.
  • Be available for consultation: I answer email promptly during business hours on business days, generally Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. I will also post and keep office hours. This is the appropriate time to discuss personal matters such as missed deadlines and class absences, questions regarding grading or missed coursework. This is also a good time to get my feedback on rough drafts.

Other Policies

All course policies affecting students can be found here. Also:

Sylabus changes: In order to meet course outcomes and student needs, I reserve the right to change the syllabus and/or schedule when warranted. I will always provide students with advance notice when I do so, and frequently will seek their input and suggestions on proposed changes.

Civility: MCCS is committed to cultivating a collegial atmosphere in which we can all enjoy mutual respect and the creative pursuit of knowledge. Please familiarize yourself with our civility code and practice respectful behavior in the classroom and throughout campus.

Athletics & University activities: You must provide a letter from your coach that explains your place on the team as well as a schedule of games/competitions during the semester. You must take any tests and prepare any assignments that conflict with this schedule before the test or due date, not after. In addition, you must provide a Notification of Absence from Class Form to verify the reason for your absence.

Students with documented disabilities are encouraged to register with Disability Support Services, 7720 York Road, Suite 232, ext. 4-2638 (voice or TDD). Students who suspect that they have a disability but do not have documentation are encouraged to contact DSS for evaluation information. A memo from DSS authorizing your accommodation is needed to help me understand what types of accommodations will help you best.

Plagiarism: Please familiarize yourself with the MCCS plagiarism policy and the University academic integrity policy. All cases of plagiarism will be handled according to this policy. The best way to avoid plagiarism in this course: (1) Do your own work. (2) Be clear in your notes. Know what is a quote or paraphrase and what you wrote yourself. (3) Quote and cite anything that you did not write yourself. (4) Don’t procrastinate. Get a head start so you can avoid making mistakes.

D & FX grading: Students may receive upper-level general elective credit with a D, but not MCOM major credits. According to the Registrar’s Office, an I or incomplete can only be given “verifiable medical reasons or documented circumstances beyond their control.” A course grade of FX is given for non-attendance or failure to withdraw. If you stop attending class but do not withdraw, this is the grade you will receive. If you receive an F or FX, you may only repeat the course once. Students who repeat the course will only receive credit for the highest grade achieved. The lower grade will remain on the transcript with an “R” before it to indicate the course was repeated. For the transcript to reflect the repeated course, students must submit a Repeated Course Form to the Records Office. Transcript adjustments are not automatic.

Repeating classes: Towson requires me to remind you that you may not attempt a class for the third time without prior permission from the Academic Standards Committee. Information regarding this policy can be obtained through Enrollment Services.

Weapons: According to the TU weapons policy, firearms and other weapons are prohibited.  This prohibition includes all replicas.

Legal liability: In all assignments, students must comply with all laws and the legal rights of others (copyright, obscenity, privacy and defamation) and with all Towson University policies (academic dishonesty). Towson University is not liable or responsible for the content of any student assignments, regardless of where they are posted.