By Faina Gordover
Brooklyn College played host to a wide range of media experts for two nights.
In the college’s first-ever “Media Nights,” presented by the Television and Radio department last week, in the Television Center, students and faculty welcomed six professionals in the media industry, ranging from podcast producers, investigative journalists, and authors or show writers.
T.V. and Radio Undergraduate Deputy Chair and Lecturer Brian Dunphy planned the event in hopes of introducing possibilities in the media industry for interested students.
“I wanted some new exposure for the department,” Dunphy said. “I [also] wanted students to be inspired and get an education from people working in the industry.”
Dunphy said he got the idea for this event when he was in Gothenburg, Sweden in March. He said that there was a similar event that lasted three to four days and had industry professionals; he wanted to bring that to Brooklyn College.
Dunphy aspires for other departments in the school to hold their own “Media Nights,” bringing in professionals from different fields.
“The hope was to lay the foundation for what is possible and pass it on,” he said.
Over the span of two nights, the panelists were: co-creator and former head writer of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Lizz Winstead; independent reporter Mark Fonseca Rendeiro; Managing Editor of The Center for Public Integrity Gordon Witkin; author and filmmaker, Rory O’Connor; founder of InsideClimate News, David Sassoon; Director of Broadcast Journalism and radio scholar, John Anderson; author and screenwriter, DB Gilles; and Deputy Chair for Graduate Studies in Television and Radio, Miguel Macias.
Winstead, who was also the co-founder of Air America Radio, dominated Wednesday night with her humorous lecture about her book, Lizz Free or Die: Essays, and about her realization that the news has sold war, an epiphany that she came to while she was on a date at a sports bar that was showing CNN news coverage of the Gulf War.
It made her want to work on a show that looked like the news. “It’s like we’re going into the Id of the news,” she said.
When Rendeiro spoke, he said that the podcasting outlet has helped him report unknown news stories. “I know that for the last five-to-six years it’s worked quite well, in that I get to see the world or parts of the world,” Rendeiro said. “I get to hear the stories you rarely hear and I get to try to bring them to the audience out there.”
Rendeiro’s podcast runs on his blog, citizenreporter.com. The blog was created because he wanted to branch out into journalism that would help him publish directly to an audience.
Witkin lectured on the second day about the validity of sources in journalism that spawn from sharing information, and how The Center for Public Integrity–a non-profit organization that critically analyzes the federal government and communications–works.
“We try to do deep-dive journalism, particularly that looks at how Washington and the federal government is working or not working, with a special emphasis on how the process of democracy is being twisted and contorted by special interests and big money,” he said.
O’Connor spoke Tuesday about the dangers of the sea of information in the media, which he mentions in his new book, Friends, Followers and the Future: How Social Media are Changing Politics, Threatening Big Brands, and Killing Traditional Media.
“It’s a digital information revolution,” O’Connor said. “It’s also rapidly and radically transforming how we communicate. The outcome of this revolution remains uncertain and is dependent on the traces that you all make.”
Sassoon, the founder and publisher of Pulitzer-prize-winning InsideClimate News, a non-profit and non-partisan environmental news organization, explained how a deep investigative publication works, speaking about his organization’s book, The Dilbit Disaster. The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel covers the investigation of the oil spill in the Kalamazoo River, Michigan. One million gallons of oil “blackened more than two miles of Talmadge Creek and almost 36 miles of the Kalamazoo River,” according to InsideClimate News’s website.
Anderson, meanwhile, spoke to the crowd about a different medium that has not extensively explored: digital radio or HD radio.
“The company that developed HD radio is called–completely non-ironically–iBiquity Digital Corporation,” he said. “It is essentially a company that was founded by the largest broadcast conglomerates of the United States—we’re talking our Clear Channels, CBS’, and Disneys’.”
Anderson explained the aspects of HD radio that he found to be negative, such as its expense to radio stations and the difficult transition that can cause interference and licensing changes.
“I think probably the most insidious thing about HD radio is that iBiquity equates itself with Microsoft in that if you want to broadcast in HD radio, you have to buy special software to run your transmitter that only iBiquity Digital Corporation can provide,” Anderson said, “And that costs money.”
And Anderson said that this is particularly troublesome because most stations don’t want to switch to the new type of radio.
“Most people don’t know what HD radio is, and if they know about it, there’s really no huge emphasis to adopt to this technology,” he said.
“Whether or not you care about radio, you can’t deny the fact that it’s still a very important part of our media environment,” he added. “And if we lose the public airwaves to a system that’s closed…or that system actually degrades radio to the point where we lose AM and FM radio, our world is changed forever, and I don’t think it’s for the better.”
Anderson’s lecture was based around his recently published book, Radio’s Digital Dilemma: Broadcasting in the 21st Century, an analysis of the United States’ digital radio transition into a new sphere of high-definition radio.
Gilles talked about his book, Writer’s Rehab: A 12 Step Program For Writers Who Can’t Get Their Acts Together, which offers his insight as a fellow writer, but also as someone who wants to help on a deeper, psychological level. The book is divided into 13 steps that also include helping comedy writers, personal accounts, experiences with students, and advice on getting over writer’s block.
“As you go through this book, you may feel as though you are experiencing some form of psychoanalysis,” Gilles said. “That is my intent.”
Professor Macias, who makes documentaries, features, and live radio, and won a Peabody Award for his work at WNYC’s Radio Rookies, said that he has more recently produced documentaries about the Occupy movement in New York, and is working on a long-term project titled “The Crisis of My Friends,” a documentary about the impact of the financial crisis on a whole generation in Spain.
“I wanted to share something that people attending the event could take away, so initially I was going to show some of my latest work—and I still did that—but as I kept thinking about it, I wanted the audience to get a sense of an overarching theme in my trajectory,” Macias said. “I realized that [what] all my work has in common is this search or a unique angle that only I can tell. It was important for me to play material.”
Jenee Whitehead, a blogger, said that she would’ve come to the event even if she wasn’t Dunphy’s student; she was excited to learn about the panelists.
“I’m going to look through all of their links, all of their websites, especially the environmentally proactive one [InsideClimate News],” she said. “I want to write about them and about their platform because that’s similar to what I do, too.”
Macias said that Dunphy was the person behind the success. “It came together perfectly,” Macias said. “Everyone was excited, it was successful, and I think it was informative.”
The first night’s panel was hosted by Professor Katherine Fry; the second night was hosted by Professor Mobina Hashmi, and the panel was moderated by Professor Julianna Forlano, who is also a creator and producer of her own political news parody Absurdity Today!
After the event, students were able to buy copies of the panelists’ books.
Camille Gregory, a sophomore, helped Professor Dunphy. She designed the flyers and was a personal assistant.
“The panels were so collaborative and so well put together that I think the information spanned across multiple departments,” Gregory said. “ It was honestly an honor to work for it.”
By Faina Gordover