RIC’s American Democracy Project presents political forums on Oct. 13 and Nov. 15; again partners with NBC 10 for election season

The American Democracy Project (ADP) at Rhode Island College, a campus initiative that promotes political engagement throughout the state, will again join forces with NBC 10, the state’s leading news station, to present a series of high-profile panel discussions, candidate debates and forums this fall, heading into the 2012 campaign season.

Gene Valicenti
RIC and NBC 10 will also team up for election coverage and political analysis during the elections.

To kick things off, on Thursday, Oct. 13, NBC 10’s Gene Valicenti will host “Politics as Entertainment – Where Should the Media Draw the Line?” from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Alger Hall, room 110.

Since the inception of 24-hour news stations, blogs, and instant headlines on SmartPhones, some say that political reporting has become synonymous with a beauty contest of half-baked idioms, and that politicians are better known for their scandals rather than their successes. From “The Daily Show” to YouTube to shock radio, politics and politicians are now “must-see TV,” sacrificing, at times, even a cursory discussion of the issues. Or, does it serve to drive a wedge between voters and office holders?

This panel of experts will talk about the not-so-old days when dedicated political reporting meant more than a sound bite as they assess the current state of political news, and what can be done to ensure that political coverage is more than just entertainment.

Panelists include:
Vincent “Buddy” Cianci
– WPRO talk radio host
Mark Patinkin – The Providence Journal columnist
Scott MacKay – WRNI political analyst
Bill Hess – Citadel Program Director, WMAL, Washington, D.C.
Tim Staskiewicz – CBS Radio/Boston content director

Dan Jaehnig
Then on Nov. 15, it’s the spouse’s turn to tell all in “The Real Running Mate, the Role of the Political Spouse.” NBC 10 anchor Dan Jaehnig moderates.

Throughout the campaign season, political spouses are usually seen but not heard. But no role in public life is more difficult or ill defined than that of a political spouse. Was Jackie Kennedy supposed to be so unemotional in a time of mourning? Did Tipper Gore have the right to pass judgment on the music of American teens? Was it wrong of Jenny Sanford not to stand by her man?

Even close to home, many spouses and family members of our own state leaders have come under intense scrutiny. Seemingly, spouses must transform themselves to satisfy the constantly shifting demands of a public that still can't decide what is acceptable.

This panel, comprised of some of Rhode Island's most prominent political spouses, will tell their side of the campaign story.

"NBC 10 News is pleased to expand its political partnership with Rhode Island College into the 2011/2012 season to help Southern New Englanders better understand the issues that will shape our future," said Chris Lanni, WJAR news director.

Since its inception at the college in 2004, the ADP at RIC has gained a well-earned reputation as a statewide leader in political programming.

NBC 10 and The American Democracy Project at RIC teamed up in October 2010 to present a Rhode Island gubernatorial debate in the Nazarian Center's Sapinsley Hall.
Valerie Endress, RIC professor of political communications and ADP director, said that, unlike forums in which the candidate or the office holder takes center stage, RIC’s fall programming will feature the supporting roles inside the political theatre.

“Between entertainment and legitimate reporting, we rarely think about the pressures or constraints that define the roles of the media or a political spouse,” Endress said. “These forums will offer the opportunity to explore that rare, in-their-shoes view as we take a look from the inside.”

ADP forums scheduled for the spring include lively discussions about the presidential primaries, R.I.’s economic development as told by the state’s most prominent social entrepreneurs, and the revolution and reform inside higher education.

The forums will take place at 11 a.m. in Alger Hall, and are free and open to the public. For more information, contact Jane Fusco, RIC’s director of News and PR, at (401) 456-8468; jfusco@ric.edu.