I was honored to help organize a conference this past week on “Character Assassination in Theory and Practice.” Sponsored by George Mason University’s Department of Communication — where I serve as a senior research fellow — and the Department’s Character Assassination and Reputation Politics research lab, the three day conference at Mason’s Arlington, VA campus featured a wealth of insights from academics, as well as practitioners in journalism and public relations. Here’s a release summarizing what happened at the conference.
I was particularly pleased to moderate a panel of social media experts and journalists from Politico, the Hill and elsewhere on “Character Assassination Across the Media Spectrum” — a crowded and diverse media “spectrum,” to be sure, that includes social media and journalistic reporting, analysis and opinion. Our goal was to explore the impacts of character assassination in the media — how and when it occurs, governance and safeguards.
We deliberately included the word “spectrum” in the title, since the media today is, indeed, best understood as a range — or spectrum — of factors and dynamics. Beyond the many forms of media (print, broadcast, social), there’s a whole spectrum of political and ideological viewpoints, and a range of formats — from the seven second sound bytes on the news or seven word memes on Facebook, to long-form newsmagazine interview and manifesto-sized rants on the largely ungoverned social media.
Our panel and presentations from more than 30 scholars from across the world helped round out our understandings, and I encourage you to take a closer look at the CARP website to learn more about how issues of character and reputation play out in our diverse communications ecosystem today. Gaining such understandings helps make sense of the many words, impressions and emotions that are hurtling across an unprecedented crowd of media channels and outlets.