MIT Western Hemisphere Project Home Feedback Search Search Archives Meetings Courses Events About

Mass Media Studies: Comparing US and Latin American Media

Proposal for a 6-unit seminar to be offered in Fall, 2002
Faculty Sponsor: Chappell Lawson, Dept. of Political Science


Students in this six-unit ESG seminar will compare and contrast aspects of mass media in Latin America and the United States. We will be translating articles in Latin American newspapers on topics of interest to both mass-media audiences, then looking at the different view-points presented therein. From this perspective, we can explore the larger political context within which the Latin American articles were written and how it differs from the political context in the USA.

The idea for this seminar grew out of the recent work at MIT to increase people's awareness of the case of Lori Berenson, an ESG alumna who is still being held in jail in Peru. Although the seminar is built around academic goals, it also has a more fundamental aim of motivating students to become more actively involved in the protection of human rights, in Latin America and elsewhere.


This seminar will be held in the spring with at least 3 to 8 politically-minded individuals from ESG and elsewhere (from MIT Spanish classes, the MIT Media Studies program, possibly even interested Harvard students). At least half the students should be able to read Spanish.

Each meeting will look at a small group of articles, roughly half of which come from the Latin American press. Students will discuss the topics presented in these articles as well as the media studies and political background that explain how corresponding articles from different countries differ. We might also explore broadcast media and personal reports to the same end.

While there are topics that can be counted on to provide a large part of the course material (e.g., in Peru: the revolutionary movements; the Lori Berenson case; the priorities and actions of the new government), the choice of topics will depend to some extent on current events which rock both the United States and the Latin American countries we are looking at.

Towards the end of the term, students will use these discussions to write near-publishable papers on the themes discussed. These papers can then be combined into a booklet as the final product of the seminar. In a sense this final booklet is one goal of the seminar, and considerable time and thought will be dedicated to its development and coherence.

The seminar will be led by an ESG student. Prof. Chappell Lawson (Political Science) has agreed to be the faculty sponsor. In addition, we have identified a number of guest speakers who can provide information about methodology and content.


There will be two one-hour meetings per week, probably with the first introducing a topic and the second exploring it in more depth after students have had more time to look at and compare the articles involved.

Sign Up!

If you are interested in taking part in this seminar (in the Fall) or would like to help design it, please let us know!