Hollins Professor of Political Science Ed Lynch is often tasked with explaining what the politicians are up to in an election year more confusing than most. Now, WSLS-TV 10, the NBC affiliate for Roanoke and southwestern Virginia, has assigned Lynch the job of official political analyst for its news broadcasts.
Lynch is no stranger to media events. Since his time on Capitol Hill in the 1980s, he has done thousands of interviews on television and radio and for the print media. Since moving to Roanoke, Lynch has become an invaluable source to area journalists, combining his real-life experience in the world of politics with his academic background, coupled with an unusually strong ability to explain complex matters in short sound bites.
Earlier this year, conversations with WSLS News Director Rick Moll and anchor John Carlin led to an arrangement in which Lynch provides political analysis exclusively for the station. He has provided commentary on the primary season, the many debates among the candidates, and the political conventions this summer. Along the way, he has seen the unexpected rise of Donald Trump, the surprisingly persistent campaign of Bernie Sanders, and the embrace of political activism by millions of new voters.
Moll gives Lynch high marks for his clarity and even-handedness. Viewers of WSLS have also reacted positively.
“The political process can be confusing for many, especially during a Presidential cycle like we have right now,” Moll said. “It’s our job in the media to break down the issues. We need to make sense of what’s happening and more importantly, how these issues impact our viewers. That’s where Ed Lynch comes in. We want to utilize his experience and background to take a hard look at local politics as well as what’s happening on the national scene. He has the ability to simplify the key issues and get to the root of what’s being discussed. We’re extremely happy to have him on our team.”
The repeated exposure on Roanoke television has made Lynch one of the most recognizable figures in the Roanoke Valley, and one of the most prominent public “faces” of Hollins University. Lynch said that he is often stopped by complete strangers, who compliment his analysis and ask questions. “I appreciate being asked my opinion,” Lynch said, “I just wish I had nicer things to say about the current campaign!”
This fall, Lynch will bring his expertise to the First Year Seminar program, teaching a class called “How to Be a President.” He rejects the notion that the shrill tone and personal attacks of the 2016 campaign are in any way unique or extreme. “Negative campaigning, including vicious personal attacks, goes back to the rivalry between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson,” he said, “and those were the first contested elections in American history.”
He added, “I feel the pain of those students dismayed at having to cast their first vote for president during a year when both candidates have such high negatives. My first time, I had to choose between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter!”
With the Virginia gubernatorial race set to kick off the moment the presidential race is decided, Lynch does not believe that his relationship with WSLS will end any time soon.