The Changing Role of the Media in American Life and Culture: Emerging Trends

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Sep 19, 2019
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The Changing Role of the Media in American Life and Culture: Emerging Trends

At the 17th SSASA symposium participants will explore how the news media has developed an increased political role Photo by Kayla Velasquez on Unsplash

Scholars, journalists, and professional leaders from around the world are convening in Salzburg today for the 17th symposium of the Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association (SSASA).

This year's symposium, The Changing Role of the Media in American Life and Culture: Emerging Trends, will include thematic presentations, panel-led discussions, plus small in-depth discussion groups.

The four-day event is taking place at Schloss Leopoldskron, the historic home of Salzburg Global Seminar, and features an array of high-profile speakers.

Speakers include Elisabeth Bumiller, Washington Bureau chief, the New York Times; Edith Chapin, executive editor, NPR News; and Paul Mihailidis, associate professor of media studies at Emerson College's School of Communication.

Ron Clifton, a retired associate vice president of Stetson University and retired counselor in the Senior Foreign Service of the United States, returns as chair for this year's symposium.

Last year, Salzburg Global Seminar created The Ron Clifton Lecture in American Studies to celebrate Clifton's contribution toward American studies.

Christopher Bigsby, a professor of American studies and director of the Arthur Miller Institute for American Studies at the University of East Anglia, delivered the inaugural lecture titled "Trying to Understand America."

On Sunday, Reinhard Heinisch, head of the Department of Political Science at the University of Salzburg, will deliver the second Ron Clifton Lecture in American Studies. His talk is titled, "Questions of Lost Trust, Alternative Facts, Verification and Validity in America." His talk will be followed by a discussion and Q&A, moderated by Edith Chapin.

During this year's symposium, participants will explore the role of the media in the United States and around the world. They'll focus on the significance of truth and verification, and they'll examine the future implications, looking at the role of the media in culture and democracy in the years to come.

Key questions include:

  • How has the American media landscape and the world's news consumption habits changed in America and abroad in past decades? What have been the main drivers of these changes?
  • What appears to be the motive and purpose of those who are producing and publishing the news?
  • Why do many Americans appear to have lost trust in the news media an how can the industry regain trust and remain objective in an age of "alternative facts"?
  • How is the American media landscape influencing other countries' media markets and the image of America abroad and how, in turn, is America being influenced by its image in the world?
  • How can the American media fulfill its communication and emerging political role as an institution of American democracy and how are the executive, legislature, and judiciary likely to react to this new political involvement?
  • What does the future look like for the US media, its consumers, and its role in American culture and democracy?

Marty Gecek, chair of the Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association, said, "I am looking forward to stimulating conversations with 53 individuals from 29 countries, to discuss the influence and impact of American media, both at home and abroad."


The Changing Role of the Media in American Life and Culture: Emerging Trends features as part of the Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association (SSASA) multi-year series. You can capture highlights on social media using the hashtag #SSASA.