Welcome to Mediums and Messages

Mediums and Messages is a resource site for the study of communication and media studies curated and maintained by the students of Washington College.

The Communication and Media Studies program at Washington College prepares students to become discerning media consumers, critical thinkers, skilled writers, and creative storytellers. This site is maintained by Washington College students to provide critical resources to their peers in order to advance the study of communications and media studies.

To the right there is a list of topics, ideas, and concepts germane to the study of communication and media. Each entry is researched, created, and written by students. Click on the link for the concept you’d like to learn more about.

For more information about the Washington College Communication and Media Studies Program, click here.

Except where otherwise noted, images, sound, and video on this site is licenses under Creative Commons. For more information on Creative Commons, click here

1948 Paramount Decision

The 1948 Paramount Decision is a landmark Supreme Court ruling that came out of the 1948 court case, United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc. The case was argued on February 9-11, 1948 and was decided on May 3, 1948. In a 7-1 decision, the Court sided with the United States government stating that the practice of vertical integration by film studios in Hollywood is a monopolistic process, making it therefore unconstitutional and illegal.

In front of the SCOTUS, Attorney General Clark and Assistant Attorney General Sonnett argued for the United States (SCOTUS, 1948). John W. Davis argued for the defendant, Loew’s Incorporation (SCOTUS, 1948). William J. Donovan argued for the case of Radio-Keith-Orpheum Corp. (SCOTUS, 1948). Joseph M. Proskauer argued on behalf of Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. (SCOTUS, 1948). James F. Byrnes argued the case of Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. (SCOTUS, 1948). Whitney North Seymour argued the cause for Paramount Pictures, Inc. (SCOTUS, 1948). Louis D. Frohlich argued for Columbia Pictures Corp. (SCOTUS, 1948). George A. Raftery argued for the United States Artists Corp. (SCOTUS, 1948). Thomas Turner Cooke argued for Universal Pictures Co. (SCOTUS, 1948). Thurman Arnold argued for Universal Pictures Co. (SCOTUS, 1948). Finally, John G. Jackson and Robert Barton, Jr. argued for Allred.

Before reaching the Supreme Court, the complaint had charged the defendants with monopolizing the production of films. When the District Court denied the government’s plea, the government then charged the studios for monopolizing on distribution. Once again, the District Court did not believe there was a case here. Finally, the complaint charged the defendants with vertical integration of producing, distributing, and exhibiting major motion pictures. The case eventually moved up to the Supreme Court of the United States.


Justice William O. Douglas wrote the majority opinion of the 1948 Supreme Court case United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc

The majority opinion was given by Justice William O. Douglas (SCOTUS, 1948). The Court charged the defendants with violations against the Sherman Act, which is an antitrust law passed in 1890 (SCOTUS, 1948). The defendants were divided into three groups. This first group was made up of Paramount Pictures, Inc., Loew’s, Incorporated, Radio-Keith-Orpheum Corporation, Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc., and Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation. This group was known as the five major defendants because they produced, distributed, and owned/controlled theaters (SCOTUS, 1948). The second group was made up of Columbia Pictures and Universal Corporation. These two companies only produced movies and distributed films (SCOTUS, 1948). Finally, the third party was United Artists Corporations who only distributed films (SCOTUS, 1948).

While writing the majority opinion, Justice Douglas considered five different practices that were addressed in the arguments: clearance and runs, pooling agreements, formula deals/master arguments/franchises, block booking, and discrimination (SCOTUS, 1948). Within these five parts of the majority opinion, Justice Douglas revisited past cases and rulings to determine how each defendant had violated one of these categories. After reviewing these facts and going over what the District Court had to say, Justice Douglas decided to let the District Court’s decision stand for a restraint of trade (SCOTUS, 1948). He believed that what the companies were doing was monopolizing and against the law. On formula deals, master arguments, and franchises, Justice Douglas let the District Courts decided a resolution (SCOTUS, 1948). For block booking, Justice Douglas said that this went against copy right law (SCOTUS, 1948). Overall, the majority decision decided that vertical integration was illegal and Hollywood had to change its process by which it did production, exhibition, and distribution.

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Justice Felix Frankfurter wrote the dissenting opinion of the 1948 Paramount Pictures Decision

The dissenting opinion of the SCOTUS was written by Justice Felix Frankfurter. Justice Frankfurter argued that the Court could not rule on the case as they had not examined all the facts provided to them to make an appropriate decision (SCOTUS, 1948). Based on prior court decisions, Justice Frankfurter thought this case should not have been decided by the SCOTUS but by the District Courts. Justice Frankfurter believed that the appropriate venue for this case was the District Court (SCOTUS, 1948).

After the decision was decided, movie studios had to sell their movie theaters, making rent charges increase (SCOTUS, 1948). Paramount Pictures, Inc. was divided into two different companies (SCOTUS, 1948). The movie studio, RKO, was closed (Campbell & Fabos, 2017). Independent producers and studios were able to make more movies (Campbell & Fabos, 2017). This decision effectively brought an end to the “Golden Age of Hollywood” (Campbell & Fabos, 2017).


Campbell, R., Martin, C. R., & Fabos, B. (2017). Movies and the Impact of Images. In Media & Culture: Mass Communications in a Digital Age (Eleventh ed., pp. 215-244). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

U.S. v. Paramount Pictures, Inc. 334 U.S. 131 (1948).

Image Attribution: Images used are from the Harris & Ewing collection at the Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division and are in the Public Domain.

Written by Jillian Horaneck, 2017



Ad Agency Structure

Ad Agency Structure is about the structures of business and the development of ads within an advertising agency. Many ad agencies divide the labor of creating an advertisement into four main parts: account planning, creative development, media coordination, and account management (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017, p. 360). There are also two main types of advertising agencies, such as mega-agencies and boutique agencies. Another main part of an advertisement agency is the space broker, “who purchases space in newspapers and sells it to merchants” (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017, p. 354).

The account planner has the task of creating an effective advertising strategy. The strategy usually consists of the combined views of the client, the creative team, and the consumers (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017, p. 360). Another responsibility of the account planner is to coordinate market research which helps the company analyze and understand the behaviors and attitudes of the consumers towards the product they are trying to sell. The account planner also uses the Values and Lifestyles (VALS) strategy “which measures the psychological factors and divides consumers into types” (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017, p. 360). VALS researchers advise advertisers to vary their sales.

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The creative development team uses a storyboard, which is a blueprint for the potential ad

The creative development team outlines the rough sketches for print and online advertisements and then works on the logos, words, slogans, designs, and graphics for the ad (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017, p. 361). The creative development team usually consists of writers and artists. For different forms of media, there are different needs of preparation: radio prepares a working script while for television, the team uses a storyboard. For digital media, the team develops websites or interactive tools. “The business structure for digital media is heavily influenced by the technological structure of the media” (Mijung, Jun, & Chan-Olmsted, 2010, p. 11). The creative side of the team struggles with the research side of the team, since the creative part might not agree with what research says.

Advertising agencies also focus on media coordination which is about the planning and placing of advertisements. Media departments are staffed by media planners and media buyers. Media buyers are people who choose and purchase the types of media that are best suited to carry a client’s ads, reach the targeted audience, and measure the effectiveness of those ad placements” (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017, p. 361). Advertisers also attach incentives to their contracts with certain agencies that allows them to raise the fee if sales are met and lower the fee if the sale goal is missed (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017, p. 361). The media coordination team chooses the target audience for the advertisement. Account management ties into the media coordination in the sense that they are responsible for the interaction between client and the agency. They are responsible for making sure that the agency meets the requirements of the client and follows the functions of the advertising agency.

