Hilltop on the Hill 2013

Eight students are in Washington, D.C., in October 2013 as part of SMU’s Hilltop on the Hill program. The students will visit media and government sites, and meet with political communicators, journalists and SMU alumni. The trip is led by Rita Kirk, professor of communication studies in Meadows School of the Arts and director of the Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility; Sandra Duhé, chair of communication studies, associate professor and director of the Meadows School’s public relations program; and Candy Crespo, assistant director of the Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility. Endowed by the Bauer Foundation, the Hilltop on the Hill program also takes students studying political communication to political party conventions, the presidential Inauguration and the G8 Economic Summit.

How the media make memories that last

white houseAn update from Sasha, a senior majoring in corporate communications in Meadows School of the Arts and Spanish in Dedman College:

It is incredible the way our memories work. We can spend hours in a classroom hearing the same thing over and over again and still never be able to recall that information, but it only takes a split second looking at an image of two flaming towers in New York to forever remember a moment of terror.

The news is one of those things that create memory for us. How is it that we hardly remember what was in the Dallas Morning News this morning, but we can tell you all about Monica Lewinsky or OJ Simpson? The way things are presented to us affects how they will impact us, and whether or not they will remain with us. Walking through the Newseum we were able to get a glimpse of the moments in history that, while in and of themselves were unforgettable, were made into lasting memories because of the way they were displayed by the media.

Journalism and the news have evolved incredibly in such a short period of time. It was remarkable walking through the “News through Time” exhibit and seeing news dating as far back as the 15th century. In a simple, yet captivating manner the Newseum inspires us and shows us multiple perspectives of the past.

This six-story contemporary-looking building was filled with statues, exhibits, paintings, projections – monuments and dedications to the past to teach us about the future.

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Lessons from a global local PR company

brianaAn update from Briana, a sophomore Hunt Scholar majoring in political science in Dedman College and communication studies in Meadows School of the Arts: 

“Only a life lived for others is a life worth living.” Albert Einstein’s words elicit the type of company Edelman is with its concern for its clients’ cultivation of ethics and integrity as well as for maintaining its own principle values.

Edelman PR is the definition of a global local company. Edelman has 67 offices around the world — demonstrating the breadth of the company — and yet it also has a sense of genuine authenticity — illustrating its depth. While at Edelman, we, the Hilltop students, spoke with four people, two of whom are SMU alumni — Jaime Deesing Zarraby and Erika Briceno. Through their discussions, they all revealed the variety and uniqueness “of the largest PR firm in the world” (Zarraby). The breadth is revealed in the number of domestic and international companies under Edelman, while the depth is revealed by its grassroots campaigns and continued ethical strivings.

One of our speakers shared with us the idea that “if content is king, community is queen,” meaning that you must find out what kind of community you’re dealing with. Honestly, this idea can reach into all facets of one’s life. We can apply this to the way we communicate to individuals on a daily basis all the way to news reports; community application is just as important as the content that is being said.

Edelman radiates a company culture concerned with maintaining the integrity of itself and concern for its constituents. The company’s Goodpurpose campaign is a big part of Edelman’s image. Goodpurpose “is a way to create a culture that examines the overall global values the company strives to achieve.” Part of the goal of this Goodpurpose campaign is to answer the overarching questions: “Who do you want to be talking about you?” and “How do you get them to talk about you?”

As Hilltop on the Hill students, we interacted not only with the largest PR firm in the world, but also learned from senior vice presidents of particular divisions of the company the importance of having concern for its community, message, and integrity of practice. The irreplaceable experience is exactly the nature of the Hilltop trip — Edelman simply served as a preface to the level of exposure all of us are so lucky to have. This is where we continue to see how once one finds their voice, they will change our world.

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‘Too Long Have Others Spoken for Us’

AlexAn update from Alexandra, a junior majoring in psychology and English with a minor in women’s and gender studies in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences:

What do Susan B. Anthony, Randy Shilts, and Ida B. Wells have in common, besides lives devoted to advocating for minority groups? I answered that question today while exploring a display titled “Too Long Have Others Spoken For Us” in the Newseum, a museum of news and journalism in the heart of Washington, D.C. There, I learned that all three activists created their own publications in order to more effectively advocate for social issues.

A photo of the exhibit honoring Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony’s contributions to women’s suffrage, which ultimately led to the passage of the 19th Amendment.

A photo of the exhibit honoring Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony’s contributions to women’s suffrage, which ultimately led to the passage of the 19th Amendment.

