Annual Media Summit Examines Journalism and the First Amendment
The 16th annual Dr. Lewis B. O’Donnell Media Summit examined the events of 2020 through the lens of this year’s theme, “On the Front Lines with the First Amendment.”
On Oct. 28, an experienced panel of media professionals met on Zoom to discuss such historical moments in 2020 as the Black Lives Matter movement, the U.S. Presidential Election and the COVID-19 pandemic and their coverage by the media.
The discussion focused on the crucial role that journalists play in our society and the power that they hold to inform the nation.
“We really are the land of misfit toys in this profession,” said Connie Schultz, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist at Creators Syndicate. “We are not conformists and we don’t tend to do well when people tell us what to believe, what to write or what to report.”
Schultz was one of the panelists for the summit, alongside Steve Brown, an investigative reporter at WGRZ-TV in Buffalo, N.Y.; Michelle Garcia ’06, an editor at NBC News overseeing NBCBLK; Bret Jaspers, a politics reporter for KERA-FM; and Ava Lubell, a journalism attorney at Cornell Law School.
The moderator for this year’s summit was Michael Riecke, assistant professor of broadcasting and mass communications in the School of Communication, Media and the Arts.
The idea of journalists being recognized as “soldiers of truth” and the importance of upholding the First Amendment were main discussion. points in this year’s summit. Panelists agreed that journalists hold a high responsibility to use the First Amendment appropriately, and emphasized the range that freedom of speech carries through journalists’ work.
“I would add the First Amendment actually explicitly allows for mistakes and it’s structured in a way to say people are going to make mistakes, Lubell said. “If we say you can’t make a mistake, we should go home. The standard of perfection is not one we can attain and it’s not going to allow for the free flow of information that leads to the end goals of having an informed citizenry and participation in government.”
Following the summit, there were Career Connector sessions hosted by SUNY Oswego alumni:
- Natalie Brophy ’17, a statewide breaking and trending news reporter for the USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin in Appleton, Wis.;
- Imani Cruz ’17, a talent, casting and series development coordinator for MTV Networks in NYC;
- Justin Dobrow ’17, program operations manager at NBCUniversal’s Peacock new streaming platform in NYC;
- • Stephanie Herbert ’18, marketing and communications coordinator at the Museum of Science and Technology in Syracuse, N.Y.;
- Allif Karim ’18, sports director at WDVM-TV in Hagerstown, Md.; and
- Omy Melo ’14, an editor at Nickelodeon.
In the sessions, students were able to hear about each alum’s career path and their perspective about career opportunities in the media industry.
The Media Summit was founded in 2005 by Louis A. Borrelli Jr. ’77, and was co-sponsored in 2007 by NBC’s Today weather anchor, Al Roker ’76. It was then renamed in honor of their beloved professor, the late Dr. Lewis B. O’Donnell.
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