September 13, 2005
Stephen Hess Brings Washington's Power Players to Class
For his course The Washington Reporters and Those Who Want to Influence Them, GW Distinguished Research Professor Stephen Hess just doesn't lecture about Washington's top news reporters and media influencers, he brings them into his class to talk about their profession.
This semester will be no exception as guests will include Judy Woodruff, former CNN anchor and NBC White House Correspondent; Mike McCurry, former press secretary to President Clinton; Melissa Skolfield, vice president for communications at the Brookings Institution; Sandra Johnson, Washington bureau chief, Associated Press; Fred Barnes, executive editor, the Weekly Standard and Fox TV commentator; Torie Clarke, former spokesperson for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld; Gloria Borger, CBS News national political correspondent; with her husband, Lance Morgan, president, Powell Tate Public Affairs; Heidi Wiedenbauer, Cox Television News Washington bureau chief; Barbara Cochran, president, Radio-Television News Directors Association; and John Walcott, Knight Ridder Washington bureau chief.The course examines how journalists move the story along and explores the shift in journalism over the past 30 years." Students use Hess' 1981 The Washington Reporters as a starting point of inquiry and trace changes in Washington journalism since." The meaning and consequences of these changes will be evaluated in this interactive course."
Students will develop their interviewing techniques as they go into the field to gain first-hand experience interviewing a mix of journalists who work in national and regional TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, Internet, and trade publications.
Hess, a renowned Washington scholar and senior fellow emeritus at the Brookings Institution, and his students collaborate in the research resulting in a databank of transcribed interviews with leading Washington journalists. During past semesters they have compiled 80 such interviews and are looking to triple the number this year.
"It is an unusual experience to go back to my 1978 research and see what's the same and what's changed since with all the changes in technology, values, and Washington in general," said Hess, "but since I have been in Washington so long, I am calling upon many of my long-time friends in the trade to come to class to aid us in the process."
The course has been hailed by students as providing a "broad mix of tools used to learn," and "the interaction with reporters was priceless."? Other students have noted the course as being "one of the most memorable and cherished experiences at GW." David Plotz, Washington bureau chief of Slate.com, a guest speaker in the spring 2005 course, reflected on the course as being "a blast" and complimented the students as being "the best group of kids I have ever talked to."
Students' interactions with reporters and people who try to influence them provide a valuable opportunity to gain first-hand interviewing experiences and networking opportunities.
Hess has been a senior fellow in the Governance Studies Program of the Brookings Institution since 1972. He has concurrently served as a fellow in the faculty of government at Harvard University and as a U.S. Representative to the United Nations General Assembly in 1976 and the UNESCO General Conference in 1974. He has been an official participant in U.S. cultural missions to 27 countries and has authored 18 books. He served on the White House staffs of President Eisenhower and Nixon, and has been an advisor to Presidents Ford and Carter. He also served as a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration since 1977 and was an adjudicator for the Pulitzer Prize 1989 and 1990.A prominent author, two of his recent works -- Media and the War on Terrorism, co-edited with Marvin Kalb, and The Little Book of Campaign Etiquette -- received the Arthur Rowse Award for Press Criticism. During the 2000 presidential election campaign, he wrote "The Hess Report" for USA TODAY, a weekly column on media coverage.