Archive for January 2010

Good for Media, Bad for Democracy

January 23, 2010

illustration from the Sacramento Bee

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 this week that corporations and unions can spend enormous amounts of money to influence future political campaigns.

The Court’s majority calls it “free speech” under the First Amendment.

I disagree. The Founding Fathers adopted the First Amendment as a statement of individual freedoms — freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press.

Individuals vote.  Individuals determine the course of our democracy.

Corporations do not vote.  Corporations should not be allowed to use their money in unregulated ways to try to influence and buy votes in a democracy.

The case was Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Five justices on the Court became judicial activists in writing a sweeping opinion that lifts a federal ban on corporate political spending for federal campaigns, rather than issuing a ruling on narrow merits as is the norm.

Now the question is, just how much money will corporations directly pump into political spending?  A Common Cause report using data from the Center for Responsive Politics reveals that corporations spent $6 billion lobbying Congress in the last election cycle. If they put that much into political ads, it would more than double the $3 billion total spent on political and issue advertising in the 2008 congressional and presidential election.

It’s simply wrong to let corporations — which do not have the right to vote — seek to buy elections. The Supreme Court does not give corporations unlimited freedoms in other First Amendment areas. For instance, false advertising by a corporation has no First Amendment protection.

The Court’s decision on corporate political contributions certainly will benefit the media. Billions of dollars more in campaign advertising will now flow into the U.S. communication system. That will provide blessed revenue to media, but at a perilous cost to democracy.

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Best Worst Movie

January 21, 2010

What fun!  About 50 of us turned out tonight to watch a terrific documentary about the making of a terrible movie.

Elon hosted a campus screening of “Best Worst Movie,” a delightful telling in documentary style about the filming of “Troll 2” two decades ago. Remarkably, “Troll 2” has a 00% rating on my favorite movie-review site, rottentomatoes.com. (By comparison, Avatar has an 82% approval rating, and a stinker like “Halloween II” has an abysmal 21% approval rating.)

But a 00% rating?

The School of Communications hosted the child actor shown in the movie poster who recently decided to make a documentary about “the worst movie ever made.” The lead adult, now a dentist in Alabama, also came to Elon and visited with students after the documentary screening.

The trailer below is six minutes long. You’ll enjoy.

Study Abroad, Elon-Style

January 9, 2010

Dozens of faculty members and more than 600 students are abroad right now during Elon’s winter term.

Ten of those faculty members are professors in the School of Communications.

Frances Ward-Johnson is in Barbados, and here is a photo from that Caribbean locale posted on the Study Abroad blog. Doesn’t that look like a wonderful place to be a student during January?

Glenn Scott is leading a student group in Japan, and here is a class photo from the Imperial Palace in Tokyo posted to the class blog. Japan, too, looks like a good January destination this year.


And then, brrr, there’s Europe, with bitter weather and heavy snow across England and the continent.

Communications professors Tom Nelson and Jessica Gisclair are with students in Europe teaching and seeing key sites related to The Great War (World War I), and Rich Landesberg is there with a group of students studying the European Union and hopefully staying warm. Here’s a photo of the European Union class in Brussels, Belgium.

In addition, five Communications faculty have taken M.A. in Interactive Media students abroad this month: Phillip Motley to Costa Rica, Randy Piland and Sang Nam to Panama, and Ray Johnson and Brooke Barnett to snowy London.

We believe that students best understand the global dimensions of communications, business and culture by visiting other countries and talking with the international community. Safe travels back.

Another Hearst Winner

January 7, 2010

Congratulations to Elon sophomore Samantha Baranowski for finishing fifth nationally in the Hearst Journalism Awards radio news competition.

By being in the top five, Sam will be invited to submit additional entries for a second round of judging that could lead to her being invited to compete in the National Broadcast News Championships in New York City in June.

This is the competition in which Elon broadcast journalism major Randy Gyllenhaal finished #1 in the nation in television news in June 2009.

In this year’s radio news competition, a student from Syracuse finished first, Hofstra second, UNC third and Brigham Young fourth. Sam produced her winning radio pieces as projects in Rich Landesberg’s Broadcast News Writing class. She is an anchor on Elon’s student television newscast, Phoenix14News, and is working in a “60 Minutes” internship this winter term. Congratulations, Sam!

Highlighted in The New York Times

January 5, 2010

Elon’s innovative M.A. in Interactive Media degree received special recognition in the Education section of Sunday’s New York Times.

The Times article, titled “The Interactive Entrepreneur,” cites three graduate programs in new-media fields — at Elon, at the University of Southern California, and at Birmingham City University (England).

In the cover story on 10 areas of graduate study that are new and unconventional, the Times wrote: “Students, both recent college graduates and career changers, seem to believe that setting their sights on a particular industry and getting the right credential will help them stand out from the throng of applicants — and command better pay. On average, a master’s degree results in 20 percent more pay than does a bachelor’s, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”