Truth, Opinion, and the News Media

A five-part series of interactive discussions by W&L faculty, guest faculty, and alumni on the news media today, the evolution and diversity of its platforms, the rise of advocacy journalism, and the evolving role of journalists in the pursuit of truth.

Each session will be a Zoom webinar. All times are Eastern. You will receive a link to join the webinar after registering. We are asking that you submit questions beforehand through the registration page.

An image of televisions and monitors stacked on top of each other

The News Yesterday and Today

How Print and Television Journalism Is Changing – Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Alex Jones ’68, Director Emeritus of the Shorenstein Center on the Media, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University, will team up with W&L journalism professor Kevin Finch to discuss changes in the news media in recent decades. Drawing on his recent book, Losing the News: The Future of the News that Feeds Democracy, Jones will offer an overview of the evolution of print media, how the news media influence and are influenced by political agendas, and media ownership's potential for editorial influence on the information the public consumes. Prof. Finch will discuss the dramatic growth of television news; key factors, including economic models, in the development of broadcast news; the justification of FCC regulation; and a few examples of newsrooms "still doing it right."

An image of social media icons

Is Social Media News?

W&L journalism professor Mark Coddington will discuss the dramatic rise and impact of social media as a source of public information. Joining him for this discussion will be Kathy Lu ’97, digital and social media editor for America Amplified, and Tricia Coughlin Escobedo ’95, senior producer at CNN. Coddington will survey the immense variety of social media platforms, helping us appreciate how social media has transformed the information buffet that Americans consume daily. As a practitioner of social media, Lu will offer insights on the generation and dissemination of social media content, while Escobedo will review how more traditional news media mine and evaluate information produced by a veritable nation of reporters and opinion-makers on social media.

An image of lettered blocks spelling FAKE and FACT

Truth vs. Propaganda: Knowing the Difference and Why It Matters

A recent Washington Post editorial claimed “America is in crisis; we can’t agree on what’s true and what’s false anymore. Some ‘news sites’ are not merely alternative, they cloak themselves in the mantle of news while peddling deception.” Helping us weigh this familiar assertion will be Brian Murchison, Charles S. Rowe Professor of Law and Director of the Roger Mudd Center for Ethics at W&L; Aly Colon, Knight Professor of Ethics in Journalism; and John X. Miller ’77, '80L, senior editor at The Undefeated at ESPN. An expert on the First Amendment, Murchison will explore the competing values of freedom of speech and truth-telling as foundations of American democracy; Colon will consider the ethical questions haunting advocacy journalism; and Miller, former visiting journalism professor at W&L, will offer insights from his long career pursuing the truth as a newspaper editor and reporter.

An image of a press conference set up

Politics and the Press: Empowering and Trusting the Fourth Estate

How do political objectives depend on or threaten journalistic integrity? Historically, how truthful are U.S. presidents and members of Congress? How can the Press help to assure the integrity of our political leaders and institutions? For an examination of these timely questions, we’ll turn to W&L politics professor Brian Alexander, former Congressional Fellow; Tom Mattesky '74, veteran journalist and former deputy bureau chief of the DC office of CBS News; and Mary Kate Cary, senior fellow for presidential studies at the University of Virginia's Miller Center and a former White House speechwriter for President George H. W. Bush.

Image of Reid Hall

Is the Future Bright? Alumni Journalists on the Front Line

Dayo Abah, Chair of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communications, will moderate a concluding panel discussion with a new generation of alumni news media professionals. Together they’ll review several of the issues arising from our previous sessions, drawing upon their experience within their respective specialties. They’ll also look toward the future of the news media as communication platforms proliferate in supplying information vital to our American democracy. Panelists include Adam Cancryn ’10, reporter for Politico; Kinsey Grant ’17, business editor and podcast host at Morning Brew; and Ted Williams ’07, Founder and CEO of The Charlotte Agenda.