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The American Forum is an hour-long interactive multi-media audio program with a live town-hall audience, which seeks to connect and engage young people with national and international media issues. It is produced by American University’s School of Communication in association with WAMU-FM in Washington, DC. It debuted in 1986 and has been broadcast live on WAMU in Washington, one of America’s most listened-to public radio stations, since 2001.

It has also been broadcast regularly on CSPAN-TV and has received widespread print and broadcast coverage, from the Washington Post to Kuwait TV. With its nationally known host, Jane Hall, leading the discussion among students, panelists and the audience at home, the American Forum provides lively, engaging debate and discussion, drawing on the intellectual capital and resources of American University, WAMU and Washington, D.C.

Recently, the discussion has broadened from important media and political topics to encompass movies, music, the Internet and social networking, to reflect the issues and concerns of young people while asking the most important questions for all citizens about media and society. The nation’s capital is the perfect venue for the program.

The American Forum frequently has been one of the first programs to raise important questions of special interest to young people around media and society, from an early examination of legal, creative and societal issues in file-sharing to young people and the news. Young people and the First Amendment, the depiction of Islam in the media, the role of netroots in politics, marketing “cool” to young people, government secrecy and freedom of the press in a post-9-11 era, and young people’s civic engagement all are topics that were explored early and with interest among young people on recent American Forums. 

Our topics are informed by young people’s interests; and, with expansion, we can engage students and other young people on a national, interactive level. Jane Hall, a popular professor on campus as well as a long-time journalist and media analyst on TV, is known for her listening and lively engagement with students. Panelists and students engage around contemporary issues of special interest to young people, and there are a range of viewpoints, from the political director of MoveOn.org to the political director of Bush-Cheney ’04, from prominent journalists to strong critics of the media and innovators in citizen journalism and online media. A representative sample of some recent programs is attached at the end of this document.