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    Cultural Influences by Jose Perez

    Read about SJMC’s new art installations in the Fall issue of InterCom, arriving in December.

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    Convergence by Kirkland Smith

    Read about SJMC’s new art installations in the Fall issue of InterCom, arriving in December.

November 2016

From the Dean . . .

It isn’t over until it’s over . . . and it’s never really over

I’m not alone in declaring the 2016 election campaign unlike any other. Arguably, each campaign is unique. But not all are bizarre.

Because we are a constitutional democracy and have an unbroken history over more than two centuries of peaceful transition, we will live with the result of the November 8th election. We’ve never had a palace coup, a revolt of the colonels or a successful invasion. No, we are not blind to the fact we have had civil disobedience, violent and even deadly conflict with authority and the unpleasantness — to say the least — of 1861-1865.

Regardless of this election’s outcome, the nation gets a do-over in four years. That campaign will start around November 9th. Try to contain your excitement.

But what have we learned? Specifically, what are the lessons for media and communications professionals? And how do we apply that to our teaching? We are, after all, a college dedicated to the gathering, analysis and dissemination of information.

Last spring, I taught our course on Media and Politics, as I frequently do. This semester, I’ve been working with our senior journalism students in their reporting on politics and government. We have not lacked for material—the South Carolina presidential primary, candidates on campus, the state legislative session and the mad dash to election day.

Politics provides so many teachable moments. The shaping and effectiveness of strategic communication for public relations students. The power of political advertising for ad students. The impact of image for visual communications students. The ubiquity and pervasiveness of social media for multimedia students. The vast collection of political data for information science students. The pursuit of accuracy and truthfulness for journalism students.

We’ve learned that the media can get sucked into a story because a candidate is out of the mold, outspoken and even out of the bounds of propriety. We watched the fascination of the Donald Trump story turn from where he was welcome to phone in nearly every morning to a show like MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” to where he was openly despised by the “Morning Joe” hosts.

We’ve learned that there is enough political news to sustain nearly round-the-clock coverage on MSNBC, CNN and Fox. And no shortage of pundits and surrogates willing to man the network benches for their three or four minutes of insight and speculation.

We’ve learned that and and other fact checkers are essentials, not just for journalists, but for the electorate at large when candidates obfuscate and lie. “Four Pinocchios” and “Liar, liar, pants on fire” entered the political jargon. Check it out.

We’ve learned that 17 candidates are too much for anyone or any party to absorb and create an opening for a dark horse. We’ve learned that no one has an entitlement to a party’s nomination without feeling the Bern.

We’ve learned that money is a dominant political player. The Supreme Court told us that in its 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision. Billions have been spent in this election cycle.

Perhaps, we’ve learned to be attentive to an arcane and protracted process that had its foundation set in 1787 and endures. In 1947, Winston Churchill, noted that “democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Who am I to disagree with Churchill about democracy, but it sure puts us to the test.


Charles Bierbauer

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