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Lecture to address question of progressive bias in the media

Event brings together journalists, academics to discuss free speech, intellectual diversity in newsrooms today


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2022–23 Civic Discourse Project

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October 13, 2022

According to some national media commentators, there is a growing concern about the potential dangers posed by major media outlets which, they argue, are led by a progressive bias.

They refer to these newsrooms as “woke media" and increasingly voice their criticism about how left-leaning biases might create ideological conformity and represent threats to America’s democracy.

To address this controversial topic, the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University is hosting the lecture “Is the ‘Woke Newsroom’ a Danger to American Democracy?” at 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 24, at ASU’s Memorial Union Ventana BC room.

The event is part of the 2022–23 Civic Discourse Project lecture series and is co-sponsored by the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU. Registration is now open for in-person attendance, and a recording of the event will be available on the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership's YouTube channel.

During the lecture, Newsweek Deputy Opinion Editor Batya Ungar-Sargon, Washington Post Columnist Megan McArdle and University of Maryland Senior Lecturer Jason Nichols will discuss whether the so-called “woke newsroom" is a danger to American democracy.

The audience will hear from the three media representatives on whether the mainstream media produce ideological conformity. 

Before joining Newsweek, Ungar-Sargon was the opinion editor of the Forward. She has also written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Foreign Policy, Newsweek, the New York Review of Books Daily and other publications. She has appeared numerous times on MSNBC, NBC, the Brian Lehrer Show, NPR and other media outlets. She holds a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley.

McArdle, who covers the intersection between business, economics and public policy as a columnist at the Washington Post, will join Ungar-Sargon on stage. An early pioneer of internet journalism, McArdle’s work has appeared in numerous outlets, including The Economist, The Atlantic, Newsweek, Time, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Guardian and Reason magazine. McArdle has served as the Egan Visiting Professor at Duke's journalism school, a fellow of the Chicago Institute of Politics and a Bernard Schwartz Fellow at the New America Foundation. She is the author of "The Upside of Down: Why Failing Well is the Key to Success."

Finally, the conversation will be joined by Nichols, an award-winning full-time senior lecturer in the African American Studies Department at the University of Maryland College Park. Nichols was the longtime editor-in-chief of Words Beats & Life: The Global Journal of Hip-Hop Culture, the first peer-reviewed journal of hip-hop studies. He co-edited "La Verdad: An International Dialogue on Hip-Hop Latinidades" (Ohio State University Press). 

“We feel honored to host a panel discussion on this critical topic with some of the country’s most thoughtful and respected media critics,” said Paul Carrese, founding director of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership. “Our school is dedicated to the mission of defending free speech, intellectual diversity and the pursuit of truth on campus and in our society. The role of media organizations in creating ideological conformity and intellectual censorship is a growing concern among critics and political scientists.”

The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership combines liberal arts education with outside-the-classroom learning experiences to prepare students for leadership roles in the public and private sectors.

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