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Omnicon is one of the four global mega-agencies in the world

There are two types of advertising agencies that operate in the United States: mega-agencies and boutique agencies. Mega-agencies are large ad firms that formed by having several agencies merge together and maintain regional offices worldwide, while boutique agencies are small agencies that focus their talents and effort on only a certain number of clients (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017, p. 358). Mega-agencies provide a full range of services all over the world, such as advertising and public relations to having their own house radios and television production studios. In 2015, “Omnicom had more than 74,000 employees operating in more than 100 countries around the world” (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017, p. 358). Mega-agencies attend to multiple types of businesses around the world. Mega-agencies are considered a threat to smaller boutique agencies which have been decreasing over the years. Boutique agencies consists of creative individuals who broke away from the bigger agencies. Boutique agencies offer more personal service since they are smaller and have less clients. The boutique agencies have prospered by innovative campaigns and increasing profits from television accounts (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017, p. 359). Boutique agencies operate as subsidiaries within multinational corporate structures.


Campbell, R. Martin, C.R., & Fabos, B (2017). Media & Culture: Mass Communications in a Digital Age 11th Edition. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Mijung, Kim, M., Jun, H., & Chan-Olmsted, S. M. (2010). PERCEIVED EFFECTIVENESS AND BUSINESS STRUCTURE AMONG ADVERTISING AGENCIES: A CASE STUDY OF MOBILE ADVERTISING IN SOUTH KOREA. (cover story.) Journal of Media Business Studies, 7(2), 1-20.

Image Attribution: Image 1 CC BY-SA 2.0; Image 2 Public Domain

Written by Michael Smith, 2018

Agenda Setting

Agenda Setting Theory is a media effects theory that explains how media affects the emphasis viewers place on certain topics happening in society. The ‘catch-phrase’ associated with this theory is that the media does not tell us what to think, it tells us what to think about. Bernard Cohen actually stated this is 1963 referring to the press – “The press may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about.” This comes from the ideology that the media can place topics in front of us, like in the news or on social media, which will show us that these topics are important, but media cannot tell us how to feel about these topics or what opinions to form regarding these topics. In a study done by Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw in 1972, they studied this. They focused on the 1968 presidential campaign and what viewers were concerned about in comparison to what the mass media was focusing on. After randomly selecting registered voters in the Chapel Hill region in North Carolina, they asked respondents questions about key issues and their importance (McCombs & Shaw, 1972). They found an almost perfect correlation between what their respondents said were important issues and what the media was reporting on, which proved that media priorities become public priorities. This is incredibly important because mass media may be the only connection that voters have to politics and it is important to have educated voters and citizens. If the media can report on the most important aspects of politics, at least people are getting exposure to these topics. Studies relating to this theory are even now expanding into disciplines like history, advertising, and medical studies, showing its relevance to other aspects of life, not just news and politics.

The ideas of framing and priming play a role in this ideology. The media can prime our thoughts of an issue through constant repetition and prominence given to a specific topic. This keeps these ideas and issues in the minds of consumers, making them easily remembered. Framing, is how sources of media organize, define, and structure a story (Weiss, 2009). Media use these techniques to help consumers decide what to think about. News for example, viewers see the same headlines and topics on multiple platforms – tv, news apps, social media, papers, etc. But different sources can frame stories to show consumers what they want them to know. Consumers then have the discretion to accept or challenge those opinions placed in front of them and create their own meanings of the world.


There are some limitations with this theory though. One big one is if media sets the public agenda, where does the media agenda come from? But, the media agenda in theory is influenced by the public agenda through ratings, surveys, market research, etc. (Weiss, 2009). Another limitation is that viewers who do not find the media/news credible are less likely to have their agendas set by the media (Weiss, 2009). This also applies to viewers who disagree with the media agenda. So, there is room for further exploration on this theory, but many people find it to be credible and meaningful.

So, despite its few limitations, Agenda Setting Theory is a very important theory in regard to media effects. A huge contribution to the study of this theory is credited to Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw as well as Bernard Cohen. Moving forward, try to consider how media sets your personal agenda and how it affects what you think is important in the world today.


