Expert in Qatar highlights media, politics nexus

January 27, 2012

Betty Winfield

Americans are more concerned with domestic issues and US President Barack Obama indicated in his State of the Union address that he will be focusing his attention on internal problems over foreign affairs this election season, a political communication expert has said in Qatar.

“This election year, the American people are less concerned about foreign affairs and more concerned about the struggling US economy,” Betty Winfield, a Curator’s Professor emerita at the University of Missouri, Columbia, said at a discussion with journalism and communication students at Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q).

“The president spoke to those concerns, leaving very little time for discussion of foreign policy. Unless Syria spirals out of control or some other major conflict or disturbance comes up, you can expect the president and his Republican challengers to stay focused on the economy and other domestic issues this election season,” Winfield said.

Winfield, who has written extensively on topics including mass media history and White House communication, and the relationships between US presidents, first ladies and the media, met media students to discuss “Going Public: Understanding the President’s State of the Union Message.”

Her lecture examined the political tactics employed by Obama in his address to the American public. As a massive media event – over 40 million Americans watched the State of the Union live on Tuesday–the address was Obama’s opportunity to bypass media interpretation and state his case directly to the people, she said. His speech seemed to indicate a less overtly forceful American presence overseas and a redirecting of resources to domestic spending.

According to Winfield, with the US Iraq war officially over, Obama had even discussed downsizing the American military, and using that money for much needed infrastructure and development projects in the US.

The expert noted that fear often plays a significant role in US presidential politics. Last election cycle, as the first African-American presidential nominee from a major party, Obama faced fears from some Americans that he was an “outsider” who could not be trusted. Now, the American people are more fearful for their own jobs, livelihoods, and prosperity.

“Betty Winfield is an excellent resource for our students on the complicated nexus between media and politics,” Everette E. Dennis, NU-Q dean and CEO, said. “Our aim in bringing such distinguished speakers from across the academic spectrum to NU-Q is to supplement our students’ education with exposure to leading thinkers from around the world,” she said.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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