Published May 12, 2021

How do you read, hear, or view the news? How do you learn about local, regional, or state government policies and actions? Where do you find sports scores? Arts listings? How can you tell the difference between informed journalism and opinion columns?

A forthcoming virtual event, The Future of Journalism, the Fate of Democracy, scheduled for June 8 at 7 PM ET, features nationally-recognized journalists and scholars—Penny Abernathy, Greg Moore, Karen Rundlet, and Margaret Sullivan—in conversation with Phoebe Stein, director of the Federation of State Humanities Councils about these questions.

The challenges facing journalism have been widely reported: local newspaper deserts; media literacy including news vs. opinion, misinformation, and disinformation; consolidation of the industry combined with loss of advertisers and subscribers, and the impact all of this has on an operating democracy. The speakers will share their experiences and scholarship as they explore what those challenges mean to each of us, in our efforts to be fully informed and engaged in our democracy at large and in our local communities.

“We’re going to see all kinds of models of newspapers, because we’re going to need to. But what I hope everybody recognizes is the value of the newspaper has always been its newsroom.”

Besty Edwards, executive director, Virginia Press Association

Related Programming

In December 2020, as part of this initiative, Virginia Festival of the Book presented journalism scholar Alissa V. Richardson, author of Bearing Witness While Black: African Americans, Smartphones and the New Protest #Journalism, in public conversation with UVA media studies professor Meredith Clark. CLICK HERE to watch the event or read a transcript.

With Good Reason radio produced a March 14, 2020, show on “Hard News,” featuring interviews with Betsy Edwards (executive director of the Virginia Press Association), Katrice Hardy (executive editor of the Greenville News and the South Regional Editor for USA Today Network), Lewis Raven Wallace (independent journalist and author of The View from Somewhere: Undoing the Myth of Journalistic Objectivity), and Chris Tyree (director of the Virginia Center for Investigative Journalism). CLICK HERE to learn more and listen to these interviews. 

In October 2018, the Virginia Center for the Book presented journalists and authors Monica Hesse (The Washington Post and author of American Fire), Beth Macy (The Roanoke Times and author of Dopesick), and Eric Eyre (Charleston Gazette-Mail) in a discussion of important issues impacting communities nationwide—including the opioids crisis and the effects of economic decline on rural communities—and the vital role of local journalism to an informed citizenry. CLICK HERE to watch the event.

A sample of programs offered by other state humanities councils includes:

Media literacy: Georgia Humanities, Media Literacy Guide; Ohio Humanities, “media literacy is understanding where information originates, the ways in which information can be manipulated, and the motivations prompting what is being shared.”
Access to journalism, access to power: Alabama Humanities, Humanities and the Future of Journalism in Rural Alabama; Illinois Humanities, Country and City: People, Places and Power; Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, programs to “explore the relationship between the media and African American/Afro Creole experiences of citizenship and civil rights in Louisiana.” 
Training future journalists: California Humanities, The Democracy and the Informed Citizen Emerging Journalist Fellowships. 
Training future citizens: DC Humanities; programs for DC students aged 12-18 that “examine the connections between democracy, the humanities, and journalism;” Delaware Humanities, A Matter of Facts; New Hampshire Humanities; “a new series of programming that explores the relationship between democracy and journalism” including newsroom tours and public forums with local journalists. 
The Media’s role and the citizen’s role in the community: Connecticut Humanities, “public discussions to explore the media’s role in shaping people’s views” about critical issues, both historically and today; Oregon Humanities, “a series of conversations about the essential elements of what it means to be a democratic citizen in the United States today.”

CLICK HERE for more information about our work with the Democracy and the Informed Citizen initiative.

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