CBS Senior Political Correspondent Jeff Greenfield will critically analyze the media coverage that accompanied the 2008 presidential elections in Corwin Pavilion today.

The conference, titled “Media and the Presidential Election: Race, Humor and Coverage,” is free and open to the public. The event consists of two debates at 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., followed by Greenfield’s keynote address at 8 p.m.

Standout media moments from the campaign, Greenfield said, will be the focus of his talk. Greenfield said he plans to lecture on the apparent media bias in the reporting of President Barack Obama’s run against Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. He also aims to tackle questions of whether Gov. Sarah Palin was treated fairly during the election and if Senator John McCain received more negative coverage than Obama.

Greenfield graduated from Yale Law School in 1966, where he was an editor of The Yale Law Journal. He was a media commentator for CBS News, a political and media analyst for ABC News and a senior analyst at CNN, in addition to writing for Time magazine, The New York Times and He also served as a speechwriter for Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

Greenfield said he plans to target his address to the role media outlets played in shaping the outcome of the campaign.

“For all the attention paid to “The Daily Show”, YouTube, talk radio, factors ranging from the complex delegate allocation rules of the Democratic Party, the economic news of the fall and the televised debates likely were far more significant matters when it came to who won and who lost,” Greenfield said. “Or so I will argue.”

The first debate will feature Dana Mastro of the University of Arizona and UCSB’s Christopher McAuley arguing about media coverage and race in the election.

UCSB communication professor Ronald E. Rice said the first debate will highlight the changing role of race and ethnicity in political campaigns.

“Not only did the rise of both a mixed-race candidate, Obama, and a woman candidate, Clinton, represent historical changes in the social and political context of the U.S., but changing demographics of racial and ethnic groups also are forcing new topics and coverage in political communication,” Rice said. “Nonetheless, very long-term and embedded views and approaches to media coverage of race and ethnicity in political representation still exist.”

The topic of the second debate focuses on whether or not media humor was beneficial to the presidential campaign, and will feature W. Lance Bennett of the University of Washington and Roderick Hart of the University of Texas at Austin. John Woolley, UCSB’s political science department chair, will moderate.

The debate will examine the changing role of satirical news coverage, Rice said.

“With the rise of online media, as well as the tremendous success and influence of “The Daily Show” and “Saturday Night Live” skits during the campaign, a new kind of coverage and voice has arisen in political coverage – satire, wit, irony, exposure, humor,” Rice said. “Is this just a form of entertainment and diversion actually harming serious political involvement, or do these new media forms represent serious, honest and insightful coverage that has been constrained by traditional media?”

The conference marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Communication Dept. at UCSB.