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Panel makes case for whisteblowing

By Lauren del Valle (Staff Writer) The media’s aid to whistleblowers in the age of WikiLeaks and government corruption served as the topic of discussion Wednesday during a Center for Civic Engagement sponsored panel during the Day of Dialogue events.

The panel included Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Bob Keeler, Dean of the Lawrence Herbert School of Communication Dr. Evan Cornog and Professor Kelly Fincham, also from the School of Communication.

Phil Rappaport, the WRHU 88.7FM Co-Host of Hofstra’s Morning Wake Up Call, moderated the panel.

“I wish there were more people here from a citizen standpoint because it’s really more of what our government [is] trying to find out about us,” said Rappaport.  “I would be very concerned that there are big brothers watching.”

As the audience was mostly filled with communications students and professors, the direction of the discussion was driven accordingly.  The panel discussed the lack of both transparency in the government and protection for whistleblowers wishing to work with journalists.

Bob Keeler confessed his enthusiastic vote for President Obama during the election in addition to his disappoint with Obama’s seemingly empty promise of transparency.

With that, the panel discussed Obama’s prosecution of individuals based on the Espionage Act of 1917. The panel unanimously agreed that the government does not distinguish between documents that should and documents that should not be classified as top secret, confidential.

“It’s so important to tell the public what the government and corporations are doing,” said Ariel Flajnik, senior history major. “The private sector versus the public sector dichotomy is fallacious because they’re working together.”

A passion for investigative journalism brought Ariel Flajnik, co-host of Hofstra’s Morning Wake Up Call on WRHU-88.7FM, into the audience. According to Flajnik, journalism programs should be teaching students  about information security and encryption in order to protect sources.

In talking about the controversy of government transparency, the panelist spoke at length about the importance of understanding the technological and social context in which it is occurring.

According to the panel, journalists function in a society in which a conservative campaign against the media has only grown. Such distrust has led to the downsizing of national media powerhouses. On the technological side, the rapid advancement of social media has created citizen journalism on platforms such as Twitter.

“We can’t tell the tide to go back. We must figure out a way to move forward,” said Fincham of Twitter and crowdsourcing.

Fincham proposed using the audience, because they are on Twitter, as part of the process of journalistic reporting, rather than as the traditional end point. This would mean using crowdsourcing to generate ideas. Journalism Associate Professor Carol Fletcher praised Fincham’s ideas as practical and open-minded.

“This is the central issue that’s going on in many spheres,” said Fletcher. “I thought it was exciting to get people together to talk about.”

Professor Mario Murillo, the co-director of the Center for Civic Engagement and chair of the RTVF Department, spoke similarly.

“As a media person it’s all about engagement,” said Murillo. “If we’re doing journalism and we’re not engaging the community or playing a role in what’s happening in the community, then we’re not doing our jobs.”

Hope never dies

Public Safety Briefs, 10-24-2013