Works Cited

Karell, Daniel. “The Agenda-Setting Theory in Mass Communication | Alvernia Online.” Alvernia University Online, 20 Feb. 2018, online.alvernia.edu/agenda-setting-theory/.

Mass media | agenda setting theory. (n.d.). Retrieved December 5, 2018, from https://www.utwente.nl/en/bms/communication-theories/sorted-by-cluster/Mass-Media/Agenda-Setting_Theory/

Maxwell E. McCombs, & Donald L. Shaw. (1972). The Agenda-Setting Function of Mass

Media. The Public Opinion Quarterly, (2), 176.

Weiss, D. (2009). Agenda-setting theory. In S. Littlejohn & K. Foss, Encyclopedia of Communication Theory. 2455 Teller Road, Thousand Oaks California  91320  United States: SAGE Publications, Inc. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781412959384.n12



Written by Caitlyn Creasy, 2018.

Anthology Dramas

Anthology Drama is a term that is often associated with modern television programming that is running over multiple seasons (Campbell, Martin, Fabos, 2017). While the overall genera of these programs may differ from show to show, the overall principle that ties these dramas together is the sense of drama and tension, and multiple season run time that allows for multiple viewership’s and long-standing fans of these programs (Campbell, Martin, Fabos, 2017). Anthology dramas are programs that run for multiple seasons or episodes, but in each rendition of the show, whether that is episode to episode or season to season, the setting, plot, and characters are changed.

This formula for dramas began in the late 1920s with programing such as The Collier Hour on NBC, which paved the way for other such programs that provided new content and characters on an episode to episode basis (Evans, 2011). While these types of shows maintained strong popularity during much of the mid 1900s, but began to fall out of favor towards the 1990s as more well produced and complex narratives that appealed to audiences (Evans, 2011). However, around 2010 programs such as American Horror Story and other such programs began to resurface, modernizing the anthology genera, giving the season to season anthology formula, while captivating audiences with well written and developed characters by having recurring elements in their seasons (Campbell, Martin, Fabos, 2017).


The article, “Distinguishing Television: The Changing Meanings of Television Liveness” by Levine focuses on the changing landscape of television and how over time and through technological advancements that the forms and mediums of television are shaped. Specifically, in this article there is a discussion on the patterns of how and why anthology dramas appear and reappear in the television world over time (Levine, 2008). Its reading is that due to the episodic nature of anthologies, more often than not it is much harder to retain its audience. More character or plot focused programming often can hold on to audiences as the show has a common thread holding it together, whereas in anthology dramas there is more of a spontaneity that causes this aspect to be lost in early anthologies (Levine, 2008).

An important source that can be used to understand this topic is the book by Evans, Transmedia Television. In it there is a discussion on what it means to study and define media and has many different presentations on the multiple different mediums that make up the branching idea of media (Evans, 2011). Specifically, there is a section in this book concerned with what they call quality drama or in our case well produced or high budget anthology dramas. Quality dramas are what this texts calls both the early 2000s programming that brought about the demise of early anthology series, and what many modern anthology programs have adopted to maintain viewership (Evans, 2011).


There are ample examples of both past and modern ideas of anthology dramas and how they have changed over time, but what the overall basic of this medium is based on the idea of an episode to episode generation of plot and characters. Examples such as American Horror Story and The Twilight Zone are prime in helping aid in an understanding of what anthology dramas are as these more modern programs clearly show aspects of early anthologies in their episode to episode or season to season changes, while drawing from the quality drama aspects of well-developed characters and more centralized plots.



Campbell, R., Martin, C. R., & Fabos, B (2017). Media & Culture: Mass Communication in a

Digital Age 11th Edition. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s.


Evans, E. (2011). Transmedia Television. New York: Routledge.


Levine, E. (2008). Distinguishing television: the changing meanings of television

liveness. Media, Culture & Society30(3), 393-409.


