Bell to focus on media politics | SteamboatToday.com
Melinda Mawdsley

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Bell to focus on media politics

Former White House correspondent to speak Thursday

What: Seminars at Steamboat features Steve Bell and his presentation on “Media and Politics.”When: 5 p.m. ThursdayWhere: Centennial Hall on the corner of 10th and Oak StreetsCost: Free

— As a former war correspondent in Vietnam and Cambodia and a former White House correspondent during the Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford administrations, Steve Bell has been as involved in American politics as a journalist can be.

Bell believes dramatic changes have taken place in how the electronic media covers national politics and communicates with their audiences.

Bell will give a presentation at 5 p.m. on Thursday at Centennial Hall in the second of this summer’s Seminars at Steamboat series.

“The biggest difference is the media’s role as gatekeeper,” Bell said. “The traditional role, for better or worse, determined what the public knew on a day-to-day basis. Now, with syndication, blogs, talk radio and other Web entities, there is no longer any gate. Someone can put almost any rumor, idea or story into play. The mainstream media is drawn into coverage that wouldn’t have been stories years ago.”

Bell will use video examples during his seminar of how candidates use the new media to bypass the traditional political process and news gatekeepers. His presentation will focus on electronic media.

“The electronic media has become the dominant form of political communication, and it has changed forever both the role of the media in politics and the political process itself.”

Bell points to the 1992 presidential campaign when Bill Clinton and Ross Perot used syndicated talk shows as an outlet.

“The media has become a lightning rod for a polarized body politic,” Bell said.

Bell’s career has a broadcast journalist spans more than three decades, including the 20 years he spent at the ABC network, where he was a news anchor and correspondent for Good Morning America.

Bell has never been to Steamboat Springs, but he has been to Colorado.

“I was a White House correspondent when Ford became president, so we spent every Christmas in Vail. We had to cover the president,” Bell said. “Back in those days it was film, so we had to have a helicopter pick us up and fly us over the pass to Denver to process the film and feed it to New York from our local stations in Denver. Then they’d fly us back.”

Today, Bell is a professor of telecommunications at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. He also is faculty director for Seminars on Politics and the Media for the Washington Center for Internships and Academics.

He has won several Emmy awards, a Headliner’s Award and an Overseas Press Club award for his broadcast journalism work.

Bell’s seminar will conclude with a question-and-answer session, which he is looking forward to.

“I will certainly welcome questions and comments when we have our discussion,” he said.

The Seminars at Steamboat sessions are free to the public.

To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com.