The Juneau World Affairs Council presents its annual World Affairs Forum at the University of Alaska Southeast next week, on the theme of “Modern Journalism: The Role of News Media in a Changing World.”
A Gallup poll last June revealed that Americans estimate 62 percent of the news they see in newspapers, on TV and hear on the radio is biased, 44 percent of it is inaccurate and 39 percent is misinformation.
The Juneau World Affairs Council says that if people don’t agree with a story, they tend to label it “fake news,” and that people who turn to news from social media sources are getting their news from “echo chambers of social media, perpetuating their pre-existing biases.
“Key politicians call journalists the ‘enemy of the people” and many of their constituents embrace the sentiment — with very real consequences for our nation and the world. We hope to consider a number of issues, including media ownership, the thinning line between news and opinion, and tools to help consumers become more media literate,” JWAC wrote.
The schedule of lectures focuses on themes that may demonstrate the very bias that has turned many conservatives away from mainstream media.
One of the keynote presenters, UAS Professor David Noon, specializes in research that includes the “social construction of race and gender. More recently, Dr. Noon has written about the use of World War analogies in contemporary political rhetoric, cold war historical memory in the fiction of Don DeLillo, and the work of neoconservatives and Christian prophecy writers in the war on terrorism,” according to his bio.
Does the line-up of speakers and topics inherently favor mainstream media and public broadcasting? Read on and leave your comments below.
Here’s the schedule and descriptions of the lectures:
Friday, March 29
2–3 p.m. | UAS Egan Lecture Hall
Whipped into a Frenzy: Anti-Media Violence in American History and the Perilous Course Ahead — with David Noon
Donald Trump — whose image owed much to tabloid and credulous media attention in the 1980s — has cultivated a uniquely hostile relationship with the mainstream press in the four years since launching his campaign for the presidency. His rhetorical denunciations of “fake media” and journalists as “enemies of the people” have been accompanied by quite real dangers endured by reporters and staff who have been targeted for violence at rallies, through the mail, and in their offices. Anti-press violence has an extensive history in the United States, one that long predates the 2017 inauguration of Donald Trump. What should we know about that past, and how does the relationship between presidents, violence, and popular culture help us to make sense of our troubling contemporary media environment?
3:15–4:15 p.m. | UAS Egan Lecture Hall
Disinformation, Misinformation, and “Fake News”: Understanding and Responding to the Challenge of False Information in the Digital Age — with Geysha Gonzalez
Recent events have revealed that both state and non-state actors are capable of carrying out malign information operations against democratic countries. Targeted disinformation campaigns can interfere not only in elections but our entire political discourse, often seeking to damage the foundations of democratic societies. This session will focus on defining and unpacking the problem and offering democratic solutions for civil society, governments, and platforms to address this challenge.
4:30–5:30 p.m. | UAS Egan Lecture Hall
NO GOING BACK — News Media’s Painful Pursuit of Digital Native consumers — with Brian O’Donoghue
Traditional news media filled a well-understood role, holding officials accountable and, by and large, functioning as gatekeepers against misinformation. The breakdown of revenue models supporting newsgathering leaves a generation self-defined by social media exposed to manipulation by increasingly partisan channels and other special interests. A discussion weighing opportunities opened by the low cost of entry in today’s digital media circus against disturbing lessons from the classroom.
7–8:15 p.m. | UAS Egan Lecture Hall
Gloom and Doom: The Media’s Role in Public Disengagement on Climate Change — with Elizabeth Arnold
It’s really bad. It’s really really, bad. — Repetition of a narrow narrative that focuses exclusively on the impacts of climate change leaves the public with an overall sense of powerlessness. Arnold addresses this problem after studying five years of national media coverage of climate change in the Arctic, and argues for journalism that provides a more representative view of the challenges posed by a warming climate — reporting that includes responses and innovation, adaptation and resilience.
Saturday, March 30
10–11 a.m. | UAS Egan Lecture Hall
Deflecting Digital Disinformation: The Inoculating Influence of Procedural News Knowledge — with Erik Bucy
This talk reviews the importance of mainstream media knowledge and its use as a bulwark against, and inoculating influence on, the digital disinformation that is polluting the world’s media systems. Most media literacy efforts promise too much and deliver too little. Focusing on this teachable resource can give educators and policy makers a useful tool in combating the rising tide of fake news and propaganda that is choking and confusing democratic discourse.
11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. | UAS Egan Lecture Hall
Trolls, Sockpuppets, and Bots, Oh My! How Political Campaigns Have Dealt with Fake News and Propaganda Efforts — with Jessica Baldwin-Philippi
In the aftermath of the 2016 election, pundits’ and journalists’ debriefings of why Trump won and why Clinton lost have taken on a variety of topics, from claims about Clinton’s campaign being too data driven and not message-focused, to post hoc revisions of Trump’s digital prowess. The most enduring and continually returned-to retrospective has been the story of Russia-sponsored propaganda efforts led by sock puppets and bot armies. While propaganda efforts and cyber security remain necessary areas of focus, they are, in many ways, an extension of practices that digital campaigns have been dealing with for years. This talk will discuss the longer histories of trolling, sock puppets, and bots in campaign communication and internet culture, that can contextualize 2016, as well as our current political moment looking ahead to 2020.
1–2 p.m. | UAS Egan Lecture Hall
Balance in a Bonkers World. The Imperative for a Solutions-Based Approach to Environmental Reporting — with Tafline Laylin
The media is desperately in need of a reboot, especially where environmental reporting is concerned. Every day the science becomes more clear: our planet — and all of its inhabitants — face extreme peril. Humanity’s continued existence is no longer guaranteed, and yet our global attention is consistently hijacked by shallow, inflammatory discourse. With 10 years of covering environmental news behind her, Tafline Laylin argues that journalists have a duty to present solutions to the myriad challenges we have created. Beyond bombastic headlines about the latest natural disaster, which often paralyze the reader’s ability to act, we need to outline the path to constructive, regenerative change — and get back to balance in this bonkers world.
2:15-3:15 p.m. | UAS Egan Lecture Hall
Ownership, Markets and Journalism Quality — with Stephen Lacy
More than a dozen studies during the past three decades have found that circulation, audience, and profit are positively related to the quality of an outlet’s journalism, as defined by professional standards and consumer demand. Many factors go into shaping journalism quality, but key in this process are the resources invested in a newsroom. These resources depend on the strategies pursued by the journalism organization and the market factors (competition and demand) that interact with those strategies. This presentation will examine how ownership, market forces and quality helped to shape current conditions in journalism and how they might influence the future of journalism.
3:30–4:30 p.m. | UAS Egan Lecture Hall
Panel Discussion led by Stephen Lacy
With all eight of our guest speakers again taking questions from the audience.
The JWAC/UAS World Affairs Forum is sponsored by UAS, AEL&P, Coeur Alaska Kensington Mine, Haight & Associates, Sealaska, and Wostmann & Associates, with support from KTOO, the Ramada by Wyndham hotel, and MRV Architects.
A full schedule and more information about each speaker are available at on the Juneau World Affairs Council website.