Calling BS: Navigating the New Norms of Media and Democracy

TUE, MAR 21, 2023

According to philosopher Harry Frankfurt, to bullshit is to speak with indifference to the truth. Bullshitters speak carelessly: they ignore the demand that typical speech be both accurate and sincere. Bullshit is produced without concern for the truth at all, and is thus perhaps a “greater enemy of the truth than lies.” Finding a media ecosystem saturated with bullshit, many people seem to respond with a confusing mix of distrust and skepticism on the one hand, and gullibility and credulity on the other. Caught in the middle of this predicament are journalists, researchers, communication specialists, social media platform workers, and other practitioners whose daily activity involves the careful work of investigating, judging, communicating, and synthesizing information with the public in mind. What sorts of dilemmas does this work involve? What sorts of trade offs might there be? How does one speak the truth to a suspicious public? What impact does this have on the health of our democracy?

Join us as our expert panel will help us understand more about the choices made in a media environment where trust and attention are both in short supply.

This talk is presented in partnership with Ford Hall Forum, The Washington Center, and Suffolk Political Science and Legal Studies Department and Suffolk University Department of Philosophy and the Program in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics.

+ BIO: Phillip Martin

Phillip Martin, senior investigative reporter for The WGBH News Center for Investigative Reporting, is a multi-award winning journalist. Honors include the 2019 National Edward R. Murrow Award for Investigative Reporting, the National Society of Professional Journalists 2017 Sigma Delta Chi award for Best Investigative Reporting and the 2014 national Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Investigative Reporting. He is also the recipient of the 2013 New York Festivals Gold Award and the 2013 United Nations UNDPI Gold Award. He was part of a team of reporters that was honored in 2002 with a George Foster Peabody Award to NPR for coverage of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. He has received numerous other journalism and civic engagement honors over the course of his career including AP, NABJ, regional Edward R. Murrow, AAJA, Rueban Salazar, Gabriel, Prized Pieces, PRNDI, Harry Chapin and Clarion awards. WGBH also awarded Phillip one of its highest honors, the Margret and Hans Rey Producer of the Year Award (2011-2012).

Phillip was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and most recently a Pulitzer-Center grantee (2018). He has also received fellowships from the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), the U.S. Japan Media Foundation, the German Marshall Fund, the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism and the Poynter Institute. He is the recipient of two major Ford Foundation grants and reporting grants from the Fund for Investigative Journalism and the Paul Robeson Fund. Phillip earned a master’s degree in law and diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and studied international protection of human rights law at Harvard Law School as well as journalism at the University of California at Berkeley in the Program for Minority Journalists.

Phillip hosted the highly praised podcast, Heat and Light, produced by The Conversation about key events that shaped the year 1998. He worked as a supervising senior editor for NPR from 2003 to 2006 and was NPR’s first national race-relations correspondent from 1998 to 2001. He was executive producer for Lifted Veils Productions, a nonprofit public radio journalism project that he developed “dedicated to exploring issues that divide and unite society”. His Color Initiative, an occasional series of reports about the global impact of skin color, aired on The World from 2007 to 2010.

He is a contributing reporter to PRI’s The World, a co-production of WGBH, the BBC, PRX and PRI; a program, which he helped develop as a senior producer in 1995 and Phillip is an advisory board member for the Groundtruth Project and the Economic Hardship Project.

+ BIO: Jonas Kaiser

Dr. Jonas Kaiser is an Assistant Professor for Communication, Journalism, and Media at Suffolk University, Faculty Associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, and inaugural member of the Spotify Safety Advisory Council. At BKC, Jonas heads the Misinformation Working Group. His research is located at the intersection of political communication, digital journalism, and computational methods. Jonas has published on far-right extremism, content moderation, science misinformation, algorithmic recommendation systems, and bot detection.

His work has been published in journals like Digital Journalism, PLOS ONE or International Journal of Communication and has been featured in German as well as U.S. news media like Süddeutsche Zeitung or The New York Times.

+ BIO: Tina Zournatzi

Tina Zournatzi is currently Head of Unit for Communication at the European Commission’s Directorate General for Migration and Home Affairs where she leads the press and communication work in the areas of migration, security and borders. Before that, she headed the Strategic Communication unit in the European Commission overseeing corporate communication campaigns at pan-European level, while also spearheading the Commission’s strategic communications response to disinformation.

In the past, she has worked in different policy areas of the European Commission: sustainable fisheries and maritime affairs, small business policy and entrepreneurship, employment and social affairs. Before joining the European institutions, she was a consultant in corporate social responsibility in Brussels. She started her career in the United Nations working in development in central Africa.

+ BIO: Rachel McKinney

Dr. Rachel McKinney is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Acting Director of the Program in Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Suffolk University.

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