Image Attribution

The images used in this post are in the public domain (Creative Commons)



Written by Colin Levi, 2018

Association Principle

The association principle is a type of advertising technique that “associates a product with a positive cultural value or image” (Campbell, 2017). This persuasive technique is used even if the association has little to no connection to the actual product. The association principle attempts to convince consumers that there is an innate relationship between a brand or product and an attitude (Savan, 1995). This principle aims to make consumers connect the product being advertised to a desirable set of values or traits. Positive ideals such as wealth, love, security, uniqueness, and/or beauty may be associated with a product through commercials, advertisements, or other forms of visual aids.

Marketing a product in a way that connects it to something that the consumer can relate to, transforms the product image. Transforming the product’s image is the advertiser’s intention. When almost every product can be associated with a positive self-image, consumers are subtly persuaded into the advertiser’s concept of a “good citizen” (Savan, 1995). Advertisers are not necessarily selling their products, but instead selling the illusion that purchasing their products will make the consumer feel greater because of the association attached to the advertisement. The real “masterwork” of advertising is the way it uses the association principle technique to “seduce the human soul” (Savan, 1995).

Throughout history, American car advertisements have displayed automobiles in natural settings instead of urban or city-like settings (Campbell, 2017). This demonstrates the association principle where the car being advertised is shown in the natural world of rugged mountains or glistening fields with intention to advertise the car as an example of modern technology. Other examples of the association principle may include the display of American patriotism through visual symbols to associate products or businesses with national pride (Campbell, 2017). Advertising may also associate products with happy families, success, natural scenery, or freedom (Savan, 1995).

Chalisa 1The Marlboro brand has notably used the association principle to enhance the image of its brand. Transforming to a man’s cigarette in the 1960s, Marlboro often associated its product with strong, masculine images (Campbell, 2017). The product was usually dominated with images of nature, displaying a “lone cowboy roping calf, building a fence, or riding over a snow-covered landscape” (Campbell, 2017). Advertisements do more than just demand attention. Ads curate and push the social and cultural trends that infiltrate the consumer’s mind (Savan, 1995).

There have been many controversial uses of the association principle. One of the more popular ones has been the connection of products to stereotyped representations of women (Campbell, 2018). In many instances, women have Chalisa 2been portrayed as sex objects where the women in the ad are usually dressed in revealing clothing. Another controversial use of the association principle is to state that products are “real” and “natural”, especially when advertising cosmetic products (Campbell, 2017). Beauty products that are being advertised usually assures the target audience (women) that the product will make them look and feel more natural. Using these adjectives and associating them with the product, makes the product more appealing.


Campbell, R., Martin, C.R., & Fabos, B (2017). Media & Culture: Mass Communication in a Digital Age 11th Edition. Boston and New York: Bedford/ St. Martin’s.

Savan, L. (1995). The Sponsored Life ads, TV, and American culture. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Image Attribution: Images used in this post is in the Public Domain

Written by Chalisa Singh, 2018.

Avatars (Video Games)

Video game avatars are created by users on various platforms to represent themselves when gaming, either serious or not serious. By definition, an avatar is a “personalized graphical illustration that represents a computer user, or a character or alter ego that represents that user. An avatar can be represented either in three-dimensional form (for example, in games or virtual worlds) or in two-dimensional form” (Janssen 2018). Most gaming systems, social platforms, blogs, forums, and many more outlets allow users to create avatars for their profiles to associate a face with a name.

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A video game avatar can come in many different forms, video game avatars are all around the top systems, whether it be creating a mii on the Nintendo Wii or having a figure to be associated with a gamertag on Xbox live. Users have the ability to make their avatars look like themselves or make them look absurd and give them features and clothing that make them look nothing like themselves. Some systems like the Nintendo Wii allow the user to play with their avatars in actual games, but most systems use avatars for show. A somewhat new trend that has emerged in video games is an in-game avatar feature (separate from the systems avatar). Games like Call of Duty and Fortnite allow you to display characters as an avatar, but they can also be used for display in pre-game lobbies. Many online computer games like Runescape and Counter Strike: Global Offensive use avatars too that are separate from in-game characters.

