Wiener, Harris join Newhouse classroom panel to discuss representations of disability and ability in media

January 18, 2019

BBI Research Professor and Associate Director of Interdisciplinary Programs and Outreach, Diane Wiener; BBI Research Associate, Jason Harris; Disability Cultural Center Coordinator, Kate Pollack; and graduate student, Rikki Sargent are members of an upcoming Newhouse classroom panel, to discuss representations of disability and ability in the media

On January 24, 2019, two members of the Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) team, Jason Harris and Diane Wiener, with DCC Coordinator, Kate Pollack, and graduate student, Rikki Sargent, will attend Dr. Charisse L’Pree’s Newhouse class to help facilitate a conversation about the representations of disability in the media and the impact on public discourse. The diversity requirement of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications “strives to educate and prepare future communicators on the continuously adapting issues, as well as goals, of current media platforms in relation to diversity,” Newhouse materials highlight.

Mr. Harris’s, Dr. Wiener’s, and Ms. Pollack’s biographical sketches are linked, above.  Ms. Sargent is currently a graduate student in the Social Psychology Doctoral Program. She received her BA in Psychology from Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, where she also completed a minor in Disability Studies, and her MS in Psychology from Syracuse University. Her research focuses on interpersonal and intergroup processes, with a specialization in stigma, prejudice and discrimination.  Ms. Sargent is currently exploring two disability-related research interests: (1) the use of mental health services from a social cognitive framework; and (2) the relationship between gun violence and attitudes toward individuals with mental illness.

Dr. L’Pree’s course, entitled “Race, Gender, and Media,” explores the influential presence of diversity in the ever-changing media landscape. Dr. L’Pree aims to address issues of race, gender, class, sexuality, religion, and ability in relation to the acceptance and recognition of differences within the world of communications. Dr. L’Pree’s background in social psychology and critical media studies enables her to ignite an awareness about how media portrayals affect viewer identity, as well as how diverse individuals use media to connect with others.

Dr. L’Pree’s course syllabus summarizes the course, as follows: “Diversity is of special interest to Newhouse students; regardless of your area of interest, you will work with, communicate with, and serve people from a variety of backgrounds. Effective public communication depends on knowing and understanding your audience, which means knowing and understanding histories and cultures that you may be unfamiliar with. This course is designed to expose you to a wide variety of issues concerning the media and “categories of difference.” We will discuss the social psychology of difference, the media’s portrayal of specific groups and the impact of media, as well as the relationships between media images, social power and economics, and what all of this means for media production and reception.  You should leave the course with a better appreciation for how people with different backgrounds, life experiences, and cultural competencies often have different and valid perspectives. Using this awareness of the validity of differing perspectives, you should be more mindful media consumers and more ethical and inclusive media producers.”

As part of the panel, the BBI team plans to deliver an overview of their research, knowledge, and experiences in an effort to demonstrate the significance of the term disability in the media. Harris, Wiener, Pollack, and Sargent will join Dr. L’Pree in engaging students’ questions and observations, so the class can gain an understanding not only of the prodigious work in the disability community, but also the celebrated accomplishments and strong presence of the disability community, as a whole, across media platforms.  Portions of the panel discussion will be shared on Harris’s Facebook Page, Jason’s Connection, which currently has over a quarter of a million followers.

About the Burton Blatt Institute

BBI reaches around the globe in its efforts to advance the civic, economic, and social participation of people with disabilities, with offices in Syracuse, NY, New York City, Washington, D.C., Lexington, KY, and Atlanta, GA. BBI builds on the legacy of Burton Blatt, a pioneering disability rights scholar, to better the lives of people with disabilities. For more information about BBI, visit: