The Virginia Tech media relations office has the following experts available for interviews this week surrounding issues in the news. To schedule an interview, please contact

Discord classified document leak

Discord, a chat platform originally built for online gaming, is now subject of intense scrutiny after intelligence documents were leaked - allegedly by a member of the military. 

James Ivory, a Virginia Tech professor who researches social media and video game use related to military simulations and links to political extremism and intelligence risks, said Discord has become a very mainstream platform for individual and community messaging.

“The fact that Discord is primarily used for privacy groups and community conversations rather than public posts introduces security concerns because the privacy of its groups may give the false illusion that material shared in closed forums will stay in those closed forums,” Ivory said. 

Ivory is available to discuss monitoring and security concerns involving this and similar platforms, as well as gaming communities becoming a place for young, disaffected military members to gather. More here.

Earth Day: April 22 - Experts available to discuss environmental issues, research

The Virginia Tech media relations office has identified a number of experts for interviews surrounding the environment, energy, and sustainability ahead of Earth Day. Topics include:

  • Rising seas threatens U.S. coastlines and cities
  • Environmental impact of AI and its sustainability
  • Greenwashing leaves false impressions of sustainable economic practices
  • Climate-smart farming practices
  • Optimizing electric vehicle energy use and reducing train carbon emissions
  • Helping companies afford recycling and reduce energy costs
  • Conserving energy and building a more sustainable power grid
  • Building community awareness for addressing extreme heat and its impacts
  • Societal impact of natural & environmental disasters
  • Making biomedical research facilities sustainable is a challenge – but doable

More here.

Twitter feuds with news organizations

The decision of social media platform Twitter under ownership of tech mogul Elon Musk to label National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service as “U.S. state-affiliated media” caused the prominent news outlets to respond by ending use of Twitter. This conflict is just the latest in an escalating series of conflicts between Musk and media outlets of multiple stripes.  

Virginia Tech multimedia professor Mike Horning is available to offer perspective on Twitter’s increasingly volatile relationship with news organizations and the advantages and disadvantages of Musk’s approach. “Research shows that almost half of the audience on Twitter goes there to get news,” Horning says. “Musk no doubt knows this and may feel that news organizations will eventually need to come back to Twitter if they want to distribute their content to their audience.”

Republicans unveil debt ceiling strategy

Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has gone to Wall Street to pitch a fiscal policy that sets up a potential showdown with Democrats and President Joe Biden over the impending debt ceiling crisis. Virginia Tech economics professor David Bieri offers perspective on the Republican proposals and the battle over the debt ceiling.

‘Phantom of the Opera’ closes after 35 years on Broadway

Broadway phenomenon, “The Phantom of the Opera,” closed on Broadway after 35 years of performances, marking the end of an era. Ariana Wyatt, singer, director, and Virginia Tech associate professor of voice, gives perspective on what the closing means for Broadway. “The show inspired a cult-like international following, and has grossed over $6 billion world wide,” she says. “While being incredibly successful, its production costs were equally large, and its closing brings up the question of how large scale shows will continue to fare in a post-pandemic world.”

Wildlife experts investigate spread of ‘zombie deer disease’

A white-tailed deer afflicted with chronic wasting disease — also frequently referred to as “zombie deer disease” — will appear abnormally thin, move sluggishly, and salivate excessively. There is no cure: chronic wasting disease (CWD) is contagious and always fatal, and it has been detected with increasing frequency in Virginia and other states, raising concerns about effects on the deer population.

Virginia Tech professor and wildlife health expert Luis Escobar will be leading a study to determine the risk of CWD transmission in Virginia. “The team will use molecular tools to generate information about the likely spread of the disease in unprecedented detail,” he says. More here.

Distracted driving on the rise, but rather than the problem, technology could be the solution

April is Distracted Driver Awareness Month. In the digital age, an increased desire for constant online connection has created safety hazards for drivers on the road. It’s especially top of mind during the month of April, which is Distracted Driver Awareness Month, but Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) researcher, Charlie Klauer says that technology can also be part of the solution.

“As human factors researchers, it is imperative that we improve the design of the in-vehicle interfaces to allow drivers to interact with cellular technologies in the safest way possible,” says Klauer. “Any interactions that reduce eyes off the forward roadway and physical manipulation of the phone will improve safety.” More here.

If you are seeking an expert for a specific topic, please email

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