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Forum seeks public discussion on journalism, democracy

October 9, 2018

SCOTTSBLUFF — The media is a vital part of America’s democracy and is responsible for gathering and publishing or broadcasting news to the public. With the current state of our democracy, the role journalists and media outlets hold is changing. As a way to discuss this evolution and the future of journalism and democracy, the public is invited to partake in a conversation titled, “An Issue of Trust: Democracy and the Future of Journalism” at the Midwest Theater in Scottsbluff on Thursday, Oct. 18, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

“Are you concerned about the future of our democracy and are you concerned about the role journalism plays in a democracy?” asked Greg Awtry, publisher of the Scottsbluff Star-Herald. “If you’re concerned about either, circle your calendar and be there. We want to hear from you.”

The open forum provides a place for the public and media to discuss the direction of our democracy and journalism.

“Personally, I’m excited about it because it’s an opportunity for the public and press to get together and talk about the importance of and important role that journalism plays in keeping the public informed about the business of government,” said Michael Kennedy, communication and social sciences instructor at Chadron State College.

Consistent, fair, and balanced reporting provides news the public needs to know about from city hall to school board meetings that the public may not be able to attend regularly. Through this public service, we sustain an informed citizenry who can make decisions on who we elect to represent and advocate for community needs and how tax dollars are spent.

“Bosses here are not the president or the dog catcher,” said Kennedy. “They have a job because we said they can. Journalism’s function is to report on their actions and these are the things that the Founding Fathers understood, which is the reason why they gave the free press its freedom so that we can report to the public.”

The health of America’s democracy is intrinsically linked to an informed public, which comes from having a balanced and accurate understanding of the news. Reporters attend local meetings to provide the public with that information, but Kennedy noted that while people don’t like what they hear, it doesn’t mean the information is false.

From the democracy and journalism event the public and press will come together and be able to address the issue of trust. With the varying degrees to which media trust has eroded, through an open forum, the media and public can begin to rebuild the relationship necessary to maintain our strong community.

The public will have the opportunity to share their thoughts and hear from a panel of three journalists.

Charlie Brogan is a broadcaster at Alpha Media in Lincoln. He specializes in government and arts reporting on KFOR Radio. For his work, he received a National Press Club award, an Ohio State award for consumer reporting, an Arbor Day Foundation award for environmental reporting, and gold, silver and bronze awards in the yearly Nebraska Broadcasters Association reporting competition.

Clark Kauffman has been an investigative reporter and editorial writer at the Des Moines Register for 30 years. Throughout his career, he has received 20 first-place state press association awards. He was also named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. Kauffman is the keynote speaker for the event.

Anna Staver has spent her career in statehouses, courthouses, and public meetings in the west. She is a political reporter at The Denver Post and received a Heartland Emmy and awards from the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association.

The democracy and future of journalism discussion is part of a national initiative to deepen the public’s understanding of the vital role of journalism in democracy to maintain an informed citizenry.

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