AMHERST, MA – On Thursday, November 29th, Amherst LEADS concluded the fall schedule with an event targeted at the Amherst community. Each semester, Amherst LEADS incorporates one large community event into our curriculum around a timely theme or issue. The gathering of students, faculty, and staff from Amherst College and the surrounding area brings forth the idea of uniting and connecting the community as a whole. This year Amherst LEADS selected the topic of intersections of changing media, news, communication, and information. The Community Event was titled, “The Changing Landscape of News and Media,” which featured a discussion with a distinguished panel. The panelists included: Bob Ryan, Dr. Kate Zernike, and Jane Coaston.
Bob Ryan is a former American sportswriter for The Boston Globe. A native of Trenton, New Jersey, Ryan graduated from Boston College as a history major in 1968. After graduating from Boston College, Ryan started as a sports intern for The Boston Globe. Known known as “the quintessential American sportswriter” and a “basketball guru,” Ryan wrote famous articles of the Boston Celtics in the 1970s. He received the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association National Sportswriter of the Year award four times (2000, 2007, 2008, 2009) and in 2015, received the PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing. Ryan announced his early retirement in 2012 after 44 years of being in the field.
Joining Ryan was Dr. Kate Zernike. A native of Stamford, Connecticut, Dr. Kate Zernike attended the University of Toronto where she obtained her B.A. in history and English. She later graduated from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism receiving her Master in Journalism in 1992. Dr. Zernike began her career as a journalist for The Patriot Ledgerin Quincy, Massachusetts and then worked as a reporter for TheBoston Globewhere she was responsible for covering education and special projects. In April 2000, Dr. Zernike became a national correspondent for The New York Timesand currently works there today. During her time at The New York Times, Dr. Zernike has covered topics such as education, criminal justice, Congress, national elections, and Hurricane Katrina. Additionally, Dr. Zernike was a member of The New York Timesteam which shared the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting on global terrorism and its networks.
The last panelist to join the group was Jane Coaston. Jane is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio. She attended the University of Michigan before moving to St. Louis to work for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Coaston has spent the past seven years in Washington, and in February of 2016, she joined the team at MTV News covering the 2016 election by examining the Republican Party and the American right wing in depth. In addition to her time at MTV News, Coaston has written for publications such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, ESPN, and The Ringer. On November 13th, Coaston began her new position as the Senior Politics Reporter at Vox.
The night began with a warm welcome from Associate Athletic Director, Gregg DiNardo. DiNardo spoke to the audience about the mission behind the LEADS program and the potential impact of the Community Event. He then introduced the moderator of the evening Dr. Nishiten Shah, Chair and Professor in the Amherst College Philosophy Department.
Dr. Shah proposed questions to the panelists regarding tribalism in current media, perceptions of polarization, and journalistic objectivity. Of great interest to the audience was the topic of print journalism. In today’s technology focused society, it is obvious that reading print media is becoming severely lacking. According to Ryan, print journalism is “dying” and Dr. Zernike points out that we are “losing the serendipity of reading the newspaper.” Coaston highlighted the impact that local newspapers have on the community. She emphasized that by losing the local papers many individuals are receiving their media from larger scale sources (think the Nightly News). With this being said, most individuals won’t know what is occurring in their neighborhoods. Coaston stressed the impact that this has on connecting with others.
Following the discussion, audience members were invited to ask the panelist any burning questions that they had. Many addressed the idea of immediacy with the news due to push notifications. Push notifications are small messages that can reach audiences anywhere and at any time. These notifications have been both beneficial and troublesome. For example, many of the push notifications from the news will say, “Breaking News!” when in fact it is anything but. At the same time, other push notifications will warn people of trouble and to stay clear of harmful areas. Dr. Zernike provided a solution to both of these issues. She told the audience that at The New York Timesthey have started to allow readers to choose which push notifications they receive.
It was truly an honor to have Bob Ryan, Dr. Kate Zernike, and Jane Coaston join Amherst LEADS and the community for the final event of the fall semester.
Stay tuned for upcoming Amherst LEADS spring semester events!