Class of 2019 Explores Challenging Dynamics between Political Campaigns and the Media

In October the Class of 2019 traveled to Washington, D.C. for the Learning Lab II experience, designed to allow sophomore Park Scholars to develop a critical understanding of a nationally-relevant topic by interacting with leaders immersed in that issue. The class chose to examine how leaders balance ethics and efficacy when navigating the relationships between political campaign organizations and the media—a particularly relevant topic in the context of the contentious 2016 presidential election.

Acknowledging that the rise of cable news networks and social media has reshaped the relationship between voters and candidates, the scholars were interested to hear from leaders how these changes in media have increased political polarization and created new organizational and management challenges for political campaigners.

“Over the course of Learning Lab II, I learned that there are many more ethically gray areas in political media coverage than I previously realized,” said Rachel Nagley ‘19. “While there may not be any clear answers to these ethical dilemmas, it is incumbent upon me to be a responsible citizen and gather news from multiple credible sources. In doing so, I hope to develop skills to effectively discern the truth from the narratives and potential biases of my sources.”

In addition to hearing from experts on their chosen topic, members of the Class of 2019 took in a Capitol Steps performance at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, enjoyed culturally diverse dining at Cuba Libre and Haad Thai, and familiarized themselves with the District through a walking tour of the monuments.

John O’Quinn, NC State ‘96 and longtime member of the Park Scholarships Selection Committee, graciously hosted the Class of 2019 at the offices of Kirkland & Ellis LLP for a reception and dinner with Park alumni and parents. More than 20 Park alumni attended the event and/or were otherwise involved in the planning and execution of this Learning Lab.

Prior to returning to Raleigh, the sophomores split into small groups to tour either the Holocaust Memorial Museum, the National Air and Space Museum, the National Zoo, or the new National Museum of African American History and Culture. NC State alumnus Philip Freelon was the lead architect on the latter, which is part of the Smithsonian network.

“Learning Lab II was an unforgettable experience,” said Madison Maloney ‘19. “It has caused me to think introspectively about my leadership style and interactions with others in life in general. It opened my mind to the difficult decisions that leaders have to make in distinguishing what is right from what may seem easier.”

Learning Laboratory II Speakers

- Michael Copps, Special Adviser to the Media and Democracy Reform Initiative, Common Cause

- David Corn, Washington Bureau Chief, Mother Jones

- Tom Davis, Director of Federal Government Affairs, Deloitte

- Philip Elliott, Washington Correspondent, TIME Magazine

- Charles Lewis, Executive Editor, The Investigative Reporting Workshop and Professor of Journalism, American University

- Candice Nelson, Professor, Department of Government and Academic Director, Campaign Management Institute, American University

- Joe Nolan, Senior Legislative Assistant for Senator Thom Tillis

- Ilya Shapiro, Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies, Cato Institute and Editor-in-Chief, Cato Supreme Court Review

- Matt Spence ‘04, Communications Specialist, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers