Monthly Archives: April 2021

Radio: For Oscar Sunday, Some Music from the Movies

Talk and music about songs used in major motion pictures from Jandoli Institute Executive Director Richard Lee’s April 24 radio show on WSBU-FM (88.3).  Lee’s show streams live on Fridays at noon at on the WSBU livestream site.

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An enduring lesson from Walter Mondale

By Richard Lee

Walter Mondale, who passed away Monday at the age of 93, will be remembered as a U.S. senator, a vice president and a presidential candidate. I’ll remember him for another reason.

Mondale is the subject of a story that’s been a part of several of the classes I’ve taught over the years.

Chris Matthews’ 1999 book Hardball: How Politics Is Played Told By One Who Knows The Game describes the strategy Mondale’s 1984 presidential campaign employed to successfully spin the results of the Super Tuesday primary. With the help of a clever campaign manager, Mondale emerged as the winner in news reports, even though he lost seven of the nine Super Tuesday contests.

Here is what happened, as described by Mathews in his book:

Mondale, who entered the 1984 primary as the Democratic frontrunner, was rapidly losing ground to U.S. Sen. Gary Hart of Colorado. A poor showing on Super Tuesday would be devastating.

So Mondale’s campaign manager, Robert Beckel, made the race about one state – Georgia. Beckel spent hours on the phone with reporters delivering a singular message: If Mondale loses Georgia, the race is over. If he wins, the nomination is his.

Then he went to work on the optics. Beckel turned to the phone again and told Mondale supporters to come to the Capitol Hilton on primary night. He used a partition to cut down the size of the room and make the crowd look larger than it actually was. When news of Mondale’s victory in Georgia broke, network television cameras captured images of an overflow crowd celebrating the victory.

The following morning, a triumphant Mondale appeared on the Today show and accepted congratulations from host Bryant Gumbel.

“Mondale lost seven lost seven contests out of nine. But that was just the arithmetic,” Matthews observed in his book.

This episode from the 1984 Democratic primary helps when I teach strategy and messaging in public relations courses. It helps journalism students learn how to recognize when someone is trying to spin a story. And in seminar courses, it provides an illustration of the relationship between media and democracy.

Not a bad way to remember a man who spent his life in public service. RIP, Mr. Vice President.

Richard Lee, executive director of the Jandoli Institute, covered politics and government as a reporter and later served as Deputy Director of Communication for two New Jersey governors.

Jandoli Institute executive director appears on C-SPAN

Washington Journal: Richard Lee on Report on Questions Asked at White House Briefings

Jandoli Institute Executive Director Richard Lee was a guest on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal program on Sunday, April 11.

Lee discussed a project he is doing with students in a Media and Democracy course he teaches at St. Bonaventure University.

The students logged and coded every question asked by reporters at White House press briefings during March.

The goal of the project is to determine how reporters’ interests compare and contrast with those of the American people.

Click here to view Lee’s appearance on Washington Journal.

CNN did a story on the project on April 7.

Coverage of the Derek Chauvin trial misses the big picture

By Richard Lee

Coverage of the Derek Chauvin trial has been detailed and emotional. The journalists covering the trial are bringing us into the courtroom – and the trial itself is livestreamed for the whole world to see.

But reading and watching the coverage brings to mind the way political campaigns are covered. Journalists covering campaigns tend to focus on horse race issues, such as polls, fundraising and endorsements — not the substantive public policy issues that affect our lives, such as health care, the economy and education.

With the Chauvin trial, the coverage is focusing on the gripping testimony, the witnesses who broke down on the stand, the videos that captured the incident. All of these items are an important part of the story, but the bigger more important story is about systemic racism. And that’s a story that is much more complex and much more difficult to tell.

Richard Lee is executive director of the Jandoli Institute and an associate professor in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University.

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Radio: The Opening Day that Wasn’t

Talk and music for baseball fans who expected to watch the New York Mets and the Washington Nationals opening day match-up — from Jandoli Institute Executive Director Richard Lee’s April 2 radio show on WSBU-FM (88.3). Lee’s show streams live on Fridays at noon at on the WSBU livestream site.

More Richard Lee radio shows