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Past Forum Highlights

Mid-Terms and Young Voters

SOC American Forum Young Voters Tout

The American Forum was held on Oct. 6 in AU's Katzen Arts Center, discussing young voters and the mid-term elections. Moderator Jane Hall hosted guest Karen Finney, MSNBC political analyst and former communications director for the Democratic National Committee and Kevin Madden, public relations executive, republican strategist and former press secretary to Gov. Mitt Romney's campaign and House minority leader John Boehner.

New Report Shows Lack of Interest in Midterms Among Young Voters

A report was prepared by American University graduate students in Professor Dotty Lynch’s Public Communication Research Methods class at American University in conjunction with the October 6 American Forum, “Is Your Vote Up for Grabs?” on young people and the 2010 Midterm elections. It is the third in a series of reports on young voters and the election done for American Forum. In 2008 the students worked with USA Today and Gallup and in 2009 with data provided by CBS News and NBC News?

The 2010 data was provided by CBS News and was analyzed by Alyssa Cocchi, Carmen Drummond, Franki Fitterer, Nicholas Gould, Shannon Rice and Megan Smith. The writing and compilation were done by Trina Stout, Megan Smith and Franki Fitterer.

Media Coverage

The Eagle
The Washington Post
The Christian Science Monitor

The Climate Change Generation

SOC American Forum Climate Change

Policy action on climate change remains politically gridlocked in the United States and throughout the world, while polls show that Americans remain divided about both the causes of climate change and the urgency of the problem. Are you concerned about climate change, and what can your generation do about it? Over 200 students at American University attended the American Forum Climate Change Generation panel. Another 500 watched live video. The program was also broadcast live on WAMU 88.5. The panel featured Juliet Eilperin, environmental reporter, The Washington Post, moderator Jane Hall, Associate Professor of Journalism, American University School of Communication, Matthew C. Nisbet, Assistant Professor of Public Communication, American University School of Communication, and Kate Sheppard, energy and environmental politics reporter, Mother Jones.

Teens, Sexuality, and the Media

American Forum: Sexuality, Teens and the Media

Whether it's Miley Cyrus dancing around a pole or the palpable tension between Bella and Edward in the Twilight series, today's teens are bombarded by media images of sexuality and gender. How does this exposure impact how teens see themselves in a culture obsessed with physical apperance and sexual relationships? Teens attending the National High School Journalism Convention in Washington, D.C. participated in The American Forum: Sexuality, Teens, and the Media, a discussion led by nationally-recognized sexuality educator Deborah Roffman, a high school journalist, and American University news media expert Jane Hall (moderator). The event was recorded and aired on WAMU 88.5, the leading public radio station for NPR news and information in the greater Washington D.C. area.

Change +1: Are Young Voters Talking Back to Obama?

Photo: The Oct. 13 American Forum featured people Twittering from the audience, and the stage.(Photo: Bill Petros)

A diverse panel of experts looks at how the Millennial generation views Obama personally and how this age-group views the important issues facing the country today, including the economy and health-care as these issues affect them, transparency in government and the effectiveness of social-networking to govern versus social-networking to get elected. Moderated by Jane Hall, Associate Professor in the School of Communication. Panelists include: David Gregory, journalist and moderator of NBC's Meet the Press; Jose Antonio Vargas, Technology and Innovations Editor of Huffington Post; David Corn, Washington bureau chief, Mother Jones magazine; Erin McPike, reporter, Congress Daily; David Winston, Republican strategist; president, The Winston Group

Are the Media Making Us Dumber?

They call it the dumbing of America -- a cultural shift in which forces driven by digital media are distracting us, alienating us and contributing to “junk thought.” More than 40 percent of young Americans report not reading a single book last year, and a popular television show has discovered that not all adults are "smarter than a 5th grader." Others say we’re entering a new age of enlightenment in which all are part of the conversation and important ideas are growing exponentially. The event included a lively discussion from panelists Susan Jacoby, author of The Age of American Unreason; Professor Kathryn Montgomery, author of Generation Digital: Politics, Commerce, and Childhood in the Age of the Internet; Andy Carvin, senior strategist for online communities at National Public Radio; and Joshua Hatch, multimedia producer, USA Today.

Washington Watchdogs: An Endangered Species?

The news industry is in distress and the recession has made a dire situation critical. Newspapers are declaring bankruptcy and even folding. Nowhere are newsrooms being slashed more than in Washington, where some venerable bureaus are being shuttered all together. Will there be a vacuum in coverage of Congress, the White House and federal agencies? Is our democracy at stake? Or, have the Washington watchdogs grown fat and lazy? Are there any silver linings for leaner and meaner journalism? This American Forum looked at what many say is a crisis in the survival of Washington news coverage.

