Scholars talk presidency and the press in an evolving field

Photo courtesy of Caroline Mendes.

Journalists, both experts and amateurs, convened for “From Columns to Characters: The Presidency and the Press in the Digital Age” to examine the evolving nature of journalism today.

SMU’s Center for Presidential History, Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility, and Meadows School of the Arts’ Divisions of Communication Studies and Journalism sponsored the event, held in the Mack Ballroom Tuesday.

Some of the most influential names in political journalism spoke to a crowd of over 150 attendees.

Dallas Morning News editor Robert Mong talked about the effect of the media on voting. He spoke of the DMN’s ability to adapt in an industry where an increasing portion of revenue is derived from things that did not exist a few years ago.

“Our market wants substance and demands serious journalism,” said Mong.

SMU Meadows’ own Belo Foundation Endowed Distinguished Chair in Journalism Tony Pederson spoke about the obvious contrasts between Daniel Ellsberg, who released the Pentagon Papers, and Julian Assange and Edward Snowden.

“Reporter privilege was absent in the leaks by Snowden and Assange,” said Pederson.

ABC News’ D.C. Bureau Chief Stacia Philips Deshishku was one of the more critical lecturers of the Obama administration’s treatment of the media.

“It’s the silent chipping away of the freedom of the press that is our biggest fear. This White House appears more concerned with providing America with their carefully scripted agenda than with real news,” said Deshishku.

Deshishku talked about reporters’ struggle to cover the activities of the president due to the White House’s restrictions on press coverage and daily bullying.

“Government officials are terrified to talk to the media, even if it’s unclassified,” said Deshishku.

Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Texas A&M University, George C. Edwards III, spoke about leading the public through the new media scenery.

“Reporters are no longer the only main conduit through which news flows,” said Edward, citing advances like political blogs and the White House’s social media presence.

Other notable speakers included Todd J. Gillman, Washington bureau chief of the Dallas Morning News and Oliver Knox, chief Washington correspondent for Yahoo News, among many other speakers.

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