School holds forum on political coverage

October 28, 2004

John Splaine, professor emeritus at the University of Maryland and a longtime consultant to C-SPAN television, spoke about politics and the media last week at Glenelg Country School.

Splaine addressed upper-school juniors and seniors and parents during the school day and at an evening forum.

Citing research from www.pewresearchcenter.org, Splaine said that about 75 percent of Americans used television as their primary source for political coverage.

His lecture, "Television's Hidden Agenda in Presidential Politics," explained how political candidates are packaged for television; how political commercials communicate subliminal messages; and how television coverage influences the outcome of political debates. "TV does images really well," he said, "but it often lacks `substance.' "

For example, during the first presidential debate this year, Splaine said, President Bush's scowling made headlines, while his message did not.

Splaine described how a crowd, and the television viewing audience, could be manipulated through camera angles and creative lighting, said Julia Southern, Glenelg Country School's public relations coordinator.

Southern said the students tried some of the techniques Splaine described, "where one of the students announced the fictional candidate and had everyone stand up and cheer."

"I think that his point was that they had to be critical viewers and seek information from a variety of sources," Southern said.

-- Tawanda Johnson

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