Can media elevate our public discourse? A dialogue with Indiana’s media leaders on restoring trust & transparency in our news

As part of Some Books Make us Free—our rare books and art exhibit on American citizenship deep cultural divisions create din partnership with the Sagamore Institute, the Harrison Center, and the Remnant Trust—we talked with some of Indiana’s foremost leaders in the media about the challenges facing citizens and members of our news establishment. Panelists included Nate Feltman from the Indianapolis Business Journal, Oseye Boyd from the Indianapolis Recorder, Dan Spehler from Fox 59, and Abdul-Hakim Shabazz from the popular radio show, Abdul at Large. I had the privileged of moderating the dialogue.

Enjoy a virtual tour of the exhibit, Some Books Make Us Free, Here.

Nate Feltman offered that it’s important to take a historical and a global perspective when it comes to the challenges with our democratized media culture today.

First, the historical perspective. Everyone has virtually unlimited access to information, and anyone with a smart phone and a twitter account can be a journalist. This democratization of information and access to news in real time is generally a positive trend. We no longer have gate keepers—the pope, a single media establishment, the government, as exists countries such as North Korea today—controlling what information we have and when.

Second, the global perspective. The democratization of information and access to the media has also promoted further freedom and democratization. The Arab Spring wouldn’t have happened without social media. There are countless other examples.

But, as well know, this democratic trend with our media and information culture isn’t all good. To combat the forces of tribadism and the reality of pervasive mis-information, our panelists had some astute suggestions.

Dan Spehler suggested reminded that with these new freedoms come new responsibilities. Dan suggested that consumers must take greater ownership over how they consume media, and what they consume. People like freedoms and rights more than they like responsibilities and duties, so the obligations we each have to steward our freedoms well when it comes to media consumption and promotion often gets lost in the conversation. But it’s more important than ever that media consumers to recognize the role we each play in elevating our public discourse and media culture through our everyday decisions.

Abdul-Hakim Shabazz gave us a fun example of a way that we can each be a part of a more rigorous and less harmful media culture. Abdul purposed the Tootsie Pop Rule that might help us better vet information sources ourselves, and ideally reduce the spread of misinformation.

Alexandra Hudson, an Indianapolis-based writer who has been published in TIME, The Wall Street Journal, Politico Magazine, and others outlets. She is the curator of A New American Renaissance, a monthly newsletter on social, moral and intellectual renewal, a 2019 Novak Fellow, and is currently writing a book on civility and civil society.