Lecture of Professor Robert Weisbrot (Colby College, USA)


On March 29 Professor Robert Weisbrot (Colby College, USA) delivered a lecture at the Faculty of Journalism, Lomonosov Moscow State University. The topic was “The Influence of the Media on Politics, through a Historical Lens”.

The lecture was part of the exchange program between Faculty of Journalism, MSU and Colby College. Earlier in March Associate Professor at the Faculty of Journalism, Dr. Mikhail Makeenko lectured on the topic "Censorship and the Media in Putin’s Russia" at Colby.

Interview with Professor Robert Weisbrot

- Professor Weisbrot, what was your lecture about?
- I lectured on the topic, “The Influence of the Media on Politics, through a Historical Lens.” We often think of the media as holding a mirror to society. But this is no ordinary mirror, because it can alter as well as reflect society. I looked at three cases in which the media, simply by covering events, helped to change them. By reporting acts of violence by white sheriffs and mobs against blacks who were protesting against racism in the South during the 1960s, the media aroused the American people to support laws that ended the nation’s racial caste system. Also, by broadcasting, in full color, the destruction in Vietnam, the television media exposed a savage war that increasingly seemed without hope of victory, without strategy, and without purpose, and hastened the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam. Finally, by daring to report crimes involving the president and his aides, two newspaper reporters led to government investigations of the “Watergate scandal” that forced Richard Nixon to resign in 1974.
I asked students to consider whether such influence by journalists is a good thing. Do they want simply to investigate and report the news or do they want also to change society?

- Do you think role of mass media has changed during the last 40-50 years?
- The technologies of mass media have, of course, changed greatly. The internet has enabled individuals, not just news corporations, to reach millions of people instantaneously. The economics of mass media have also changed. But the goals of the mass media - to inform, to entertain, and in other ways to serve the public - remain the same.

- How did you like staying in Moscow?
- Moscow is a wonderful city! I grew up in New York and have always loved fast-paced cities with much to see and do, filled with great architecture and art, and enlivened by varied, educated, and energetic people. So I felt at home in Moscow almost from the moment I got off the plane.

- What are your impressions about meeting students and lecturing at the faculty?

- The students at the School of Journalism are a special group - intelligent, talented, cultured. They seem to me open to new experiences, new ideas, and - happily for me - new visitors! I hope they enjoyed our class. I certainly felt privileged to talk with them and to learn from them.

Interview by Anna Gladkova

Photo by Anna Goncharova, Julia Bystrova