Free and open media is often cited as a fundamental prerequisite, or even the Fourth Estate, for a democratic society. This symposium will explore whether today’s media still operates as a gatekeeper of truth in a way that delivers factual information necessary to maintain an informed citizenry, and therefore, a just and functional democracy. With the emergence of rampant allegations of “fake news” and “alternative facts” from parties on the right and the left, one is left to wonder if the truth is, in fact, still really out there, and if so, how one discerns fact from fiction. What are the ramifications of public trust in media being at an all-time low? To what extent has social media compounded the problem with the creation of digital echo chambers? Is there a way past the tribalization of news purveyors and their respective consumers? that could help society move past such polarization? Our moderators will explore the functionality of media today with respect to discovering the truth and learning to understand the challenges we face from a multitude of perspectives.
Gillian Tett serves as U.S. managing editor at the Financial Times where she writes weekly columns covering a range of economic, financial, political, and social issues from across the globe. Tett’s current research centers on the polarization of media, which she analyzes through her dual lenses as both a media expert and cultural anthropologist. Previous roles at the Financial Times include capital markets editor, and deputy editor of the Lex column. In 2014, Tett was named “Columnist of the Year” in the British Press Awards. She also received the 2014 Royal Anthropological Institute Marsh Award, which recognizes an individual who works outside academia and has used anthropology or anthropological ideas to contribute to a better understanding of the world’s problems. Tett is the author of New York Times bestsellers, “The Silo Effect” and “Fool’s Gold.”
Stephen Coll is dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, staff writer at The New Yorker, the author of seven books of nonfiction, and a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Between 1985 and 2005, he was a reporter, foreign correspondent and senior editor at the Washington Post. There he covered Wall Street, served as the paper’s South Asia correspondent in New Delhi, and was the Post’s first international investigative correspondent, based in London. He served as managing editor of the Post between 1998 and 2004. The following year, he joined The New Yorker, where he has written on international politics, American politics and national security, intelligence controversies and the media. Coll is the author of New York Times bestsellers, “Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001” and “Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power.”