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Panelists discuss the "New World of Digital Politics" during a UD
Conversations and Connections networking event held at NPR headquarters
in Washington, D.C.
1:57 p.m., Nov. 23, 2015--The panel started with a request not
typically heard from most moderators: “I want to see cell phones in your
hands. I want to see the blue light on your face.”
The words, though, were fitting for the 100-plus University of
Delaware alumni, friends and students gathered on Nov. 12 at the NPR
headquarters in Washington, D.C., to discuss the “New World of Digital
Moderated by UD’s Ralph Begleiter, founding director of the Center
for Political Communication (CPC), the panel included UD alumnus and NPR
supervising political editor Domenico Montanaro; GOP digital strategist
Brian Donahue; UD associate professor Lindsay Hoffman; and NPR reporter
They spoke of how much has changed in such a short political period
(“I covered the 2008 Clinton/Obama debates with a Blackberry,” said
Montanaro), of the disruptive power of social media and of the lingering
effect of #BlackLivesMatter (“The same energy and force of that
movement will impact next year’s election,” Sanders predicted).
They discussed the “echo media” effect of Facebook, and how people
can “pick and choose their truths.” They talked about swing voters and
where they fall in the digital age (“Right now, in the primary stage,
the conversations are played very heavily to the bases,” said Donahue).
And they spoke of “vicarious participation” through social media, the
feeling of contributing to a larger conversation in the digital age
(“Twitter gives ordinary citizens very powerful tools,” said Hoffman).
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
Conversations and Connections guests are given a studio tour.
The event was part of the popular Conversations and Connections series,
an alumni networking event hosted by the offices of Development and
Alumni Relations and Career Services, and, in this instance, the Center
for Political Communication (CPC).
Conversations and Connections draws together current students, alumni
and friends all interested in broad, far-ranging topics in which UD has
a strong foothold. Past events have focused on industries such as
fashion, finance and technology.
In addition to the panel discussion on digital politics, members of the Delaware Diamonds Society
giving society and donors to the CPC and College of Arts and Sciences
had the rare chance to tour NPR’s headquarters earlier in the evening,
walking through the newsroom, sitting in production studios and even
meeting on-air personalities Audie Cornish, one of NPR’s All Things Considered anchors, and Mara Liasson, NPR’s senior political correspondent.
“We have to operate on all platforms, reach people in every possible
way they consume news,” said Liasson, who fielded questions about the
changing media landscape and provided a run-down of her day, which
ranged from blog posts to interviews to the write-through of the
following day’s Morning Edition.
All attendees raved about the evening and presentations.
“By far one of the most interesting alumni events I’ve been to,” said
Joseph Amann, who has attended (and served as a panelist for) previous
Conversations and Connections events in New York City. “[The NPR
building] is even cooler than you’d imagine it to be.”
The bright glow of hundreds of UD photos illuminated the lobby from a
two-story-high electronic mosaic wall, flashing images of prominent
alumni, national speakers and eminent faculty that have helped cement
UD’s status as the “epicenter of politics.”
A Times Square-style electronic “ticker” also zipped overhead touting
the “leading the way” motto of the College of Arts and Sciences and a New York Times columnist’s designation of UD as a “maker of political kings.”
Students benefited from the networking event as well, chatting up the speakers and alumni before and after the event.
Freshman political science and international major Tamar Epps sought
advice from NPR reporter Sam Sanders on the importance of black voices
in the media.
“It’s fascinating to be here,” she said after their discussion. “I’m
so glad we have events like this, where we can meet and learn from
leaders in the field. It’s an incredible opportunity.”
Ralph Begleiter, founding director of UD's Center for Political Communication, moderates a panel discussion in digital politics.
Making the event so special for many attendees and panelists was Begleiter.
His name was mentioned repeatedly — by alums who spoke fondly and
passionately of his class, by guests grateful for his work in securing
the venue and organizing the speakers and by Montanaro, who guides
political coverage across all platforms for NPR.
“Ralph is one of the first reasons I chose this path,” he said of his
former professor, retelling the story of covering the Gore/Bradley
debate as a class project in collaboration with CNN. At the time, the
budding journalist was a student and writer for the sports desk of the Review.
“Ralph said to me, ‘You know, this is a lot better than the sports stuff you do,’” he joked. “And the rest is history.”
Begleiter joined the University in 1999, bringing more than 30 years
of broadcast journalism experience to his award-winning instruction in
communication, journalism and political science. He has served as
founding director of the CPC since 2010 and will retire from the
University at the end of 2015.
Domenico Montanaro, a UD alumnus and NPR supervising political editor,
sits in as Conversations and Connections guests visit a studio.
The Office of Development and Alumni Relations (DAR) engages donors,
alumni, friends, parents, faculty, staff and students in a lifelong
relationship and fosters a tradition of philanthropy to strengthen the
University of Delaware’s legacy as one of the great public institutions
of higher education in America.
For more information about DAR, visit the website or call 302-831-2341.
Photos by Evan Krape