Have you read "Corporate Authority: Sponsoring Rhetorical Practice" in
Spilka's Writing in the Workplace? It's not exactly a discussion of any
particular professional/business writing genre per se, but she does raise
the issue of personal autonomy being submerged in the "corporate voice," and
in the course of that she discusses various types of business documents and
how they get produced. She raises lots of ethical and socio-political
issues in a fairly even-handed way. It's about 12 pages, and not too
For video, there's DeeDee Halleck's "Watch Out Dick Tracy! Popular Video in
the Wake of the Exxon Valdez" in Technoculture (Eds. Constance Penley and
Andrew Ross, U of Minnesota P, 1991). The title dates it a bit, but I like
it because again, she offers an even-handed treatment of broadcast media.
She discusses the dominating influence of corporate, mainstream
broadcasting, but she also talks about the potential for public and cable
television to offer alternatives. Not jargony, and she's an independent
producer herself, so she writes with knowledge and conviction. This article
could be a useful starting place for a comparative analysis of production
values, content, treatment of issues, etc. of these two sub-genres. It's
about 19 pages, including 2 pages of photos (and you might find other useful
articles in this collection, too).
There's also Neil Postman and Steve Powers' short book (160 pages) How to
Watch TV News (1992). Probably not surprisingly, Postman takes a pretty
adversarial stance. It is a thorough analysis of the genre though, looking
at the production process, the role of language, visuals, commercials, and
commercial interests, etc. Also not surprisingly, it's a very accessible
read, like all Postman's books and unlike some more formally structural
analyses of TV news.
At the opposite end of the technoweenie spectrum there's a book by Sherry
Turkle, for which I can't find the reference, nor do I remember the title,
but it's about 3 or 4 years old. It's the one where she talks about
("celebrates ecstatically" is more like) the potential of electronic
communication to revolutionise our notions of identity, relationships, time,
space and just about everything else. Do you know the one I mean? The issues
she raises are controversial and still timely, I think. You might find a
good excerpt in there, if you don't want the whole book.
And Teun van Dijk edits a journal called Discourse and Society which you
could check out. His own linguistic analyses are very technical, but the
journal takes a more eclectic approach, and there are (or were, I haven't
looked at it in a while) lots of media-related articles.
Sounds like a fun course, I'd be interested to see what you come up with in