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Accepted students learn about communication

Saturday, March 11th, I had the rare opportunity to sit in on an introductory course with students who’ve been accepted to Purchase College. Matt Sampson, who has worked for both CNN and local New Channel 12, brought his news expertise to enhance the curriculum beyond the textbook, making him an outstanding instructor.

The class started off with an inventory exercise where students were given a 7-day grid and asked to consider which forms of media they use in the mornings and afternoons. Even before carefully tracking this, Matt asked students to share their habits from the last 24 hours.  Some had called on the phone, a couple had watched TV, most had looked or used their phone right when they woke up – many admitting they used it in the bathroom!

Then, Matt reviewed the VLog assignment that students would cover later in the day, requiring them to take a position on topics ranging from smoking on campus to compulsory military service. He reiterated the three questions to answer by the assignment: What? So What? and Now What? In addition, students were instructed to review recorded protest songs – some familiar and others unfamiliar, including John Prine’s lyric, “your flag decal won’t get you into heaven anymore.”

The next section included a midterm review. The class reiterated the various periods they had previously covered about news in the U.S., from the early age through Yellow Journalism through today. Matt included the accepted students, asking them what they might call today’s news age. Responses ranged from digital or technological, to algorithm and alt-fact news.  Matt reviewed the periods with an emphasis on the differences between periods that focused on simply recounting facts (like when full political speech transcripts were published) to those that interpreted events and provided opinions, which in some eras were separated and called “commentary” or “opinion” pieces.  Hearing how the pendulum has swung from combined facts/opinions to stricter separations put into context the current swing in the meshing of opinion as news.

Overall, the class was a great glimpse into the way our exceptional instructors blend current issues with historic information to help students understand more about communication.

-Trudy Milburn