What Should We Be Worried About?: Information and Media in the Trump Era

Start Time: 

Friday, March 31, 2017 - 1:15pm

Location: 

Carroll Hall 111

“What Should We Be Worried About?: Information and Media in the Trump Era,” a half-day conference scheduled for March 31 at UNC-Chapel Hill, will bring together prominent scholars and practitioners to help differentiate what is normal in the context of partisan politics and the historical workings of U.S. democracy from what is unprecedented during our current moment.

The UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS) and the UNC School of Media and Journalism are co-sponsoring the event, which will be held from 1:15-5:15 p.m. in Carroll Hall 111. The conference will close with the 2017 OCLC/Frederick G. Kilgour Lecture, delivered by political scientist, media critic, and Dartmouth College professor Brendan Nyhan.

The conference and lecture are free and open to the public. Visit the Facebook event page.

Confirmed speakers include Christopher Bail (sociology, Duke), Deen Freelon (communication, American University), Zeynep Tufekci (information and library science, UNC), Dave Karpf (media and public affairs, George Washington University), Tressie McMillian-Cottom (sociology, Virginia Commonwealth University), and Alison Schary (Online News Association).

Background on the conference

The first weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency have been tumultuous. The president and his team have launched almost daily attacks on journalism outlets ranging from CNN to The New York Times, branding them as “fake news.”

Journalists, social scientists, and critics, meanwhile, have pointed to numerous instances of the president and administration figures referencing everything from fake terror incidents to inaccurate statistics about the American economy. In this context, there is widespread concern about the democratic consequences of citizens being routinely and systematically exposed to misinformation and falsehoods. At the same time, reports have suggested the possibility of losses in governmental science and data.

All of this is taking shape against the backdrop of widespread partisan polarization, steep declines in citizen trust of journalists, persistent unease about the prevalence and impact of fake news on the polity, rise of new Internet-only ideological and identity-based media outlets, and fears over the future production of and access to public records and governmental data.

This half-day conference will bring together a number of leading scholars and practitioners to take up the broad question of “What should we be worried about?” from the perspective of democracy in the Trump era. Our speakers will address a number of pressing issues ranging from the status of the press and public records, prevalence of fake news and information, and rise in partisanship, to changes in public discourse, civil society, and social movements.