Understanding the power of media to communicate important public policy issues, the Price School of Public Policy and the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism partnered with one another to screen the five-episode EPIX docuseries America Divided. Following the screening the two schools hosted a discussion where students and faculty where able to ask the show’s producers Norman Lear, Solly Granatstein, Leah Natasha Thomas and EPIX CEO & Annenberg Board of Trustees Chair Mark Greenberg questions about the project. Jack Knott, Dean of the Price School, and Ernest Wilson, Dean of Annenberg, joined the producers for an in depth discussion moderated by Bonnie Reiss, who as the Global Director of the USC Schwarzenegger Institute is uniquely suited to understand the intersection of public policy and media.
The America Divided series focuses on some of the big challenges facing and dividing the United States and their interconnectedness, including education, immigration, housing, healthcare, low income jobs, and how gerrymandering is rigging the political system.
Dean Knott explained how while many of his faculty research the issues covered that storytelling is so important in helping bring the issues to life and make them real for the public. Dean Wilson said that many of his students have been disheartened by the new President labeling journalists as “enemies of the state” and having respected leaders from the media and others reinforce the important role they must play in advancing democracy and covering issues is more vital than ever.
While the series mostly focused on the problems and challenges facing America in the many policy areas they covered, Reiss asked “How do we bridge this divide?”
Norman Lear, said conversations like the one at USC is exactly the way, and added that having open minded conversations of all opinions and political persuasions is fundamentally important. Granatstein thought empathy was an important way to bridge the divide and that media and storytelling helps amplify that. And EPIX CEO Greenberg added that is why they have hosted screening and conversations like the one at USC in Washington D.C. for Congress and on other college campuses.