#Omaha2020 Conference addresses a decade of mass media changes


Elle Love

Nebraska Senator Megan Hunt, Wendy Townley, Josie Loza, and Abby Jordan.
Mass Media changed from the last decade, especially in Gender and Social Media. Just ask our panelists! Photo courtesy of Elle Love.

The UNO School of Communication held the #Omaha2020 conference virtually on Zoom on Oct. 10, 2020. The conference covered the many changes that have been made in the mass media field since the first conference in 2010.

UNO Communications professor Jeremy Lipschultz, Ph. D., said one change from the Omaha 10/10/10 conference was combining journalism, public relations and advertising into a mixed degree, now known as Journalism and Media Communications.

“At that time, we talked about, ‘wouldn’t it be great to make some predictions on what the year 2020 is going to be like, then we get back together a decade later and seeing how well we did,’” Lipschultz said.

The #Omaha2020 Media conference held several panels with topics ranging from gender and social media change, communication research, higher education, and race, media and literacy. A Public Relations panel with SHIFT Communications Managing Partner Rick Murray and an Environmental Communication panel with pulver.com Founder Jeff Pulver were also featured.

UNO Professor Chris Allen said the central theme of the 2020 conference included content creation and storytelling, which has not changed from the past decade.

“You might engage your audience in a different way, but the message is often still the same,” Allen said.

Murray spoke previously at the 10/10/10 conference about how he saw the rapid change of media becoming more mobilized in the field of public relations, including a shift in operations to performance-based work, attaching a percentage of their overall earnings and compensations to how well they can help their clients accomplish their goals.

“The tools that are available to everyone in public relations and beyond have gotten significantly more sophisticated and easier to use, as well,” Murray said. “Part of our jobs are likely to be automated in terms of analytics, as it will be one of those things our client will be able to press a button and go ‘how did we do today.’”

Key takeaways from Murray’s panel were to develop multiple passions, pick a way to specialize your area in the communication field and the importance of critical thinking and writing.

“If you walk in the newsroom of many media like New York Times, The [Boston] Globe, and The [Daily] Mail, you’ll see massive computer screens on the wall that talk about what parts of the articles are being engaged with and then that’s informing future content streams,” Murray said.

In the Gender and Social Media conference, Nebraska Sen. Megan Hunt, Abby Jordan, Josie Loza and Wendy Townley, reflected on the 10/10/10 conference a decade ago. Discussion included the technology changes in the past 10 years, interaction with our communities and using social media for busines purposes and receiving news. Hunt also gave advice on how to deal with online “bullies” and detractors on social media.

“Don’t interact with it, just be focused on what you’re trying to do,” Hunt said. “You have to realize that a lot of what people say is about them and not about you, and if people are deliberately misunderstanding, you can’t beg them to be any different.”

In the communication research panel, University of Louisville Associate Professor Karen Freburg and Syracuse University’s PR and Social Media Professor Gina Luttrell discussed computer-mediated communication and social media communication research. They discussed reframing the way social media is incorporated in the job market, both currently and in the future.

“Every school I know has kind of like a ‘grand challenge,’ and one of ours is the future of work and looking at the future of work and digital transformation, so we’re actually proposing making social media a part of gen. Ed.,” Freburg said.

Luttrell said one of the ways educators can break down gender barriers in communication research is to show their students what women have historically done in field.

“I think it’s our responsibility to talk about diversity, equity and inclusion in our classroom—that we break down those gender barriers that are related to social media, as well,” Luttrell said.

UNO Communication professors Ralph Hanson, Ph. D., Chris Allen, Ph. D., Nicky Bi Chang, Ph. D. and Carol Zuegner headlined the Higher Education Panel where they discussed changes in the School of Communication in the past ten years. Topics included the changes in how students utilize social media, the digital divide in rural and urban Nebraska and the immediate change and challenges in remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What’s been interesting to me is seeing how our education techniques are going beyond just working with a content management system, which I’m quite comfortable with teaching through Zoom and having synchronous classes,” Hanson said.

Zuegner said the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the process of conducting classes and the perception of online learning in general, including pros and cons.

The Race, Media and Literacy Panel featured Tunette Powell, Ph. D., Jasmine Steven, Cary Clack and Farzanna Saleem, Ph. D. Topics included covering race in media outlets, verifying facts, self-care and reflection, and knowing your role as a journalist on your platform.

“Diversity is the backbone of society and because that society is diverse, you have to play into reality, and if you have any form of media that is skewed one way or the other means all white or all Black doesn’t show what a true America is,” Stephen said. “We never had that privilege writing about race because people forget it’s not about writing about race, it’s race being put on you.”

One of the panelists, Tunette Powell, is an alum of the Journalism and Media Communication program at UNO. Powell was involved in UNO Forensics, where she was a national winner. She currently researches stereotypes of Black children in public education.

“We didn’t have a Race and Media Panel 10 years ago, but it never quite came together, so I was very pleased when it came together this year,” Lipschultz said. “I just gave them a general framework on what we were interested in covering based on the rest of the panel that we were holding so they organized the questions based on what they, the speaker, could address.”

In the environmental communications panel, founder and Chief Executive of pulver.com Jeff Pulver returned to the 10/10/10 conference to discuss changes in the internet from the past decade and his current research on emergency communications beyond cell phone and internet through broadband connectivity.

“It turns out that Amateur Radio and some technologies around HAM radio have answers, and they actually could even provide connectivity to areas that are rural,” Pulver said. “There’s actually a really big business in providing that connectivity and it’s valuable stuff.”

Allen said the communication field is everchanging, especially in journalism which is more important now than ever.

“We need journalists to work on traditional programs and to help innovate new platforms and to continually figure out how to reach an audience and how to adequately fund and finance journalism enterprises,” Allen said. “Because our democracy and our republic depend so much on access to information, and it’s been journalists for years that have provided that information.”

If you missed the #Omaha2020 conference, you can visit this link on YouTube to view the sessions.