As the country examines the tone of political dialogue, the National Constitution Center presents an interactive, interdisciplinary forum titled “Can We Talk? A Conversation about Civility and Democracy in America.” The forum explores the current state of public discourse and the issue of civility in the context of the roles that dissent and protest play in American politics.
Participants, drawn from such fields as history, political philosophy, political science, law, sociology, journalism, and communications discussed key themes such as the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, the concept of civic virtue, the importance of dissent and deliberation in America’s constitutional democracy, and the ways in which political actors and the media can contribute to or detract from productive public discourse.
In this excerpt from the Can We Talk: Media and Communications breakout session, participants discuss how media can do a better job informing citizens. Specific questions addressed include: How has the internet changed the way in which citizens can critique the media? Is the media’s job to inform or engage viewers? Is media programming politically bias? Is Sesame Street good for kids?
Participants include: J. Michael Hogan, Liberal Arts Research Professor and Co-Director, Center for Democratic Deliberation, Pennsylvania State University (moderator); Tony Blankley, Executive Vice President, Global Affairs, Edelman; Mona Charen, syndicated columnist; Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Elizabeth Ware Packard Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School of Communication and Walter & Leonore Annenberg Director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, University of Pennsylvania; Tanya Hamilton, film director and writer; Richard Kilberg, President, Fred Friendly Seminars; Lynn Novick, documentary filmmaker, Florentine Films; Siobhan Reardon, President & Director, Free Library of Philadelphia; Michael Schudson, Professor, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
The symposium was supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Bridging Cultures program, which awarded grants in August 2010 for a series of national conversations on civility. The Center’s conference was the culminating event of the series. PBS was the official media partner.