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Renowned author, media critic to visit UW-River Falls

November 8, 2007

UW-River Falls students and faculty will have the chance to debate, analyze and dissect how the media deals with coverage of war during a Nov. 14 visit from syndicated columnist, author and media critic Norman Solomon.

Solomon is a nationally syndicated columnist who has been writing his column “Media Beat” since 1992 and is most well known for his criticism of the media’s coverage of war. His columns have appeared in various newspapers, including the Washington Post, The New York Times and USA Today as well as the International Herald Tribune and Canada’s Globe and Mail.

Solomon is also the author of numerous books, including “Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn’t Tell You,” published in 2003 and “Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State,” published in 2007.

Although much of his media criticism reflects the coverage of war in mainstream media, it will only be one of the elements Solomon hopes to discuss with students.

“It’s beneficial to look at lots of specific news coverage and talk about it together,” Solomon said. “War coverage is just one of those elements that people are – understandably – so concerned about.”

Journalism professor Pat Berg met Solomon at an academic conference several years ago and was lucky enough to speak with him over dinner. As someone familiar with Solomon’s work, she knew he would make an interesting campus speaker. With the help of funding from several departments in addition to journalism, Solomon was scheduled to come and speak on campus.

The way that the media covers war in general is a question that needs to be examined; for this reason, Berg is requiring all of her students to attend at least one of Solomon’s presentations.

“The role that the media played is a question we must answer,” Berg said. “If we don’t, people will never have trust in information [media] again.”

Solomon’s analytical look at media coverage that includes but isn’t limited to war was what impressed Berg most.

“The question of how we got into this situation in Iraq is as big as any,” Berg said. “We need to look at how leaders use this rhetoric of peace and democracy to get us to where we are today.” 

Students and faculty will have a chance to participate in a discussion centered around Solomon’s book and documentary during Coffee with the Times at 9 a.m. Nov. 14. Solomon encourages any and all students to attend since the students are the ones who will most benefit from learning to understand news media.

“I’m always impressed by the approach [of young people],” Solomon said. “They need to learn to critique…understand…it’s the young people that will be responsible for sustaining the long-term media projects that will progress our society.”

Even some of those who don’t agree with his political viewpoints plan to attend one of Solomon’s lectures, including political science major Steph Sianko.

“I appreciate the passion Norman Solomon has for the issues he has chosen to address, such as the Iraq War,” Sianko said in an e-mail interview. “Even though I don’t agree with his activist liberal views, I am very interested to hear what he has to say on Tuesday.”

Solomon has appeared as a guest on many national media outlets, including PBS, CNN and C-SPAN, as well as made numerous appearances on international outlets, such as BBC Radio World Service and Al-Jazeera Television. He has also traveled around and appeared at numerous college campuses, including a recent visit to UW-Oshkosh. However, this will be his first time in River Falls.

“I look forward to hearing what a variety of people have to say, especially students,” Solomon said. “By taking steps to understand media coverage, [students] are opening themselves up to possibilities for change.”