Racial diversity and controversial stories in the media were topics discussed at the opening forum of LSU’s Presidential Symposium.
Panelists varied from news to print to online journalists who discussed the role of journalism and the effects it has on our surrounding community.
Sylvia Weatherspoon, WBRZ anchorwoman, spoke of the difficulties of being a “fair, balanced impartial reporter” through all of the devastation, which has occurred, this last summer in Baton Rouge. She said, however, it is the news’ responsibility to be transparent while reporting, for news consumers have initial objective emotions.
NBC 33 anchorman, Chad Sabadie, said the best way to deliver devastational breaking news was to “try not to sensationalize the story.” The concept of having to present controversial topics, such as race-related crimes, was to portray the story in the most accurate representation. A journalist’s role is to be a “mouth piece for the community,” according to Sabadie.
Bryn Stole, writer for The Advocate, spoke of the “real responsibility to cover crime in a responsible way.”
“When there is a violent crime in Baton Rouge, people want to know about it,” said Stole.
He spoke of the angle of journalism when writing about the recent tragedies in our city. Stole said during the course of July, the idea was to report as quickly and accurately as possible. However he also said, in reference to violent crimes, it is a journalistic responsibility to try to humanize the victims.
Fernanda Zamudio-Suarez, online journalist for the Chronicle of Higher Education, moved over to discuss how the events of summer 2016 affected the change of campus climate on behalf of racial diversity. She spoke of the lack of discussion that acknowledges situations conveying a loss of diversity.
LSU is “not that diverse of a campus,” Zamudio-Suarez said.
She said the way to change this is by making students feel more comfortable on campus through the acknowledgment of past injustices–slavery–and through the hiring of a more racially diverse faculty.
Jim Engster, radio host of the “Jim Engster Show”, said “we do have two Baton Rouges.”
He spoke of campuses nationwide and their “modern-day version of a plantation.” Engster mentioned how athletic coaches are “largely white” with “84 percent of LSU’s football team being black.”
He said “black gladiators are to play for the white elite”, for the players are not paid but are expected to perform. These concepts are reaching beyond the gates of LSU. All of these are serious issues that need to be discussed as Baton Rouge is a “largely segregated city” according to Engster.
The panelists concluded the forum having mentioned how communities and campuses need to not be afraid to discuss controversial topics that are predominant in our society.
The audience of the opening forum consisted of a wide variety of races and ages, including students and outside guests. Most audience members said they would attend more than one, if not all, of the forums offered at LSU’s symposium.