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Zachariah Levitan wins Lamb Prize in Political Science

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 27, 2018) — Zachariah Levitan, a senior studying at UAlbany’s Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, won the 2018 Lamb Prize, a coveted nation-wide award that goes to one undergraduate political science major for good writing and innovation.

Zachariah Levitan 

The prize, worth $1,000 plus travel expenses and a one-year membership in the Western Social Science Association (WSSA), was awarded for Levitan’s article “The YouTube 'Adpocalypse' and 'Adcquisition': Proposing a Change in YouTube’s Political Content Monetization Methodology.” The piece, which was published by Negotiation Guidance Associates, describes how a private market problem can have implications in the public realm. Read the précis.

Levitan said the genesis of his article arose from his interest in political content on YouTube, and how changes that make it harder for YouTubers to make money on the platform might reduce content.

“Following political news has always been one of my favorite pastimes, and YouTube has been a reliable source of political content not featured in the mainstream press,” Levitan said. “I firmly believe that the dissemination of marginalized content needs to be protected to facilitate a robust political discourse.”
Berton Lee Lamb, chair of the Lamb Prize Steering Committee, called Levitan’s article “an excellent example of a submission that presents a challenging problem and offers a potential solution.”

The Selection Committee described Levitan's paper as "innovative in nature” and praised his “ability to explain the issues of Google’s demonetization-of-content policy in a manner that many (non-techie) individuals can grasp and understand. Furthermore, the well-written paper covers the analysis of a problem with implications relevant to political science.”

Levitan is set to graduate this May and would like to work in the field of political news, writing, editing or academia. He said his experiences at Rockefeller, including the Semester in Washington program, were life changing.

“I am extremely grateful for all of the guidance and opportunities provided by the University's faculty and staff,” he said, singling out his mentor, Assistant Professor Stephan Stohler, as well as professors Anne Hildreth, Bruce Miroff and Meredith Weiss, and Director of Undergraduate Student Services Zakhar Berkovich for teaching him about politics, policy analysis, writing and professionalism.

Levitan worked closely with Stohler in researching and writing his award-winning paper. “Dr. Stohler has expanded my understanding of free speech and effective argumentation,” he said, noting that Bradley Armour-Garb and Jon Mandle from the Philosophy department taught him logic and political philosophy that also was relevant to his paper.

Stohler, who nominated Levitan for the Lamb Prize, said, "Zach has uncovered a problem that has plagued media outlets for at least a century, and has now manifested on the Internet, namely the tension between independent political analysis and the economics of maintaining a 'free press.'”

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