The election of an African-American president in November 2008 has been hailed as a transforming event. But has Obama’s ascension transformed anything? Many people’s answer to that question changed this summer when a famous Harvard professor was arrested at his home in Cambridge. Are the harsh realities of race and class in the U.S. clearer now or murkier, following the media tsunami of Gatesgate? And has this polarizing event given greater visibility to racial minorities in the media’s coverage of politics? How are race issues and racial politics covered in our national media, and what are the implications of the demise of major city newspapers for the coverage of race and politics?
Juan Williams of NPR and Fox News discussed these and related questions in a candid conversation with Phillip Thompson, associate professor of urban politics in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT, and David Thorburn, Professor of Literature and Director of the MIT Communications Forum. This forum is the first of two this term in our ongoing civic media series, a collaboration of the Communications Forum and the Media Lab’s Center for Future Civic Media.