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Article Published May 29, 2019
Preparing Students for a Changing Media Landscape
Nathan Hughart

As the media continues to be a dominant force in the country and the world, Quinnipiac University (QU) media studies professor and East Haven resident Lisa Burns says her department is more important than ever.

“Basically, Disney owns you,” she says. “Or at least, they own the media.”

As someone who spends a lot of time researching the media for her work in and out of the classroom, Lisa says she is concerned about the consolidation that has gone on in the industry.

“Now what we’re seeing is we have all of this media,” she says. “We have so much choice, yet if you look at who’s controlling it, we’re really back to these major mega-conglomerations.”

Her classes are about understanding the way society shapes the media and how the media shapes society. And as new media becomes dominant in sports, politics and entertainment, she says QU students are faced with a vast new array of jobs that go with it.

“It’s a great time to do media…For our students, it means jobs,” Lisa said. “Something like social media manager didn’t exist 10 years ago…Now, that’s a job that a lot of our students go into.”

Lisa has taught at QU for 16 years and has recently won the James Marshall Award for service to the university.

“When you look at the list of names of Quinnipiac faculty who have received the award, it is such an impressive group,” Lisa says. “I was very proud to receive the honor and very humbled.”

She served three years as chair of the QU Faculty Senate, working with the administrators to represent the faculty’s interest in important issues like curriculum changes, the review and tenure process, and beyond.

Serving as chair “gave me a really good broad view of how things work here at QU,” she says. “Sometimes, as faculty, we know what our department does, we know what our school does…working on senate, you get to see how many moving pieces there are.”

She also started the sports studies minor, reflecting her background as a “reformed sports journalist” and her love for Pittsburg sports.

She started in radio with the NPR station that was then based at Duquesne University in Pittsburg where she was enrolled. From there, she moved into sports and news reporting on a larger scale.

“It’s great to be able to share what I’ve learned as a sports reporter,” she says.

“[Sports] is a growing area of the communications field. Sometimes when people think of sports, they think of sports reporters and that’s definitely one job but you also have…broadcast, all the people behind the scenes, people who work at the front office for teams, people who work at stadiums,” Lisa says.

With the rise of the Internet and social media in particular, Lisa says new jobs are cropping up everywhere in media related areas. That’s part of what has made the sports studies minor one of QU’s largest.

“We’re in a great location…between New York and Boston, some of the largest sports markets in the country,” she says. “Our students have great opportunities with internships.”

Lisa says the school has graduates now working in all the major sports leagues. One former student works as the web lifestyle editor for the New England Patriots and even earned a ring when the team won the Superbowl this year.

But the changing face of the media also affects politics and entertainment, something important to Lisa and the classes she teaches.

Twitter, for instance, has introduced a new way for people to consume news headlines. Streaming services like Spotify and Netflix have brought into question the efficacy of radio and the DVD.

Even entertainment events like the release of final television seasons or big movies are important in Lisa’s classroom.

“I tell people I get to basically watch a lot of TV, go to movies, [and] listen to music and it’s all basically class prep,” she says.

One of her favorite classes to teach, Lisa says, is media history.

“Believe it or not, it’s always changing. Even though history remains the same, things that happen today relate to things in the past,” she says. “It’s great to be able to show students how the past is still really relevant today, sometimes in kind of scary ways.”

From newspapers to streaming services, change has been the defining characteristic of media throughout her tenure at QU.

“When people say that ‘print is dead,’ I think the written word is more important than ever before,” she says. “I don’t think anything’s really dying. It’s just evolving.”

To nominate a Person of the Week, email Nathan Hughart at n.hughart@Zip06.com.