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.

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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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