'Media and Politics: A JMC Conversation'

Discussion Examines Election 2016 Discourse, News Coverage

As the 2016 presidential election cycle intensifies, examining and discussing the media coverage of the candidates becomes more prevalent than ever. The Student Voice Team’s (SVT) “Media and Politics: A JMC Conversation” did just that on Thursday, March 31.

Students and faculty panelists came together in Franklin Hall’s First Energy Auditorium for the student-led discussion, which was moderated by SVT members Arkayla Tenney-Howard, a sophomore public relations major, and Daniel Henderson, a junior public relations major.

Faculty panelists included Danielle Sarver Coombs, Ph.D., School of Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC) Associate Professor; Amy Reynolds, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Communication and Information (CCI); Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize winner and CCI Professional-in-Residence; and Thor Wasbotten, JMC Director and Professor. All of the panelists have varied experience with politics, from covering politics as a journalist to doing research focused on politics or democracy.

The open-forum discussion began by discussing how college students today - many of whom will be voting in their first presidential election this November - have shaped and perceived politics among today's constant - and sometimes heated - news coverage and political discourse.

Coombs said that when she was in college, students didn’t have access to cable or radio in their dorm rooms to keep up on elections.

“There wasn’t much news around us, which is a completely different environment than what you’re all in,” she said. “We didn’t have cell phones and we weren’t looking at our newsfeeds. It was easy to check-out of elections. It was easy to not be involved, and it was easy to miss stuff.”

The discussion evolved to discuss where college students get their news from and how they determine whether a source is credible.

“We know that on social media, there’s concern for those of us who really value news because people are self-selecting a lot of their sources,” Schultz said. “They’re reading things that have more opinion than driven reporting . . . I moderate a public Facebook page, and I’ve been really making an effort to invite more Millennials, and they’ve really changed the nature of the discussion in very good ways. But I have found us having conversations sometimes about where they’re getting data and where they’re getting statistics.”

Many of Kent State’s student organizations, including College Democrats, College Republicans, Black United Students (BUS), Spanish and Latino Student Association (SALSA) and the Veterans Club, sent representatives to the conversation share their opinions on how they decipher politics. Many of the representatives said they focus on educating their members about all aspects of candidates and policies so they can form their own opinions.

The conversation ended with the panelists giving their best piece of advice for students regarding politics.

“The most important thing as consumer and voter is to not find ourselves in an echo chamber,” Coombs said.

POSTED: Sunday, April 3, 2016 - 9:18am
UPDATED: Thursday, April 7, 2016 - 11:24am
Julianne Calapa, '16