Oswego State Media Summit focuses on diversity

Oswego Media Summit panelists on stage in Sheldon Ballroom, from left to right, Christopher Collins-McNeil, Kendis Gibson, Jennifer Sanders, David Longley, and Michelle Garcia. Photo by: Kimberly Chung.

OSWEGO, New York- -Wednesday, October 21st, SUNY Oswego held it’s 11th annual Media Summit. The Summit has provided Broadcasting and Mass Communication majors the opportunity to network with many alumni working in the field and hear about their experiences, triumphs and failures along their journey.  The main event of the day was a panel discussion held in Sheldon Ballroom, focusing on diversity in the media.  For the first time in the Summit’s history, the panel discussion was mediated by a student, Christopher Collins-McNeil who is the Student Association President.  Directly after the discussion, began the career connectors event where alumni were available to students to give advice, answer questions, and share their knowledge.

The panel discussion featured well-established, and respected members of the media industry, three of whom were alumni of Oswego State.  Kendis Gibson ’94, Dave Longley ’94, Michelle Garcia ’06 and Jennifer Sanders weighed in on the current issue of diversity in the media.  Students were engaged and attentive, and were also treated to some laughs as the panelists proved to have a great sense of humor while still maintaining the seriousness of the issue.

First, the problem of minorities being misrepresented in the media was discussed and dissected. Jennifer Sanders said that it is important that minorities aren’t misrepresented by news stations, and she also shared a heart-felt story of being denied an anchor/reporter position at a job in Texas early in her career.  She spoke inspirationally to those who have faced prejudice.

“You keep on going,” Sanders said.

Michelle Garcia also shared that while attending film school, she was denied the opportunity to create a film with diverse cast.  The message from the panelists to students however was clear; don’t give up and keep going.  The panelists were in agreement that diversity is important because it gives you a well-rounded perspective.

“I have been exposed to so many different communities,” Sanders said.

Dave Longley agreed with this and added on that sometimes being exposed to situations you may be unfamiliar with.

“Being uncomfortable is good because you learn to adapt,” Longley said.

Also discussed, was how people are described in news stories, particularly when it comes to crimes.  Kendis Gibson had some strong opinions on this issue.

“It bothers me when we say ‘the victim was black’ when it’s not a race story. You never hear ‘the victim was white’,” said Gibson.

Throughout the discussion the panelist handed out plenty of advice.

“While it is important to have goals don’t close doors, you never know what will come up,” Longley said.

Jennifer Sanders also gave input on how to broaden your perspectives by telling students to leave home and get out of their comfort zone.

Dave Longley added that is important to ask older people about their experiences and perspective because they have been in our shoes and made mistakes.

After the panel discussion was the career connectors event. Amongst the panelists were six alumni, Adam Campbell-Schmitt ’06, Mary Godnick ’14, Anthony Hill ’14, Chris Horvatits ’13, Stephanie Meyering ’08 and Mike Toper ’10. The alumni discussed how they got to the positions they are in today, and gave advice to students on how they too can be successful in breaking the industry. They all encouraged students to get involved with on-campus activities, such as WTOP, WNYO and The Oswegonian. Setting yourself apart from other journalists, and networking with industry professionals was stressed by the panelists.

“Always try to reach out. Always ask questions, and know when to ask the right questions,” Adam Campell-Schmitt said.

Chris Horvatits had similar advice and urged students to stay in contact with people, and thanked his former professor Michael Riecke for helping him get his job.

“Use your connections to get into the door. Use your skills to get the job,” Stephanie Meyering said.

Anthony Hill emphasized the importance of looking for jobs before you graduate, and getting a head start on the competition.

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Throughout the entire Media Summit, the messages and advice from the panelists was consistent and clear.  Students were given many opportunities to network and talk to people who are currently in a position that they someday strive to be in themselves.  There were plenty of laughs to go along with the serious issues discussed, which undoubtably kept students engaged and interested.