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

The UNC School of Information and Library Science and the UNC School of Media and Journalism co-sponsored a half-day conference titled, “What Should We Be Worried About?: Information and Media in the Trump Era,” on March 31, 2017. The conference closed with the 2017 OCLC/Frederick G. Kilgour Lecture, delivered by political scientist, media critic, and Dartmouth College professor Brendan Nyhan.

Flip through some conference highlights at https://storify.com/uncsils/infoworriesunc or on Twitter at #infoworriesUNC


Welcome and Opening Remarks

Susan King
Dean and John Thomas Kerr Distinguished Professor
School of Media and Journalism
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Gary Marchionini
Dean and Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor
School of Information and Library Science
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Social and Political Dynamics in the Trump Age
(1:30 - 2:45 pm)
Christopher Bail
Tressie McMillian Cottom
Deen Freelon
Dave Karpf
Zeynep Tufekci

Role of Information, Journalism and Public Records in the Trump Era
(2:45 - 4:00 pm)
Renée Bosman
Stephanie Willen Brown
Cal Lee
Alison Schary

2017 OCLC/ Frederick G. Kilgour Lecture
(4:00 - 5:15 pm)
“Factual Echo Chambers? Fact-checking and Fake News in Election 2016”
Brendan Nyhan
Professor of Government
Dartmouth College

Please join us for a reception immediately following the lecture in the Halls of Fame Room.


Christopher Bail is the Douglas and Ellen Lowey Associate Professor of Sociology and Public Policy at Duke University. He studies how non-profit organizations and other political actors shape public discourse by analyzing large groups of texts from newspapers, television, public opinion surveys and social media sites.

Renée Bosman is the Government Information Librarian at Davis Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and serves as the Regional Federal Depository Librarian for North Carolina. She provides leadership in various forums regarding the Federal Depository Library Program.

Stephanie Willen Brown is director of the Park Library at the UNC School of Media and Journalism. She helps students and faculty find useful scholarly resources for their research, guest lectures in classes throughout the School, and purchases journals, books and databases for the library.

Tressie McMillian Cottom is an assistant professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University and a faculty associate with Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. Her research focuses on race/class/gender, education and technology in the new economy.

Deen Freelon is an associate professor in the School of Communication at American University. His primary research interests lie in the changing relationships between technology and politics, and encompass the study of weblogs, online forums, social media and other forms of interactive media with political applications.

Dave Karpf is an associate professor at the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University. His work focuses on strategic communication practices of political associations in America, with a particular interest in internet-related strategies.

Christopher (Cal) Lee is a professor at the UNC School of Information and Library Science.  His research and teaching focus on the curation of digital collections, including electronic records management.

Alison Schary is a media lawyer in the Washington, D.C., office of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, where she represents and counsels clients on a wide range of issues in media and intellectual property law, including libel, privacy, copyright, news gathering and First Amendment matters, and serves as outside general counsel for the Online News Association.

Zeynep Tufekci is an associate professor at the UNC School of Information and Library Science with an affiliate appointment in the Department of Sociology. She is also a faculty associate at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Her research interests revolve around the intersection of technology and society.

Brendan Nyhan is a professor in the Department of Government at Dartmouth College. His research focuses on misperceptions about politics and health care. Before coming to Dartmouth, he was a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy Research at the University of Michigan. Nyhan has been a contributor to The New York Times website The Upshot since its launch in 2014.  He previously served a media critic for Columbia Journalism Review; co-edited Spinsanity, a non-partisan watchdog of political spin that was syndicated in Salon and the Philadelphia Inquirer; and co-authored All the President’s Spin, a New York Times bestseller that Amazon.com named one of the 10 best political books of 2004.


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.