Democracy and the Informed Citizen

What does it mean to be an informed citizen in this brave new world of sound bites, memes, and bots that generate false information? What information should be trusted?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Democracy and the Informed Citizen

Once upon a time, being an informed citizen meant knowing the functions of the three branches of government, reading the newspaper, understanding the issues, and voting. Government class was required for graduating from high school. If Walter Cronkite delivered a story about the Vietnam War, he could be trusted to get it right.

Now it seems we are continually navigating a world of post-truth and alternative facts. Legacy media is under attack. Opinion masquerades as fact. The internet, working to consume our attention and time, delivers news with dizzying speed. What does it mean to be an informed citizen in this brave new world of sound bites, memes, and bots that generate false information? What information should be trusted?

With a grant from the Mellon Foundation, the Federation of State Humanities Councils has set out to answer these questions with a nationwide project in which all 56 state humanities councils are exploring what it means to be an informed citizen in a democracy. In Ohio, we’re tackling the issue of media literacy. Simply put, media literacy is understanding where information originates, the ways in which information can be manipulated, and the motivations prompting what is being shared. In the basic formula for news reporting, writers reveal who, what, where, and why. It seems to me “why” is now the most important part of that equation.

In two issues of Pathways magazine and this series of podcasts and vlogs, we’ll be presenting articles by journalists and scholars who daily grapple with fact versus fiction, confront attacks on their professional integrity, and in some cases, suffer bodily threat to bring us the information we need to be informed citizens.


Real Issues, Real Conversations: The Public Media Landscape

Join a conversation between Ohio Humanities Executive Director, Pat Williamsen, General Manager of WOSU (Columbus, Ohio) Tom Rieland, and General Manager of WYSO (Yellow Springs, Ohio) Neenah Ellis. Listen as the discuss the role of public media to inform the public and represent the community.


Real Issues, Real Conversations: What is Media Literacy?

Join a conversation between Ohio Humanities Executive Director, Pat Williamsen, Editor of the Columbus Dispatch, Alan Miller, and Executive Director of the Ohio News Media Association, Dennis Hetzel. They’ll investigate what it means to be an informed citizen and how news organizations serve their communities to counteract “fake news.”


Real Issues, Real Conversations: The Problem of News Deserts

Join a conversation between Ohio Humanities Executive Director, Pat Williamsen, Editor of the Columbus Dispatch, Alan Miller, and Executive Director of the Ohio News Network, Dennis Hetzel. They talk about news deserts and what the lack of local reporting means for smaller communities.


What is Double Speak?

Jeff Blevins, Head of the Journalism Department and Associate Professor at the University of Cincinnati, defines important language used in the new journalistic media landscape. Here, he explains the origins and use of the term “double speak” and how it relates to our current media landscape.


What is Epistemology?

Jeff Blevins, Head of the Journalism Department and Associate Professor at the University of Cincinnati defines important language used in the new journalistic media landscape. Here, he defines the term “epistemology” and how it relates to our current media landscape.


What is a ‘bot’?

Jeff Blevins, Head of the Journalism Department and Associate Professor at the University of Cincinnati, defines important language used in the new journalistic media landscape. Here, he explains for us the term “‘bot” (or “robot”) and how it relates to our current media landscape.


How do we deal with fake news?

Jeff Blevins, Head of the Journalism Department and Associate Professor at the University of Cincinnati, defines important language used in the new journalistic media landscape. Here, he provides suggestions for how we can navigate the news landscape, while honoring freedom of the press.


Media as an Enterprise

Join Ric Sheffield, Professor of Social Studies and Legal Studies & Director of Kenyon’s Law and Society Program, as he speaks to why the media reports what it does. What does the media include, what populations does it exclude?


Elements of Style: Writing the News

Tom Borgerding shares tips for identifying what’s newsworthy from 30-plus years in the trade. Listen to this excerpt from a conversation on the news and what makes a good story. This is part of The Ohio Humanities Council’s initiative “Democracy and the Informed Citizen.”


Navigating a Media Landscape Where Everyone’s a Journalist

“In an age of snappy Facebook posts, 280-character tweets and self-promoting ideological blogs, everyone, literally, can aspire to be a critic – or a reporter.” Follow as journalist and professor, Marilyn Greenwald, gives us the tools to find truth in our news sources.


Artifacts from Ohio-born Journalist, Donn Piatt

Donn Piatt lived in West Liberty, Ohio for much of his life. Artifacts from his time as a journalist are safely stored in the Piatt Castles in West Liberty, Ohio. Descendant and Program Director of Piatt Castles, Margaret Piatt, shares some of these artifacts for Ohio Humanities’s Democracy and the Informed Citizen Initiative.


Donn Piatt & Freedom of the Press

The Ohio-Born journalist was known for explosive language and exposing corruption – as well as threats of violence from enraged readers. His descendant, Margaret Piatt, shares his legacy. Follow as Margaret walks us through Donn’s time as a journalist.


Cicero Dead! Fake News in Ancient Rome

Fake news and ancient Rome? Yes, that’s a thing. Historian Brendan McCarthy brings the story of Cicero, a man who all of Rome thought to be dead, to life.

With the story of Cicero, Dr. McCarthy shows how we can learn from the past to identify fake news in the present. To find the “truth,” he prescribes a steady diet of sources outside of the social media “bubbles” we create for ourselves.


Is the Press the Enemy?

Jim Robenalt, author and Attorney at Law, shows us the striking comparisons between the current Presidency of Donald Trump and the term of President Richard Nixon. Both presidents disdain and disdained the press, and Robenalt explains why.


It Can’t Happen Here, by Sinclair Lewis

Missy Ricksecker, Communications Director at the Ohio Humanities Council, reviews a 1935 classic, that’s experiencing a sudden rise in popularity today.


Overload: Finding the Truth in Today’s Deluge of News, by Bob Schieffer

David Merkowitz, Assistant Director at the Ohio Humanities Council reviews a seasoned reporter’s take on the current media landscape.


 

          Featured Videos

With a grant from the Mellon Foundation, the Federation of State Humanities Councils has set out to answer these questions with a nationwide project in which all 56 state humanities councils are exploring what it means to be an informed citizen in a democracy. In Ohio, we’re tackling the issue of media literacy.