Too often we treat academic and media bias separately when their relationship is much more symbiotic. After all, not only are media elites trained in academia but they frequently return to school to teach and “give something back” to the educational system that spawned them.
“I’m combining my journalism career with teaching because journalism is teaching,” George Washington University professor Frank Sesno told student journalist Amy D’Onofrio in an interview that was posted on June 13 in The GW Hatchet Online. “I’m enjoying working in the classroom, helping shape students going into journalism.”
“I think it’s important, challenging and fulfilling.” No doubt.
Sesno is a former bureau chief at CNN who still appears on the network as a special correspondent as well a panelist on The Situation Room. Before joining GWU’s faculty in 2006, he taught at another local college—George Mason University.
It should be noted that the pair of Rate My Professor.com ratings which Sesno has received since joining GWU have been laudatory. His RPMs at GMU were more of a mix.
“I don’t buy that there is an ideological bias,” Sesno said of the industry in a 2004 conference at the National Press Club that AIA covered. “It’s more of an institutional bias.”
At the time, Sesno was teaching a course on media bias at GMU. Shortly thereafter, the TV network Al Jazeera, known for its soft coverage of terrorist groups, tried to expand its audience in the United States.
“What do they need it for?” a Republican congressman asked at the time. “We’ve already got CNN.”
Ironically, Sesno’s own work at CNN played into this perception. “The reviews [of the channel] so far are mostly kind,” Sesno said on a November 16, 2006 broadcast, noting soft coverage in the New York Times and USA Today.
“Unfortunately, neither Sesno, the Times nor USA Today mentioned AIM’s critical efforts to keep the channel out of the U.S. media market, including a poll finding that Americans by an overwhelming margin do not want the channel to be transmitted into their living rooms,” Cliff Kincaid wrote in a January 2, 2007 Media Monitor.
Kincaid serves as editor-in-chief of Accuracy in Media. Sesno, meantime, is slated to teach an ethics course at GWU next Spring.
This Fall, he will teach a class called Art and Genre of Documentary. Speaking of which, don’t expect any balance anytime soon in this long-form of broadcast journalism. Elsewhere in academe, about an hour north of GWU, Johns Hopkins is making its own attempt at video indoctrination.
“The class, From Civil Rights to Multiculturalism: Student Movements for Social Change, brought together last semester 14 Hopkins undergraduates and 11 high school students from three city schools to study how student activism can be critical to social change,” Maria Blackburn reported in the June 2008 issue of Johns Hopkins magazine. “The class focused on how student movements like Black Power and the push for black student unions and black and Africana studies departments on college campuses were important to gaining racial equality in the United States.”
But don’t expect them to look at:
• Planned Parenthood’s efforts to promote abortion among black unwed mothers;
• Social Security taxes bleeding black workers dry while providing negligible returns; or
• Black workers thrown out of work whenever the minimum wage increases.
Rather, “In addition to discussing readings, keeping a journal, and writing a final paper, students in the class were asked to work together to create 15-minute films about Baltimore,” Blackburn writes. “Half made a film about poverty; the other half about education.”
“Meanwhile, [JHU students Adam] Lovett and [Eric] Wexler focused their cameras on the class and chronicled how the students’ views about race changed as a result of their time together.”
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.