Susan B. Anthony, along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, played a large role in the suffrage movement, fighting for women’s right to vote. The two women started their own newspaper in New York in 1868. It was called, fittingly enough, The Revolution. Although their newspaper eventually folded, it was an important tool for spreading information and mobilizing supporters in the fight for women’s suffrage.

Ida B. Wells fought against racial hatred and discrimination. After three of her friends were lynched in 1892, she took a stand by publishing her own newspaper and a book about the horrors of lynching in the South. Depsite her efforts, neither Congress nor the president passed an anti-lynching law until well after her death. Still, her tireless hard work paid off by informing the public of the racial atrocities and affected public opinion about how truly insidious racial discrimination could be.

Randy Shilts was a little different from Wells, Anthony, and Stanton. Although he certainly was an activist for the homosexual community, he described himself as first and foremost a journalist. His article on HIV and the government’s unsuccessful attempts to treat and prevent it led to a bestseller on the topic that brought the issue of HIV into the public arena.

According to the exhibit, “anyone who has had a story to tell usually has found a way to tell it.” Anthony, Wells, and Shilts are perfect examples of how communication and the way we tell our stories can change lives. Their stories are inspiring. Someday, I hope I can influence others by telling a story that matters.

A piece of the Twin Towers post-9/11. On the wall behind it, the Newseum has a display of notes about people's experiences on 9/11. It was a very moving display.

A piece of the Twin Towers post-9/11. On the wall behind it, the Newseum has a display of notes about people’s experiences on 9/11. It was a very moving display.

On the sixth floor of the Newseum, with a view of the Capitol.

On the sixth floor of the Newseum, with a view of the Capitol.

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9/11 through a media lens

KatelynAn update from Katelyn, a junior double-majoring in journalism and theatre in Meadows School of the Arts, with a special emphasis in international politics in Dedman College:

We spent two or so hours Sunday wandering the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue – a museum I had never visited nor knew extensively about. Its exhibits are all from the perspective of media. History-changing journalists, coverage, First Amendment rights, etc. But as I explored on my own, I found myself completely enamored by the 9/11 Gallery at the end of the fourth floor walk.

What drew me in initially was the floor-to-ceiling display of newspaper headlines from around the world depicting the coverage immediately following Sept. 11. Newspapers not only from the U.S., or even North America, but from all over the world – Singapore, Bosnia, Israel; the list continues.

Beyond the multitude of languages and scripts conveying the devastating attack on Americans, I found the headlines themselves to be an especially interesting observation on the impact of even the most minute details within that headline.

Many headlines used the most passionate and striking three- or four-word sound bites from comments and speeches given immediately after the attacks. For sake of illustration, “our nation saw evil” was used as lead headline on a number of publications. However, the font script and size had a drastically different effect on the feeling emoted – one may convey terror while another desperation; a smaller, block font lent a direct, matter-of-fact nature, while a softer, bolded, but lowercase version evoked more somber, devastated sentiments.

The selection of a quote itself was also particularly influential, as well as word choice in general. A headline of “TERROR” plays a far different role in media portrayal and subsequent American fear and feelings than does the top headline “We Mourn.”

With harrowing footage captured on camera by photographers holding their shot as long as they could before running for their lives, the exhibit displayed the varying forms of media coverage – print, broadcast, radio, and still photography. Journalists on 9/11 provided the only real-time thoughts, fears, and terror of New Yorkers who experienced the destruction alongside the media. The nature of the coverage offered a leveled ground, where journalists were no longer reporters asking questions, but humans seeking answers and at as much a loss as their “interview subjects.”

In an exhibit designed specifically from the media perspective, the 9/11 Gallery provided a memorial for lost journalist William Biggart and an honor to the media coverage that zeroed in on the nation’s consumption during the days following 9/11. In a very one-faceted take on 9/11’s impact, the Newseum’s Comcast-sponsored exhibit focused directly on the shift and growth in media coverage that emerged from the terrorist attacks.

However, such a narrow focus also runs the risk of being perceived as too narrow – does it completely disregard the multitude of victims who died that day by never directly focusing on them? Is a focus on the coverage of the devastation too indirect a memorial of tragedy?

Be it productively specific or a slight brush-off of the larger civilian impacts of that day in history, I believe that is best left to the individual experience one may have touring the gallery.

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Journalism during the Civil War

brianaAn update from Briana, a sophomore Hunt Scholar majoring in political science in Dedman College and communication studies in Meadows School of the Arts: 

“Without a struggle, there can be no progress.” Frederick Douglass’s claim harmonizes with the exact phenomenon journalists felt during the Civil War. A sense of veracity and perseverance was instilled after this life-changing historical period.

