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Students Head to DC to Ask, ‘Who’s Responsible for the Message?’

Joshua Chappell
Park Scholars Joshua Chappell (Chemical Engineering, Spanish, Business Administration) and Sophie Austin (Biological Sciences and Classics) on the National Mall.

Park scholar Joshua Chappell was among a group of students who spent their fall break in Washington, D.C., analyzing the media’s impact on the dissemination of information in the United States. Chappell, who’s majoring in Chemical Engineering and minoring in Spanish and Business Administration, called the trip “informative and rewarding. I learned a lot from national leaders about how the media directly impacts our daily lives.”

In light of events such as the WikiLeaks scandal and the national healthcare debate, the class was interested in exploring the responsibility assumed by the media in providing news to the American public.”As a senior staff writer at the Technician, it was interesting to talk with media leaders and to hear from politicians who are impacted by the media,” Chappell said.

During conversations with individuals representing organizations and government branches such as the Center for Public Integrity, Investigative Reporting Workshop, PolitiFact, Public Education Center, U.S. House of Representatives, and U.S. Supreme Court, students gained a deeper understanding of how journalists can affect individuals’ understanding of current events, why certain stories are covered over others, and the fine line between commentating on the news and objectively reporting the news.

Park Scholars are selected in part because of their potential as leaders, and thus should be aware of the important leadership challenges facing the nation. The Learning Lab II field experience allows students to develop a critical understanding of national and global issues by interacting with thought leaders immersed in these issues. “The media is something that impacts many parts of everyday life,” Chappell said. “I think the class as a whole learned a lot about how the media works and ways to deal with media-related issues.”

Learning Lab II guest speakers included Bill Adair, Editor, PolitiFact; Washington Bureau Chief, St. Petersburg Times; Adam Belmar, Director of Communications, Quinn Gillespie & Associates; Bill Buzenberg, Executive Director, Center for Public Integrity; Sue Garman Kranias, Senior Communications Strategist, Quinn Gillespie & Associates; Dick Gordon, Host, WUNC’s The Story; Charles Lewis, Executive Editor, Investigative Reporting Workshop, American University; Jim Manley, Senior Director of Communications and Government Affairs, Quinn Gillespie & Associates; Representative David Price (D-NC), Member, United States House of Representatives; The Honorable Antonin Scalia, United States Supreme Court Justice; and Joe Trento, President, Public Education Center.

An earlier version of this article appeared in Park News.