Story by Nikki Kesaris
For most of us, media is front and center nearly every hour of the day. When you’re not checking your social media feed, there’s a good chance you’re watching online videos or reading news on the web.
Anything that demands so much of the world’s attention is bound to impact it greatly. Given that degree of influence, shouldn’t we learn as much about it as we can?
To examine the importance of media within society, the UO School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC) offers the media studies major and minor. Both programs aim to provide an holistic approach to learning by allowing students to achieve a deep understanding of media without specializing in any single area of professional study. Media studies integrates the liberal arts aspect of education with the practical applications that prepare students for jobs in the 21st century.
The media studies major and minor are both focused on the forms and effects of media. The classes go beyond the surface level of media and dig deeper, asking questions like: Why does this matter? Although the media studies minor is only for non-SOJC students, the major is for everyone, and many SOJC students double-major with media studies.
To get all the details, we talked to Interim Media Studies Area Director and Assistant Professor Peter Alilunas. He explained how the media studies major and minor probably cover much more than you thought.
What exactly is media studies?
I like to say that media studies is the home of intellectual curiosity about media. Just think how surrounded we are by media as a culture: It’s around us all the time, and more so every day as the internet takes on an even more important role in our lives.
How do we understand it, unpack it, examine it, think about it and relate it to the meanings of our lives? Media companies are so much more complicated than they were even a few decades ago. Imagine back then: newspapers, radio, television, magazines, film — it was all very easy to put into categories and understand. Now we have Twitter live-streaming a red carpet event for “Suicide Squad,” which is a Warner Bros. film with a heavy Snapchat presence. What does that all mean — and how can we understand it as scholars, consumers and spectators? Where did it all come from, why and how? That process of understanding is something that gets increasingly difficult as these lines continue to blur, but it’s what our faculty takes seriously, since all these things have very deep and rich political, cultural and social implications.
And this goes beyond just understanding it, since most of our students will have jobs one day working in media industries. How do they understand what it is they are going to be doing for a living, and why does that understanding matter? Those are all questions we tackle in media studies.
What can students expect in the media studies major?
What students can expect if they major in media studies is a handful of classes that will ask deep questions about media, present the major research in the field, ask them to examine their relationships to the media and how the world of media works.
Think of it as a supplement to the other majors. We ask the questions about why things are the way they are instead of just how to do them. We unpack the layers, peel back the curtain and dig around to get answers.
For example, our Understanding Disney class takes on one of the biggest companies on earth and asks: How and why did it get this way, and what does it all mean? Is it “bad” for society or “good”? Do those things even matter? Why or why not?
Media studies students can also expect to be part of a community of scholars that supports their work and pushes them to take on interesting, creative and intellectually curious projects.
What kind of classes are offered in the major?
The Media Studies double major adds four additional classes to an SOJC student’s graduation path: J314: Introduction to Media Studies, two additional context courses and the J413: Capstone. The two context courses are the electives offered in the school along with the backbone context classes (such as Media History; Media Ethics; and Gender, Media, and Diversity). We have tons of electives and are constantly adding new ones under the course number J412, like How to Watch TV, Sex Media, Understanding Disney, Understanding Social Media and Zombies in the Media.
There’s an exciting future in media studies as we try to map out what students really need to succeed out there beyond the university.
What can students expect from a media studies minor?
It is important to point out that if someone already has a major in the SOJC, they actually can’t “minor” in media studies. The minor is available only to students outside the school. However, it’s very easy to double-major.
For non-SOJC students, the media studies minor requires students to take 24 credits. For SOJC students, double-majoring is even easier than getting a minor since it has fewer requirements!
How do you know if a media studies double major is right for you?
The media studies double major is the right thing for every student in the SOJC. There isn’t a job out there that won’t benefit from the training and practice the area offers. Every job —not just media jobs — requires critical thinking, research and writing skills, and our faculty are experts in exactly those things. Hiring directors everywhere will see that media studies training and be impressed. Why wouldn’t they be?
With the competitive landscape out there for jobs now, everything a student can do to set himself or herself apart is a good idea, and what we offer is that exact thing. Take your training to the next level with media studies. Don’t just learn how to do your future job; learn why it’s important and its history, and understand its future. Trust me: Future employers want that kind of intellectual curiosity, and we can prepare students for that.
What kind of jobs can you get with a degree in media studies?
A media studies major is a terrific way to get the attention of future employers in a wide variety of fields — anything that involves critical thinking, writing or creative work, for starters. From research to writing, theorizing about media and its futures, and exploring how and why the mediated world is the way it is now — well, we do all that and more in media studies. Plus, it’s an ideal major for anyone interested in graduate school for virtually any field of study — including law school — since the work we do is perfect preparation for advanced research and writing.
Students interested in working at creative agencies, marketing agencies like Marketers Center, and promotion firms, traditional journalism outlets, hybrid creative situations, Hollywood production companies, or working as online content producers, social media coordinators and producers, and on and on and on — they’ve all benefited from media studies training.
Nikki Kesaris is a junior studying public relations at the SOJC. This is her second year writing for the SOJC Communication Office. She also previously held an internship at a San Diego advertising agency before she realized that PR is her true calling.