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Course Outcomes

Students will be able to

  1. Practice communication within legal boundaries by employing appropriate use of others’ work (in attribution, copyright, trademarks, etc.).
  2. Practice communication within legal boundaries by demonstrating an ability to identify legal constraints and defenses that shape mass media messages.
  3. Practice communication within legal boundaries by constructing messages that meet the laws and statutes applied to free speech.
  4. Demonstrate they value freedom of speech in the marketplace of ideas by knowing how First Amendment rights extend to press and speech.
  5. Demonstrate they value freedom of speech in the marketplace of ideas by understanding the historical development of free speech.
  6. Demonstrate they value freedom of speech in the marketplace of ideas by recognizing the legal and moral limits of free speech.
  7. Demonstrate they value freedom of speech in the marketplace of ideas by applying the concepts underlying this principle to current issues.
  8. Demonstrate they value freedom of speech in the marketplace of ideas by by showing a commitment to preserving freedom of speech, even when it may be contrary to majority views, opinions, or values.
  9. Demonstrate sensitivity to the ethical issues of their practice by becoming familiar with prominent cases that demonstrate ethical issues in the communication industries.
  10. Demonstrate sensitivity to the ethical issues of their practice by identifying professional values that contribute to ethical behavior.
  11. Demonstrate sensitivity to the ethical issues of their practice by discerning possible ethical complications in professional practice.
  12. Demonstrate sensitivity to the ethical issues of their practice by defining a communications situation that addresses the ethical concerns of alternative actions or decisions.
  13. Exercise moral reasoning when faced with ethical dilemmas by articulating the values that underline their ethical framework.
  14. Exercise moral reasoning when faced with ethical dilemmas by applying principles and theories of ethics to current issues.
  15. Exercise moral reasoning when faced with ethical dilemmas by resolving ethical dilemmas using moral reasoning based on gospel-centered values.

Course Objectives

Each student will be able to discuss knowledgeably and to think critically and analytically about complex issues, including

  1. the social role and value of freedom of speech and of the press in American society;
  2. the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, its history, and its application in practice to mass media professions;
  3. the American legal system, and the laws and legal principles that guide professional practice;
  4. personal ethics and professional norms; societal limitations imposed by law, and self-limitations imposed by moral standards and ethical reasoning;
  5. the balance between freedom and the ethical and legal responsibilities of professional communicators; and
  6. the moral responsibility of professional communicators to make a positive difference within their sphere of influence.

Topics Not Covered in This Course

The primary goal of this course is to introduce students to the basics of media law and ethics, with which they will be confronted as they begin their internships or employment as public communications professionals. The course will therefore not cover several chapters in the Trager text, including chapter 7 on emotional distress and chapter 12 on regulating pornography. The chapters skipped by this course are important, however, and students are advised to peruse the chapters not covered so they will have a rudimentary overview of these areas of media law.

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Course Organization

This course is divided in two sections of six lessons each for a total of twelve lessons in the course. Computer-graded assessments in each section will be submitted for evaluation. You will also take two tests in this course, one at the end of each of the two sections. The tests apply only to their particular course sections, so the final test is not cumulative. Each lesson carefully explains what you should read and what you should do in order to prepare.

Course Materials

You will need four texts:

  1. Standing for Something, by Gordon B. Hinckley (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2000, ISBN #: 0-609-80725-0). Page numbers in lesson 12 refer to the 2000 paperback edition.
  2. The Law of Journalism and Mass Communication, 2013 Edition (4th Edition), by Robert Trager, Joseph Russomanno, Susan Dente Ross (CQPress, 2010, ISBN # 978-1452239989)
  3. Mixed Media: Moral Distinctions in Advertising, Public Relations, and Journalism 2nd Edition, by Thomas Bivens (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, New Jersey, 2009, ISBN# 978-0805863215)
  4. The Basic Writings of John Stuart Mill, with an introduction by J. B. Schneewind and notes and commentary by Dale E. Miller. (Modern Library Classics, 2002) (ISBN: 0-375-75918-2)

Standing for Something, written by President Gordon B. Hinckley of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaks on the importance of personal values and integrity in personal and professional life.

The Law of Journalism and Mass Communication, hereafter called the “Trager text,” provides an excellent overview of the most important topics in media law about which public communicators should be informed.

Mixed Media: Moral Distinctions in Advertising, Public Relations, and Journalism, hereafter called the “Bivins text,” explores basic ethical issues in public relations, advertising, and journalism. It also ties in nicely and relies on your basic understanding of media law issues. You will be required to read only four of the seven chapters in this book due to the introductory nature of this course. We highly recommend that you read the unassigned chapters, however, if you have a particular interest in media ethics.

In the book The Basic Writings of John Stuart Mill, you will read about the basic concepts of liberty of thought and discussion that are the basis for the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and for our society’s understanding of the values of a free press and free expression.

IWe recommend that you scan through the tables of contents in each of these texts to get an overview of their contents. In the Trager text, note especially the expanded table of contents, the recommended readings, the Bill of Rights, the glossary of terms, the case index and the subject index.

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12 computer-graded assignments.

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All assignments must be submitted and graded before requesting the final exam.

Exam Preparation

Each exam is constructed using the same questions that appear in the computer-graded assessments. To prepare for the exams you should study all of these questions carefully, together with the feedback you receive on your computer-graded assessments.