The Civil War was a trying time in America’s social and cultural history. We fought against those that were once a part of our country and experienced a war on our nation’s soil. The Civil War exhibit in the Newseum evidences that journalists certainly did face challenges when covering different events caused by the Civil War. The exhibit is arranged where newspapers with their particular headlines are hung along the walls with descriptions surrounding events that affected the news that was reported. Primarily, the display of numerous newspapers revealed that there were many sides to one event. Opinions were so explicitly different that more than just a few publications were necessary. Journalists, because of this, had to not only report on their event as accurately as possible, but they also had to create coverage that attracted readers. After all, isn’t journalism a part of the rhetorical realm? Reporting on a particular event will naturally bear a subtle viewpoint.

Another interesting challenge that I read that newspapers in the South faced, we in a way are beginning to face that same challenge today. Because of the cut in resources the Union imposed on the South after secession, eventually newspapers in the South could no longer provide ink and paper because their supplies always came from the North. If you think about it, our newspapers today are suffering losses in their resources — their form of revenue. Readership is dwindling with the rise in internet readership which is forcing many newspapers to confront their inability to support themselves with what little money is coming in.

Journalists not only had to account for the shift in the nation’s cultural schema, but also the shifting social schema. These transitions posed ethical dilemmas for the nation’s journalists, such as whether journalists should frame their reports in support of their constituents even if it goes against their moral conscience. The Civil War exhibit at the Newseum clearly revealed this balancing act as there were very stark contrasts in headlines and bases of opinions. I can imagine feeling this type of struggle as these journalists probably felt with a country you know and grew up with that shaped you and a country that suddenly does not agree with you. Of course, not all journalists faced these dilemmas, but from what I gathered in the exhibit, these were some pretty tough times to go through.

The display of the newspapers and how they were strategically placed contribute to one’s understanding of how important not only the art of journalism is, but also how vital it is to write and report. This importance contributes even more to the struggle journalists of the Civil War felt in what and how they should report the historical events that happened.

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Sacrifices made for freedom

LaurenAn update from Lauren, a sophomore majoring in political science in Dedman College and public relations in Meadows School of the Arts:

While at the Newseum today, I saw some incredible and extraordinarily powerful photographs and memorials. One of the photos that stuck with me the most was “The Soiling of Old Glory” by Stanley Forman. It depicts a white man about to attack a black man with the American flag. The symbolism of the photo was incredible. It was taken in 1976, which was 11 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1965, and published in the Boston Herald. The photo shows how many people thought that denying people civil rights was the American thing to do, and the title of the photo shows that the people against civil rights were really “soiling” all the values the American flag stands for.

Being able to see things like Daniel Pearl’s laptop, a bullet hole-ridden truck from Sarajevo, a piece of the Berlin Wall, and newspaper headlines from all over the world after 9/11 made me realize how important journalism really is. Journalism (especially photography) helps us bridge the gap between what is actually happening in our world and what we think we know. To see the lengths to which journalists have gone to give us stories that we otherwise would not have heard was an almost indescribable experience.

The memorials serve as a reminder of what people have done and sacrificed. It would be impossible to forget the physical reminders of those brave journalists such as Daniel Pearl or the Time Magazine reporters who braved Sarajevo, and equally as impossible to ignore the sacrifices the people in the photos such as “The Soiling of Old Glory” made for us to have the freedoms we have today.

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Exploring the history of news

AlexAn update from Alexandra, a junior majoring in psychology and English with a minor in women’s and gender studies in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences:


Our visit to the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.

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Fighting with words

An update from Elena, a senior majoring in corporate communications in Meadows School of the Arts and business in the Cox School of Business:

As society evolves, intrinsically some things never change – like the news. Since the adoption and enforcement of the First Amendment, news headlines have changed very little. The art of attention grabbing is an age-old tradition; readers in the pre-Revolutionary era craved an interesting story, just like readers today.

One difference that really shines at the Newseum is the name of major news sources in the pre-Revolutionary era. “The Crisis” published articles headlined “A Bloody Court, A Bloody Military, and A Bloody Parliament.” These media used linguistics to highlight the turmoil the United States faced and fought the power with words.

My favorite part of the Newseum was seeing the Berlin Wall. It was so powerful seeing a piece of history that literally separated a free society from the oppressed. Similar to the American Revolution, Germans demanded the destruction of the wall and did not successfully prevent the dissemination of free speech. One can take a lesson from history and fight for what is important.

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