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IU South Bend professor new moderator of 'Politically Speaking' program

Feb. 6, 2013

An IU South Bend professor is bringing her experience -- and some of her students -- into the TV studio as she takes on her new role as moderator of "Politically Speaking" on WNIT broadcast channel 34 (cable channel 10).

Elizabeth Bennion

Elizabeth Bennion

Elizabeth Bennion, an associate professor of political science at IU South Bend, began her duties in January, after the retirement of the show's previous moderator, James Wensits.

Bennion is well known for her community involvement and analysis of the political process, and has moderated many local candidate debates.

WNIT’s vice president for production, Angel Hernandez, producer, Patrick Meehan, and Bennion have increased the dynamic, interactive elements of the program, with greater emphasis on social media and person-on-the-street Q-and-As, plus a live studio audiences for some shows. Shows will focus on both civic engagement and broad political issues, such as gun control and immigration reform. The program will continue to take live calls from viewers and host in-studio guests.

Bennion said hosting the show has been an exciting new challenge. "I’m learning new things about TV production and the behind-the-scenes work required to prepare for a live broadcast," she said." Yet in many ways, hosting the show is similar to teaching an upper-level seminar, where students are expected to do their own research and bring their own expertise and experiences with them to class.”

Students in one of Bennion's current classes will do research on guests and issues, help prepare questions, conduct interviews for videotaped segments and even appear on the show to help with the discussion of an issue. An intern from IU South Bend will coordinate the Facebook page, Twitter account and website for the program.

Her work on “Politically Speaking” is an extension of her work on campus, Bennion said, and a way to use her skills as an educator to reach a new audience. "The best teachers recognize that they do not have all the answers," she said. "They ask the right questions, seek reliable information, welcome diverse viewpoints and are always eager to learn more. ‘Politically Speaking’ presents me with a valuable opportunity to learn with and from guests and callers."

"Politically Speaking" is WNIT’s longest running public affairs program.  Since 1988, it has provided the region with a forum for discussion, debate and insight on political issues.

“As much as we regret Jim Wensits’ decision to retire from the program, we are excited about what Dr. Bennion will bring to Politically Speaking,” Hernandez said, adding that her involvement as IU South Bend’s campus director of the American Democracy Project and advisor to the Political Science Club will help to foster civil dialogue and civic discussions. "We believe she will attract new audiences and add to the show’s objective of informing and engaging the community in a wide array of civic and political discourse.”

Bennion cited support from the campus community and the WNIT staff. She received congratulations from every member of the Chancellor's Cabinet and numerous colleagues, many of whom will appear (or have appeared) on the show. The WNIT staff has given her freedom to create each episode, from topic selection to guest lineup to questions. "They have put their faith in me and my ability to do this job, despite my lack of broadcast experience," she said. "They stay behind-the-scenes working their magic and converting my discussions with guests and callers into a television show.”

Upcoming programs will feature discussion of legislation and politics in both the Indiana and Michigan state legislatures.

Bennion has taught at IU South Bend since 1999. Among her numerous teaching awards are the distinguished Eldon F. Lundquist Award in 2011 recognizing an IU South Bend faculty member who has exhibited excellence in teaching, scholarly achievement and diversified service. In 2009, IU presented her with the W. George Pinnell Award for Outstanding Service. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.  

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