Note: I am currently in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention. I am attending an academic seminar this week and will be doing a fieldwork placement during the convention next week. I am writing a daily journal to reflect on my experience and will post my entries here. Enjoy!
We started our morning by having an ABC television reporter, Matt O’Donnell, talk with us about the relationship between media and the 2016 election. He believes that many Americans seem angry today mainly because of the echo chamber effect. The echo chamber effect refers to situations when people think a certain way after hearing about a certain view so many times. Being exposed to political news all the time, which is mostly negative, results in most Americans becoming frustrated with politics.
O’Donnell goes on to discuss how while news outlets have the responsibility of informing the public about what is going on in the world, they cannot bore the audience. In order not to lose news viewers, they have to find the balance between informing and entertaining them. O’Donnell compared the difference between social media and the news by using the washing machine analogy. He said unlike social media, the news is like washing clothes in a washing machine because you are guaranteed to get clean clothes after putting them in a washing machine, like you are guaranteed to receive reliable information from the news. While I do agree with him that the news may be more reliable than social media, I do not think the news is always clean due to their biases.
O’Donnell calls the Internet the today’s version of the Wild West. This parallels with what Obama said recently when he criticized the media for not holding candidates accountable. With the Internet, presidential candidates manage to receive plenty coverage even when they present plans that cannot work and make promises that they cannot keep. The Internet may have influenced the news outlets to stoop to its level and broadcast candidates’ unrealistic platforms. I understand why Obama complained about this and I have to agree with him on this one. However, influence of the Internet is not all bad. O’Donnell did acknowledge that social media encourages more participation and removes some shells that the news outlets used to have in the past. I certainly think so, as social media gives people more power over the news. People had fewer opportunities to share their opinions and criticize the news before the existence of social media, so it did give us more power. Right before O’Donnell wrapped up his speech, he mentioned that today was the first time he had someone interpret for him in American Sign Language (ASL). How cool!
Next, we heard from Philadelphia’s District Attorney, Seth Williams, who talked about the importance of being involved with making changes. He is the first African-American District Attorney in Pennsylvania, so he has quite a history of breaking down barriers. Williams emphasized how one cannot continue complaining if one is not willing to be part of the solution and it is simply important to try. He said when people compliment him, they do not mention how many times he failed. The point is that it does not matter how often you fail when you try, as it will eventually lead to succeeding. This goes for any minority group or individual who is facing some struggles.
The next speaker, Nichola Gutgold, spoke about the history of female presidential candidates and what they went through. Even though the earliest women who ran for president knew they might not have any chance of winning, they had to try in order to pave a path for Hillary Clinton and other future female politicians. No change can happen if people do not try, so again, the most important thing is to put in some effort and change will eventually take place. Hillary’s loss in 2008 is a good example. After losing the 2008 primary election to President Obama, Hillary did not break the glass ceiling completely and still faced barriers, yet she did not give up. Instead, she went on to become the Secretary of State and experienced more barriers around the world where some countries refused to recognize her as a female diplomat and treated her as an honorary man. That did not stop Hillary from fighting for women’s rights worldwide though. Hillary ultimately reached where she is right now as the current Democratic nominee because she did not give up in 2008 and continued to try making changes. This is an invaluable lesson to remember.
We continued this discussion during our small group meeting in the afternoon and applied it to other minority groups like Latinos and immigrants. No matter how often we fail in making changes that we want, we must continue fighting and that will make a difference in the end. Taking this lesson of the day to our hearts, a few of us went to a Hillary campaign office to make official Democratic National Convention signs. We attempted to increase the visibility of Deaf people in these signs. We may have a long way to go when it comes to Deaf awareness, but we may as well start somewhere. Look for these signs on television next week!