April 13, 2017 | 2 p.m.
By Monique Kleinhuizen ’08, GS’16, new media strategist
“No. It has not.”
Those were the only words on journalist Paul Glader’s second presentation slide after he took the podium at Bethel’s first Journalism Symposium on March 28. The first slide—and the question posed on campus posters and event promotion materials—read “Has truth been trumped?”
In an era when immediate social media banter surrounds every political speech or hasty tweet, what is the role of the press? How can journalists—especially those who profess to follow Christ—pursue truth, act ethically, and help equip an informed electorate? These are a few of the questions Glader addressed for the journalism students, professional journalists, alumni, and friends gathered in the Olson Boardroom.
He gave examples of clickbait-style headlines and ill-researched articles filling social media, such as “Pizzagate”—a conspiracy theory that falsely links Hillary Clinton to an alleged child-sex-trafficking ring operating out of a pizza parlor in Washington, D.C.—and controversy over the size of the crowd at President Donald Trump’s inauguration, to illustrate the pervasive nature of questionable news and the polarized reactions it elicits.
“We’re in a strange land here…some parts of our information economy are starting to resemble propaganda,” says Glader. “What is true anymore?”
In a recent survey, he noted, 74% of respondents agreed with the statement “You can’t believe much of what you hear from the mainstream media,” yet there doesn’t seem to be a clear definition of what “media” means. The New York Times and other major, reputable news outlets—which have seen an uptick in subscriptions in recent months—are viewed interchangeably with personal blogs and unapologetically slanted websites.
Glader pointed at the disparity between the number of self-described Christians in the country and the percentage pursuing media-related careers. He says that sometimes, religious communities are partially to blame for the seemingly Godless nature of our mainstream media, because they fear it and send messages to young people that creative careers aren’t valid.
“I don’t think that’s good for journalism,” Glader says. “I don’t think that’s good for the nation.”
It’s just one example of the stark differences between America’s geographical, religious, and ideological majorities and those who tend to cover them. Glader suggests that increasing diversity in newsrooms, integrating media literacy into school curriculum, and increasing coverage of “middle, rural, real America” will help reverse the disconnect and growing distrust of the media.
He also identified ways to increase dialogue and conversation on a personal level. On social media, for example, Glader used to worry when friends and family members on different ends of religious and political spectrums posted provocative articles and comment wars ensued. He feared losing friends or ruining relationships.
Now, Glader says, “I see myself as a convener…between people of different perspectives.” For journalists—and the general public—the responsible thing to do in our political climate is to create discussion and dialogue instead of jumping straight to debate and argument.
Glader is a former staff writer for The Wall Street Journal and has written for other prominent publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, TheNewYorker.com, The Indianapolis Star, The Associated Press, Der Spiegel Online, FastCompany.com, USA Today, and ESPN.com. He is an associate professor at The King’s College in New York City, where he teaches classes on writing, journalism, and business-related topics. He’s also director of the McCandlish Phillips Journalism Institute and the NYC Semester in Journalism program, where Bethel has a long-term partnership.
This event was the first of its kind but part of a regular lineup of panel discussions and classroom experiences that give students face-to-face exposure to some of the nation’s top journalists and media professionals. A main focus of the evening was showcasing student work with groups presenting on a school newspaper they created with students from Maxfield Elementary School, an Interim trip to Guatemala that resulted in a full-length magazine, video mini-documentaries, and community journalism projects. All of these efforts—and events like the Journalism Symposium—are undergirded by support from the Johnson Center for Journalism and Communication.