Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Professors lead media forum

Several Plattsburgh State faculty members participated in a forum Wednesday night to discuss the ideas and ethics surrounding the media and politics — specifically, the upcoming presidential election.

The event, “The Media, The Election and You,” was organized by the Honors Center Director and Distinguished Teaching Professor of Anthropology James Armstrong and featured Professor of Modern Languages and Cultures Jurgen Kleist as the event’s moderator.

A panel composed of Professor Emeritus of Political Science Tom Konda, Professor and Chair of Communication Shakuntala Rao and Professor of Journalism and Public Relations Shawn Murphy discussed the issues involved with the election and the media.

“I like politics, and I’ve been watching this campaign closely, like a lot of other people, I suppose, and some of the issues that arose during the campaign made me wonder about what the responsibility of the media was in covering the political campaign,” Armstrong said about organizing the event.

He said young people in today’s society have the advantage of broader access to information through the rise of social media, while older generations may be better at evaluating the information given to them.

“I think an event like this is good for them (students). I think it is going to give them a little bit of critical thinking about how you evaluate what you read and what you hear and what you see,” Armstrong said. “That’s what I’m hoping for is that this is good for younger people who have this enormous access to all kinds of information. It will help them be better at filtering it.”

Konda started by discussing his views on the upcoming New York state primaries and how media influences voting patterns.

“I don’t pay any attention to the media coverage of the primaries, and I won’t pay attention to the media coverage of the election,” Konda said.

He also said media brought attention to how “weird and unorganized” the election process is.

Murphy opened with a political cartoon of presidential candidate Donald Trump, in which Trump is portrayed as the Incredible Hulk speaking with poor sentence structure and engaging in fits of rage.

He said the key to gaining well-rounded knowledge of the election process and political campaigning is to avoid “polarizing” news outlets, such as Fox News and MSNBC.

Rao used her introduction to discuss ethics and the media’s responsibility to report fairly and accurately. She said social media has seen a rise in popularity, particularly in this campaign, because candidates can “circumvent” the media and speak directly to the general population.

She questioned if there was an ethical responsibility of the media to disengage with candidates who would ultimately “do more harm than good.”

“There have been historic moments where objectivity (in the media) can be questioned,” Rao said.

Armstrong said students hoping to become more involved in the election process can start by participating in political campaigns.

“I think there are issues that demand attention and they don’t get much, and issues that don’t demand attention — this is one of those issues that should get a lot of attention,” Armstrong said. “I think students actually care about this, and they want to be informed about it.”

Email Marissa Russo at

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