Students at Colorado Christian University were able to question
prominent journalists, bloggers, and columnists as part of a March 2 conference
on "Media Fairness and the 2012 Campaign." Centennial Institute, CCU's think
tank, invited locally and nationally-known luminaries to campus in order to
discuss issues in today' media.
Voters will need reliable reporting
on candidates and issues as the presidential race unfolds, noted John Andrews,
director of Centennial Institute. Yet, as Eli Stokols of Fox 31 News quipped,
many people regard substantive political news as the "lima beans" of the daily
media buffet. Tackling that paradox, the conference offered four panels on
various aspects of political coverage, culminating in a keynote luncheon with
nationally-syndicated columnist, Cal Thomas.
The conference tied
into CCU's News in the 21st Century class, which is a required class examining
persuasion and media techniques.
Students and attendees watched as
panelists with diverging opinions discussed issues such as bias, spin,
economic literacy, and survival skills. By commenting on the news, rather than
reporting it, journalists gave students keys to understand how news works and
what gets reported.
Insiders, such as local AP reporter Kristin
Wyatt, stressed the need to understand that "broadcasts are designed to gain
the most eyeballs." Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute's Carol Hedges agreed,
insisting that as long as candidates, the media, and the public are more
concerned about "catchphrases than conversation," society will continue to
suffer from economic and political illiteracy.
with how to sort out truth in the midst of spin and sound bites as John
Andrews engaged the audience directly. Part of the strategy insisted Kelly
Maher, a local video blogger, is to "take time to seek out the opinion which
is opposite your own."
Megan Brophy, a junior at CCU and participant
in the News in the 21st Century class, agreed: "A well-informed public is
necessary to a well-functioning republic."
Brophy was also on
hand for the keynote speech provided by Cal Thomas. Mixing folksy humor, his
personal story, and incisive commentary, Thomas stressed how the media goes
after conflicts rather than solutions--because solutions do not provide
ratings. His religious beliefs provided encouragement to students like Megan.
"Christians can and should work to consume media intelligently and also work
to have their voices heard in the media," she said. "This conference
reinforced that belief."
For students like Megan, who have studied
persuasive theory in class for the past two months, the conference provided
concrete examples. "Communication theory isn't my strong suit, but this
conference gives the class a lot more relevance and makes the theories easier
Such a class also fits with CCU's strategic
objectives, equipping students to impact culture for the good. Or, as Cal
Thomas reminded students, "Democracy is not the natural state of humanity. We
must renew it with each generation."
The four conference panels
were taped by C-SPAN for airing on national television during the week of
March 12. The luncheon session with Cal Thomas was webcast on Livestream.com.
For information on how to view the recordings of all five presentations
online, and to keep up with Centennial Institute's project on media bias and
media literacy, go to www.news21ccu.com