Politics and Pundits: The Promises of the New Presidency and the Press

Washington is in for change come January, and expectations are high. What will the effect of the most covered presidential campaign in history be? Who will be the players for the next four years? What were the key media moments? Were the media stricken with Obamamania, as has been charged? Or, were they even-handed in their coverage of an unprecedented wild ride of a political season? A statesman of broadcast news, a top political consultant, a media analyst, and an up-and-coming politics writer will look at these questions in an American Forum live on WAMU 88.5 just a week after the election. Moderated by Mark McDonald, senior director of programming, WAMU 88.5. Panelists include: Bob Schieffer, host of CBS News' Face the Nation and chief Washington Correspondent, CBS News; Dotty Lynch, executive in residence at SOC and CBS News political consultant; Tom Rosenstiel, director, Project for Excellence in Journalism; Gebe Martinez, regular contributing columnist for Politico; Tony Romm, editor of politics@theEAGLE

Youthquake '08: How Millennials are Shaking Up the Media, Mavericks, and History-Makers this Election

Panelists: Cornell Belcher, Democratic strategist, Barack Obama Pollster, founder of Brilliant Corners Consulting; David Winston, Republican Strategist, president of the Winston Group, former senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation; Heather Smith, executive director, Rock the Vote, and leader of the most ambitious campaign ever to register young voters; James Kotecki, video blogger for, host of the award-winning online video series KoteckiTV, political analyst and commentator; Emily Freifeld, multimedia producer in politics at, AU SOC alumna, co-host of daily politics podcast and weekly POTUS’08 program on XM Radio. Produced by Karen Munson, WAMU 88.5 FM and Danna Walker, AU SOC.

The Media and Islam

In Western media today, the term “Islam” or “Muslim” often is linked inextricably with the word “terrorist.” Since the terrorist attacks in the U.S. on September 11, 2001 and the Iraq war, media coverage and commentary in the U.S. often has focused on Islamic political fundamentalism rather than on reporting on the Muslim faith or Muslims around the world. In this American Forum, we’ll examine media coverage of Islam, in the U.S. and abroad, and the impact of media coverage of Islam on politics and policy. Moderated by Jane Hall, Associate Professor, School of Communication, American University. Panelists include: Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University; Peter Bergen, Journalist and Terrorism Analyst; Li Cheney, Attorney and Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs; Abderrahim Foukara, Bureau Chief/Managing Editor for Al Jazeera.

Fact Checking: A Dying Tradition?

A recent study by the Center for Public Integrity identified 935 false statements made by leading members of the Bush administration in the two years following 9/11, about the national security threat posed by Iraq. In the 24/7 news cycle, and the internet age, has the time-honored journalist's tradition of fact-checking gone by the wayside in the rush to be first? How do the media safeguard itself from political spin or false claims? What steps do the media have in place to ensure the truth of what we read and hear? How are consumers to know who to believe? Moderatd by Mark McDonald, WAMU Program Director and Broadcast Journalist in Residence at SOC. Panelists include Media Analyst Roger Aronoff, Accuracy in Media; Michael Dobbs of The Washington Post's "The Fact Checker"; Chuck Lewis, Founding President, The Fund for Independence in Journalism and Distinguished Journalist in Residence at SOC and journalist; Michael Massing, author. 

From Grassroots to Netroots: The Impact of the Internet and Other Media Technologies in Campaign ’08

Panelists will discuss how Web sites like have affected mainstream media; political discourse and politics; candidates’ efforts to reach voters – especially young voters – through the Internet and other media; community building among nonaffiliated groups through the Web and other technologies; and Internet advocacy’s impact on voting and campaigns. Moderated by Jane Hall, Associate Professor, School of Communication American University. Panelists include:Jeanne Cummings, political reporter,; Adam Green, campaign director,; Cyrus Krohn, e-campaign division director, Republican National Committee; Dotty Lynch, political consultant, CBS News, journalism executive-in-residence, American University; Josh McConaha, internet director, Democratic national Committee.

The Freedom of Press in a Post 9-11 Era

Eric Lichtblau, reporter for New York Times, Ken Paulson, editor and vice president for News at USA TODAY, and national security expert Suzanne Spaulding, discussed Freedom of the Press in a Post 9-11 World. The discussion kicked off a weeklong series of events marking the 25th anniversary of USA Today.

How America Covers Itself: American News from a Foreign Perspective

Moderated by Mark McDonald, Program Director, WAMU 88.5 FM. Panelists include: Sunday Dare*, Chief, Hausa Service, Voice of America; Karen DeYoung. Associate Editor, The Washington Post; Matt Frei, Washington Correspondent, BBC; Josh Rushing, Military and Current Affairs Correspondent, Al Jazeera

A book signing with Sunday Dare, author of Guerrilla Journalism -- Dispatches from the Underground  followed the forum.