American Democracy Under Siege

On Feb. 16, the Sacred Heart University College of Arts and Sciences sponsored the “American Democracy Under Siege: The Media and the Capitol Insurrection” colloquium. This was a panel discussion about the vulnerability of the media during Donald Trump’s presidency and his final days in office.

The colloquium discussed themes of justice, truth, politics, history, law and order, media, and multiculturalism.

The mediator was Prof. Mark Congdon, an assistant professor in Sacred Heart’s School of Communication, Media and the Arts.

The experts who spoke about the impact and failures of the media were Eric Deggans, Jill Collen Jefferson, and Suran Huang, a photojournalist who was at the Capitol during the events of Jan. 6.

 “This really gets at our mission of having students understand global and contemporary issues and developing their critical thinking skills,” said Congdon. “The topic of this colloquium aligns directly with developing global citizens who are aware of what is going on. The media is a fundamental right in our constitution, so it is important to understand how the media is used to hold our political leaders accountable.”

One topic the panel focused on was how many people are unable to realize if what they are reading or watching on social media is correct.

“These social media websites use algorithms from your previous searches or your friends list to show you what you want to see only,” said Congdon.

“We all know that different media outlets can lean more liberal or conservative, and that is apparent when listening to the delivery of information,” said senior Kolby Driscoll, president of College Democrats. “In any case, when talking about the insurrection or any other newsworthy topic, it is always important to get your information from multiple sources.”

This event is part of a series of panels to help better understand and process the events of Jan. 6.

“The series is intended to help our community better understand these unfolding events and their significance by examining them from a variety of perspectives and engaging expert panelists from multiple disciplines,” said Dr. Robin Cautin, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Sacred Heart wants to provide frameworks with expert panelists to explain the factors that led to the insurrection at Capitol Hill.

“No doubt that the significance of what happened and why it happened are topics that will be discussed for a long time to come,” said Cautin.

Many students attended and learned from this event.

“I do feel that I have a better understanding of how the media plays a huge role in people’s opinion of what happened that day,” said junior Laura LoBello. “I remember that day, in addition to watching various news channels, I was watching TikTok and my whole ‘For You’ page, video after video, was about the insurrection.”

LoBello emphasized that people who viewed TikTok videos have a different perspective of the events that happened than others who did not. “The media you consume definitely affects your perspective,” said LoBello.

“I did not see inaccurate or biased reporting, at least based on my own observations. Everyone was appalled with no media outlet defending the insurrection,” said professor Gary Rose, chair in the department of government. “But I’m not an expert on media nuances.”

While attending, students recognized the importance of this event and future events of its kind.

“It is critical to host multiple events such as this one, highlighting a wide variety of viewpoints in order to paint an inclusive and fair picture of the events that unfolded,” said Driscoll.

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