Video Game avatars are ultimately created to represent ourselves in an accurate way online. Robert Hotz of the Wall Street Journal suggests that video game avatars may portray characteristics that we would not normally reveal, saying that “Psychologists are discovering that the digital identities we create for play online, known as avatars, reveal more aspects of our personalities than we may intend to disclose and can change how we behave in the real world”  (Hotz 2015). The likely reason gamers reveal more online is due to the fact that playing video games is harmless by nature and most gamers do not know each other on a personal level so it is not normal for a face to be put with a name (and be judged).

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While it is not uncommon for video games to have their own avatars for each specific player, video game avatars are generally made for a specific username. Whether it be Xbox, playstation, Nintendo, online gaming, or numerous other platforms, these large systems ask for avatars to be paired with a gamer and username. Significant strides were made in gaming in 1974, where the video game Basketball would change gaming moving forward. According to the writers at ultimate history video games, Basketball was “the first example of a video game that displayed sprite images, both for the players and the baskets, first game to depict game character, first attempt at accurately simulating a team sport, first basketball game” (ultimatehistoryvideogames 2014). Basketball raised standards for video games and allowed the future of gaming to benefit from their genius through usage of sprites. By definition, a sprite “is a type of “stand-alone” computer graphic element that has evolved along with modern computer graphics technologies” (Janssen 2018). Video game avatars are essentially sprites that are larger, have better graphics, and have more features.

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Video game avatars have been able to be created and enhanced over the years due to the various software that goes in to creating a video game. These software advancements have caught the attention of many for the future, like Fox Harrell, where he says “New technologies for creating empowering identity representations” (Harrell 2010). The future of these software and identities joining could tell companies about users and use it for economical advantage and improvements. Video game avatars are usually created in the same routine way across all gaming platforms. For instance, after unboxing a system and putting personal information in, the Wii and Xbox systems allow the user to create an avatar after the individual creates a username. After the username is created, the user typically is asked to create the face, being that it is the key to an individuals identity, then hair color, then body type, and the accessories and clothing. While users are asked to start with the face, systems do allow users to start wherever they want and proceed as they wish being that some people do not take the process of creating an avatar seriously, this allows those who are serious and not serious about creating an avatar to navigate freely, like Ryan Khosravi when he talks about the choice of creating an avatar seriously, saying that “some people want to make a character that looks badass or interesting, and some people just want to make something that resembles them” (Khosravi 2017). After creating an avatar, gamers can start gaming and show off their character.


Harrell, F. (2010, April 24). Identity And Online Avatars: A Discussion. Retrieved from https://kotaku.com/5523384/identity-and-online-avatars-a-discussion

History, U. (n.d.). Basketball. Retrieved from https://ultimatehistoryvideogames.jimdo.com/basketball/

Hotz, R. L. (2015, January 20). Practice Personalities: What an Avatar Can Teach You. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/practice-personalities-what-an-avatar-can-teach-you-1421703480?ns=prod/accounts-wsj

Janssen, D. (n.d.). What is an Avatar? – Definition from Techopedia. Retrieved May 2, 2018, from https://www.techopedia.com/definition/4624/avatar

Janssen, D. (n.d.). What is a Sprite? – Definition from Techopedia. Retrieved May 2, 2018, from https://www.techopedia.com/definition/2046/sprite-computer-graphics

Khosravi, R. (n.d.). How Non-Binary Folks Navigate Creating Avatars In Video Games. Retrieved from https://intomore.com/culture/How-NonBinary-Folks-Navigate-Creating-Avatars-In-Video-Games/96ce009cb01140c3

Image Attribution: Image One: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) The image used in this post is in the Public Domain; Image Two: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) The image used in this post is in the Public Domain; Image three: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) The image used in this post is in the Public Domain

Written by Matthew Tancredi, 2018.