“You learn early on not to look back, but to look forward,” said New York Times columnist Frank Bruni at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts on Thursday night.
The Open Visions Forum at the Quick Center hosted Bruni along with his coworker Alessandra Stanley in a discussion titled “Reflections on Media & Culture in America Today.”
The discussion, moderated by Dr. Philip Eliasoph, Dr. David Gudelunas and Dr. Michael Serazio, revolved around the different influences on today’s media.
With the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, people now have a greater opportunity to follow others who share their opinions and ignore those who disagree.
Stanley, chief television critic for the New York Times, believes that while media can be divisive, television also has the power to bring people together.
“Audiences have grown to include college professors and Nobel Laureates all watching the same thing,” she said. “The great thing about Netflix is you’re not just watching American TV, you’re watching TV from all over the world.”
Bruni pointed out that while television and media have unified people of all professions by allowing them to appreciate the same shows and social platforms, it has limited the worldviews of many.
“When flying, you enter a new country with the same information cocoon as the country you left,” he said. Bruni elaborated saying that airplane flyers today don’t get to know the other passengers and instead focus on catching up on the latest episodes of “Game of Thrones.”
The portrayals of men and women on television are often cause for debate, according to Stanley. As a critic, she believes that it is her role to spark these conversations.
“On TV, women can be divorced and the man is always a widower. If a man is divorced, he’s a beast,” Stanley said.
As television and media have become a centerpiece in American culture, the ways in which society views the media have changed.
“People used to feel guilty about watching TV and now they feel guilty if they’re not watching enough,” Stanley said.
Bruni believes that the age of social media has greatly influenced how people connect personally and politically.
“We’re living in a very interesting age,” Bruni said. “America is becoming more partisan, living in eco-changes. Politics can carry over to TV and curate their universe.”
Society’s media obsession has also influenced Bruni’s work as a food critic. He noticed on many occasions that chefs would research his likes and dislikes on the web before he would review their restaurants.
Bruni and Stanley captivated an audience of nearly 600, consisting of an even mix of students and Fairfield residents.
”Overall, I found both journalists to be entertaining and informative,” said Taylor Willerup ‘17. “They told us that we need to branch out of our echo chambers in order to be well-rounded citizens and we should gather information from everywhere instead of just from areas that match our interests.”
“I thought Alessandra brought humor to it and kept things in simpler terms so everyone in the audience could understand,” added Devan DeLaus ‘17. “I also like how she would always come back to the same conclusion on the media’s effect on society.”
While considered to be experts in their fields, Bruni and Stanley are no strangers to criticism. Stanley especially, was faced with substantial criticism when she wrote a recent article on “Scandal,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “How To Get Away With Murder” producer Shonda Rhimes. In the article, Stanley advised Rhimes to name her autobiography “How to Get Away With Being an Angry Black Woman.”
Since the article was written, Stanley has been a victim of the media. Critics called for an apology and many have questioned Stanley’s character. Additionally, Internet users around the country called for her dismissal and New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan was forced to respond.
Stanley has defended her actions and has avoided discussing the controversy that has surrounded her since September.
Bruni and Stanley believe that the New York Times seeks to be an objective source of news that can be celebrated.
“The Times can be the beacon that synthesizes it and hires people that are objective and aren’t corrupt,” Stanley said.
“It has more value than ever before,” Bruni added.
While the age of social media has changed many things about how people consume television and social networking, the fundamentals of television have stayed the same. Stanley believes that while there is more smart TV out there, there is also a lot more “dumb” TV on air. Bruni adds that popular culture offers the Rosetta Stone to people in today’s society and culture.