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Your grade in this course will be based upon the computer-graded evaluations submitted at the end of each lesson, the midcourse and final exams. Your exams will constitute 40% of your course grade, and your speedback assignments the other 60%. Each submitted computer-graded assessment will have a total of twenty questions. Each test will have a total of fifty questions. Inasmuch as your grade is based upon fourteen performance items (twelve computer-graded assessments and two tests), you have ample opportunities in this course to build your grade.

Assignment Distribution

Assignments or Exam Weight %
Lesson 1 5%
Lesson 2 5%
Lesson 3 5%
Lesson 4 5%
Lesson 5 5%
Lesson 6 5%
Lesson 7 5%
Lesson 8 5%
Lesson 9 5%
Lesson 10 5%
Lesson 11 5%
Lesson 12 5%
Midcourse Exam 20%
Final Exam 20%

All assignments will be computer processed. Total points earned on the assignments and exams will be calculated against the total possible points.

Grading Scale

Final course grades will be assigned based upon the following scale or percentage equivalent for letter grades. Students must receive at least a D- to pass the course.

Grading Scale
A 100–95%
A− 94–90%
B+ 89–85%
B 84–80%
B− 79–75%
C+ 74–70%
C 69–65%
C− 64–60%
D+ 59–55%
D 54–50%
D− 49–45%
E (fail) 44–0%

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Copyright Notice

The materials used in connection with this online course are only for the use of students enrolled in this course for purposes associated with this course and may not be retained or further disseminated. Any copying or further dissemination of these materials may be subject to applicable U.S. Copyright Laws. For questions or more information, please visit the BYU Copyright Licensing Office website.

“Members of the BYU community who willfully disregard this Copyright Policy or the BYU Copyright Guidelines place themselves individually at risk of legal action and may incur personal liability for their conduct. The unauthorized use or distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, may subject individuals to civil and criminal liabilities, including actual and statutory damages, costs and fees of litigation, fines, and imprisonment

Violations of the Copyright Policy may result in university disciplinary action including termination of university enrollment or employment.” (Emphasis added. Excerpt taken from the BYU Copyright Policy)

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University Policy - Title IX Statement

Preventing & Responding to Sexual Misconduct

In accordance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Brigham Young University prohibits unlawful sex discrimination against any participant in its education programs or activities. The university also prohibits sexual harassment—including sexual violence—committed by or against students, university employees, and visitors to campus. As outlined in university policy, sexual harassment, dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking are considered forms of "Sexual Misconduct" prohibited by the university.

University policy requires all university employees in a teaching, managerial, or supervisory role to report all incidents of Sexual Misconduct that come to their attention in any way, including but not limited to face-to-face conversations, a written class assignment or paper, class discussion, email, text, or social media post. Incidents of Sexual Misconduct should be reported to the Title IX Coordinator at t9coordinator@byu.edu or (801) 422-8692. Reports may also be submitted through EthicsPoint at titleix.byu.edu/report or 1-888-238-1062 (24-hours a day).

BYU offers confidential resources for those affected by Sexual Misconduct, including the university’s Victim Advocate, as well as a number of non-confidential resources and services that may be helpful. Additional information about Title IX, the university’s Sexual Misconduct Policy, reporting requirements, and resources can be found at titleix.byu.edu or by contacting the university’s Title IX Coordinator.

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Accessibility Notice

BYU is committed to providing a working and learning atmosphere which reasonably accommodates persons with disabilities who are otherwise qualified to participate in BYU's programs and activities. In this spirit, BYU Independent Study aspires to improve web accessibility for users. While not required by law, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Levels A and AA provide a wide range of helpful recommendations to make Web content more accessible. BYU Independent Study strives to apply WCAG 2.0 recommendations where feasible, but may deviate from any recommendations that would result in an undue hardship to BYU Independent Study or alterations to program and course content and objectives. If you have questions about accessibility, or if you need to report problems with any accessibility features please see our Accessibilities and Accommodations Web Page.

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Course Policies

These policies are specific to this course. For additional information about general policies, please refer to Independent Study Course Policies page.


For this course there are 12 computer-graded assignments. Each assignment may be resubmitted once for a fee.

Resubmit an assignment for a fee.


1 proctored, multiple-choice, computer-graded midcourse exam; one retake per exam is allowed, and there is a fee for each retake. 1 proctored, multiple-choice, computer-graded final exam; one retake is allowed for the final exam.

All assignments must be submitted and graded before requesting the final exam. Students must pass the final exam with a score of 45% to pass the course. 

Retake an exam for a fee.

Course Duration

You have one year to complete this course. You may purchase one three-month extension if you need more than a year to complete the course.

Getting Help

Please use the help menu in this course to contact Independent Study or your instructor. You can find a list of free tutors available to BYU Independent Study students on the Free Tutoring Services website.

Note: The Harold B. Lee Library website provides a number of online resources and librarians are available via phone, chat, and email to answer questions about library-related issues.

Inappropriate Use of Course Content

All course materials (e.g., outlines, handouts, syllabi, exams, quizzes, media, lecture content, audio and video recordings, etc.) are proprietary. Students are prohibited from posting or selling any such course materials without the express written permission of BYU Independent Study. To do so is a violation of the Brigham Young University Honor Code.

Copyright © 2016 Brigham Young University. All rights reserved.

Published by the
Department of Independent Study
Division of Continuing Education
Brigham Young University
120 MORC
Provo, Utah 84602-1514