A Matter of Trust

Journalism, Democracy, and Truth

Developed by Cynthia Anderson with librarian consultants Jennifer Alvino and Laurie Carpenter

  • Where Are We, Anyway?
    Readings: Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 paired with Jill Lepore’s “Hard News: The State of Journalism” (newyorker.com, January 28, 2019)
  • More Than Fun and Games
    Readings: Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death paired with David Puttnam’s TED Talk (‘Duty of Care’ in the Media) and Tim Groseclose’s Q&A on freakonomics.com (August 8, 2011)
  • How Best To Tell the Story?
    Readings: Joe Sacco’s Palestine paired with “The Lost Meaning of Objectivity” by Walter Dean (americanpressinstitute.org, October 9, 2013)
  • Strange, and Stranger Still…
    Readings: Orson Welles’s original broadcast of “War of the Worlds” and A. Brad Schwartz’s Broadcast Hysteria: Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds and the Art of Fake News paired with “Confessions of a Fake News Writer” (Winston Wordsworth, medium.com, Sept 26, 2018) and Billy Baker’s Boston Globe profile of Christopher Blair (April 17, 2019).
  • What Should We Put in the GPS?
    Readings: Colson Whitehead’s John Henry Days paired with Mark Zuckerberg’s “Building Global Community”, in tandem with Adrienne LaFrance’s “The Mark Zuckerberg Manifesto Is a Blueprint for Destroying Journalism” (atlantic.com, February 17, 2017); “Journalism Isn’t Dying. It’s Returning to Its Roots,” by Antonio Garcia Martinez (wired.com, February 10, 2019); and Christiane Amanpour’s “No Free Press, No Democracy” (cnn.com, November 14, 2017).


Series Description

News anchor Walter Cronkite once said “journalism is what we need to make democracy work.” Toward the end of his life, ‘the most trusted man in America’ protested rising corporate control over newsgathering and its veer towards entertainment.

That was over a decade ago. Since then, concerns about journalism have only multiplied. And yet—online or on the page a good hook still pulls readers into the heart of a story. The best newscasters instill confidence. And we keep looking to journalism in its 21st-century array of forms to help us understand the world.

In this series we’ll examine books and supplements that address matters of reliability, deception, and journalism’s place in a democracy. We’ll look, too, at how journalism has changed and where it might go. During this series we’ll sample fiction and nonfiction books, magazine articles, a TED talk, a radio broadcast, and online essays. We designed the series to foster conversation and avoid polemics. Works of past decades describe what’s come before, while current writings show where we are. At the heart of our inquiry is the question of how (and how much) journalism matters to American democracy now.

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