Payne highlights ‘History in the Making’

By on October 29, 2008

In a night that included The New Yorker, “Saturday Night Live,”and a packed house in Alumni Hall, some of Connecticut’s premier journalists were brought together on Oct. 22 to discuss race, gender and age in the upcoming presidential election. The panel discussion was sponsored by Quinnipiac University’s School of Communications in conjunction with Quinnipiac’s Black Student Union and the student chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists.

Moderator Stan Simpson, a Hartford Courant columnist, radio talk show host, and Professional in Residence at Quinnipiac, began the panel discussion by asking about race, what he referred to as the “elephant in the room.” Payne spoke first, addressing Democratic candidate Barack Obama’s challenge in the election.

“He’s an African-American candidate. If every African-American voted for him, he wouldn’t get elected. He knows that,” Payne said. “He’s had to hold on to African-American support and attract white support. He is playing to the American reality.”
After discussion from Eric Burns, an Emmy award-winning media analyst, and Daryl McMiller, a political science professor at the University of Hartford, Simpson brought up the July 21 issue of The New Yorker, with a cover entitled “The Politics of Fear,” where Obama is depicted as a Muslim and his wife, Michelle, as a Black Panther. In the background, there is a framed picture of Osama Bin Laden and an American flag burning in the fireplace. The panel was unanimously critical of the cover, a satire poking fun at the proverbial “redneck’s” underlying Obama fear.

“I call that racism,” Burns said. “If you’re going to satirize the Archie Bunker stereotype, they can’t be offstage. You need to bring that party onstage somehow.”
Following more on race in the election, Simpson changed gears to dicuss gender, and the hot topic was John McCain’s running mate, Senator Sarah Palin.

“They haven’t really had to work hard to make Sarah Palin funny,” media studies professor and author of “First Ladies and the Fourth Estate” Lisa Burns said. “I think that’s troubling.”

After showing a few clips of “Saturday Night Live” where actor Tina Fey portrayed Palin, the panel agreed that a negative shadow had been cast on the Republican campaign over the past months. Eric Burns referred to some of Palin’s recent actions, including her guest appearance on “Saturday Night Live, “as “appalling.”

From there, Simpson directed the group to the final topic of the night: age.
“Age has seriously hurt McCain,” Payne said. He said McCain looked like “a retiree wandering around a parking lot looking for his Buick” during the second “town hall” presidential debate.

With little time remaining, students were allowed to pose questions to the panel.
“I was just wondering if any McCain supporters were invited tonight, because a lot of time has been spent talking about Obama?” asked the first questioner, making the observation that little time was spent discussing McCain. Simpson responded by saying he had hand-picked the panel based on their journalistic credentials, and would take the blame for any imbalance in the discussions.

Following the discussion, Payne was very pleased with the experience.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is that students are not only our future–they’re also our present,” he said. “I learn just as much from these experiences as I hope the students do. We all have a lot to learn, and it’s experiences like this that help do that.”


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