BY MEGAN GRIGORIAN
Dr. Stephen Farnsworth’s career has taken him to places all over the world, including India, the Philippines, Ukraine and Armenia. But his trip to Canada this past year provided him with a new opportunity.
“It was my first time to actually live for a year in another country,” said Farnsworth, an associate professor of Political Science at Mary Washington. “It gets you thinking about politics in a different way.”
The time Farnsworth spent with our neighbors to the North prompted him to explore Canada’s reaction to the Bush administration and America’s involvement in the Iraq War from a new perspective.
Last year, Farnsworth taught at McGill University’s Institute for the Study of Canada in Montreal on a Fulbright Fellowship. In addition to teaching political science courses at the university, Farnsworth conducted an academic study on Canada’s media portrayal of the United States compared to the image presented by main news stations in America.
In a collaborative media study, “Canadian TV News on Bush and Iraq: No More Hostile Than Top U.S. Network,” with colleagues Stuart Soroka and Lori Young, Farnsworth found that despite America’s impressions, Canada does not have an anti-U.S. bias. The analysis covered both countries’ news stations spanning from 2004 to 2006.
The article concludes, “In short, we find that Canadians watching the CBC or CTV saw news reports on the U.S. that nearly mirrored, in topic and tone, NBC’s government news coverage.”
Farnsworth took an interest in his Canadian students’ impressions of American government. One of their biggest problems was coming to terms with the permanence the office of the U.S. president has as opposed to that of their prime minister.
“They just didn’t like the idea of fixed terms,” Farnsworth said. “It means you can’t correct your mistake until the next election. An unpopular Prime Minister can be gone by nightfall.”
Farnsworth says his interest in media studies stems partially from working as a news journalist for the “Kansas City Star” for ten years before he switched to teaching. He credits the change in careers to a desire for more opportunity to study.
“This allows me to think about something for more then just a few hours,” he said.
Farnsworth also completed his new book “The Spinner-In-Chief” while abroad. The book, due out this spring, explores a different side of media analysis. It focuses on recent presidents’ “spinning” of the truth to sell their policies. Farnsworth emphasizes the way in which marketing has replaced governing as the primary concern for modern presidents.
This is not Farnsworth’s first book about presidential scandal and the role the media plays in influencing the public’s perception of the U.S. government. He has written or collaborated on “The Nightly News Nightmare: Television’s Coverage of U.S. Presidential Elections,” “The Mediated Presidency: Television News and Presidential Governance” and “Political Support in a Frustrated America.”
Farnsworth is back at UMW with a fresh perspective, something he considers essential for teaching a course in which the curriculum is liable to change with the times.
“Even though there’s a lot of change, it’s important to recharge when you teach the same classes year after year,” Farnsworth said.