Professor Amos Gelb speaks to Elon students

by Laura Smith

September 9, 2008

Photo courtesy of Semester in Washington program

George Washington University professor, Amos Gelb, had more to talk to Elon students about than just his acclaimed internship program on Monday.

Gelb has been a producer at CNN and has worked for National Geographic, ABC News, the Discovery Channel, and the History Channel.

On a brief visit to Elon University, Gelb came to inform students about the internship he operates, Semester in Washington in Journalism. What else he gave were his professional views on the subject of civic reporting, or reporting for the public good.

“I believe that all reporting is for the public good,” Gelb said. “It is the idea that journalism shouldn’t just be about reporting and transferring information; you should be playing a role.”

Gelb had his opinions about problems with civic reporting however. He explained how through working at America’s Most Wanted, he learned reporting for the public good is not always as simple as it seems. 

He described how it was difficult to report on the innocent victims because even though they were innocent, sometimes that had put themselves in that position to be victimized.

“If you’re reporting, how do you report that?” he asked. “That’s the problem, the grey areas.”

Another issue Gelb brought up was the recent scandal with the personal life of Republican Vice Presidential nominee, Sarah Palin. Gelb questioned how involved the media should be in her personal matters and whether or not the line of privacy has been drawn.

“How far should the journalism go?” he asked. “Since when is the invasion of privacy under any standard acceptable? Just ‘cause it’s guaranteed in the Constitution, does that mean it’s something that is in the public good?”

Gelb also addressed the question of to whom civic reporting should be directed.  He felt as though it is a difficult finding a balance to report to those who want to hear the information and those who don’t.

“You know that one audience wants it but you can’t report for that one audience and not have the other audience exposed to it…so where’s the public good in that?”

After the conclusion of the discussion, Gelb told Elon students a brief summation of his Semester in Washington program. The program consists of an internship, classes, and professional journalism experiences during the summer, fall, or spring.  Some of the internships students have held have included work at CBS, Fox, Smithsonian Magazine, National Geographic, and CNN.

Gelb explained how the internships are chosen for the students based on what fits their interests best. There is a process that narrows the internship selection down for the students and chooses the one that best suits them.

Gelb gave students informational booklets about the program and encouraged everyone to apply. He concluded his discussion with more of his insight.

“What is public good? It is your job really to be the arbiter of that, to be the gatekeeper of that.”

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