COC scholarly presentation explores media bias vs. individual perspective

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By Jesse Munoz

College of the Canyons faculty member Dr. Phil Gussin will present an interesting and intentionally-provocative discussion on individual perceptions of bias in the media during the fall 2014 Scholarly Presentation taking place at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 20 at the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center (PAC).

In his presentation, which is based on the results of an innovative experiment he designed with Dr. Matthew Baum, professor of Global Communications and Public Policy at Harvard University, Gussin will challenge some common misconceptions about media bias and highlight some of the challenges scholars face when trying to assess its prevalence and direction. Most importantly, Gussin will argue that some of the bias that individual perceive in the news is actually a reflection of their own biases.

 “One of the things Dr. Baum and I demonstrate in our research is that a lot of the bias people see in the media isn’t actually in the media,” said Gussin, who serves as both a political science professor as well as an instructor for the college’s award-winning Model United Nations team. “It turns out that people see bias when they expect to see – whether or not it’s actually there.”

 Gussin warns that his presentation is likely to disgruntle audience members who believe the media has a uniformly liberal or conservative bias.

 “When I say that this presentation will upset some people, I’m being a little facetious. But here’s what I can say for sure. If you like politics and see a lot of bias in the media, and you like being challenged, you’re going to love it,” Gussin said. “At the end of the presentation, you may not change your mind about whether the media is or is not bias — but I suspect you will approach the subject differently.”

 Gussin also adds a disclaimer.

 “If you’re so set in your beliefs that you’re unwilling to take in new information,” Gussin said, “you should probably find something else to do on November 20.”

 For those who chose to attend, the only prerequisite is an open mind.

 More about the Presenter

 Dr. Phil Gussin is a professor of political science whose research focuses on public opinion, the news media and elections.

 After working for more than a decade as a plumber and plumbing contractor, Gussin sold his business and returned to college at age 38.

 He received his master’s degree in political science from California State University, Northridge (CSUN) in 1998, a second master’s degree (2003) and a doctorate in political science from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

 Utilizing innovative experimental techniques, his dissertation examined the impact that visual images in the news have on citizens’ political preferences. In 2007, Gussin co-authored an article in the Quarterly Journal of Political Science with Dr. Matthew Baum entitled “In the Eye of the Beholder: How Information Shortcuts Shape Individual Perceptions of Bias in the Media.”

 This article examined the extent to which individuals’ use heuristics – or information shortcuts – to assess the ideological biases of news coverage.

 Gussin began teaching at College of the Canyons in 2005. He has also aught at a number of community colleges in the greater Los Angeles area, as well as Pepperdine University and UCLA. In his final year of teaching at UCLA, Gussin was the recipient of the “My Last Lecture” award, which is given to the professor that students find to be the most inspirational.

Gussin is the co-advisor for the college’s Political Science Club and the faculty advisor for the award-winning College of the Canyons Model United Nations (COCMUN) team.

 For more information about the College of the Canyons Scholarly Presentation “In the Eye of the Beholder” contact the COC Foundation at (661) 362-3434.

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