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Students Take Tips from Communications Professionals at COMDay

March 14, 2013

Lasell students participated in a daylong networking event involving communications professionals from Boston and New York at the College's first annual COMDAY. The event, themed From Classrooms to Boardrooms, was designed to help students prepare for the job market.

Approximately 20 communications professionals from organizations including boston.com, JetBlue, Yankee Publishing Inc., IDG: Strategic Marketing and others, spoke with students in networking sessions and lectures throughout the event held March 12.

Among the presenters was keynote speaker Alex S. Jones, Director of the Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University.

Jones spoke to a group of students, faculty and staff gathered in de Witt Hall about the challenges surrounding the issue of media ethics and objectivity, providing examples of hypothetical and real life instances when editors made decisions about when to publish information and when to stay silent.

"Journalism is about a practical truth - the truth that is the best you can discover at a certain time," said Jones. "At the root of every media situation is an ethical dilemma."

Jones talked about the coverage of the campaign "for" and "against" federal legislation to ban partial birth abortion and how different newspapers responded to the presentations of "facts" from both sides. Jones told the audience that most major newspaper editors were liberal and sympathetic to groups that opposed the ban, especially to the leading organization opposing the ban, Planned Parenthood.

According to Jones, because of this built-in bias, many of these publications did not dig deeper into the claims by Planned Parenthood that partial birth abortions were relatively rare and only done when the health of the mother was at stake. He said the media coverage of the issue changed, however, when a New Jersey reporter interviewed an abortion doctor she knew who told a very different story about the use of the procedure -- in that state the procedures were not rare, nor were they reserved for extreme cases when the mother's life was in danger, the doctor said.

Jones said this type of situation can be remedied - in part - when publications hire omsbudsmen or public editors to accept information and criticism from the public when there is concern that issues are not covered objectively.  Jones told the audience that he is concerned because even those positions are being cut from newspaper staff rooms, which could have an impact on how issues are portrayed by the press.

 

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