This is an academic year of firsts for the College of Arts & Sciences on Johnson & Wales University's Providence Campus: September marked the launch of JWU's Political Science program, this coming May, the first class of Media & Communications Studies students will graduate, and on October 27 JWU hosted its first Media & Politics Café, featuring Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, Central Falls Mayor James Diossa, and WPRI reporter Dan McGowan.
According to Media & Communications Studies program co-director Christopher Westgate, the Media & Politics Café is designed to “engage students, faculty, staff and the community in an exploration of the relationships, contingencies, and conflicts concerning media and politics.”
The 3 panel members addressed an array of questions, ranging from their backgrounds and political careers, to their views on the media's role in politics and their use of social media.
“Reporters keep us on our toes,” Diossa said. “Their work is extremely important and instrumental to the political process.”
“Our goal as reporters isn't to be adversarial,” McGowan said. “But everything's not always coming up roses. I expect answers [from the politicians he's interviewing].”
L-R: DAN MCGOWAN (WPRI), CRANSTON MAYOR ALLAN FUNG & CENTRAL FALLS MAYOR JAMES DIOSSA.
While all 3 panelists spent time outside of Rhode Island at one point or another (McGowan was the only non-Rhode Island native on the panel), they all described a similar draw that kept them in the state.
“We don't tend to go too far,” Fung said. “I had an affinity for this state, and specifically for the city of Cranston, which had been so good to my parents [who were small business owners in the city].”
Diossa, who has been described as the “Millennial Mayor” (Diossa was 27 when he was first elected mayor in 2013), recalls how many of his high school classmates were trying to leave Central Falls while he was trying to find a way to give back to his community. While he was originally interested in law enforcement, Diossa realized Central Falls was in need of a fresh political perspective. “It was the right time for someone young,” he said.
For McGowan, the size of the state and accessibility of its political figures is refreshing. “You can see your Congressman in the grocery store. That's one of the coolest things about this state,” he said.
This series, which aims to feature a number of local panelists, is slated to occur once per term.
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