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A conversation moderated by Floyd McKay

With journalism under increasing siege in the United States, two of its leading practitioners met in Orcas Center on July 28, 2017, to discuss “The Future of Journalism in a Post-Truth Environment.” Sponsored by Orcas Currents and moderated by Floyd McKay.

The promulgation of alternative facts, fake news, and blatant untruths via the Internet and social media, fanned by a new president with over 32 million Twitter followers, threatens to rend the shared fabric of authoritative, reliable information on which citizens and public officials depend to make good policy decisions. A seemingly unbridgeable partisan chasm has opened between Democrats and Republicans on many important issues. The nature of truth itself has been called into question.

As New York Times columnist Frank Bruni recently asked, “What happens to a democracy whose citizens not only lose common ground but also take a match to the idea of a common reality.”

Smith and Stillman discussed responses to these troubling trends in this public conversation. Listeners learned their perspectives on what has been happening in this “post-truth” environment, whether they see hopeful trends emerging in journalism, and what they suggest in the way of solutions. What attitudes, approaches, and methods can reinvigorate investigative journalism in America?

Winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and Emmy Awards, part-time Orcas Islander Hedrick Smith served as The New York Times Moscow Bureau Chief from 1971 to 1974 and as its Washington Bureau Chief and Chief Correspondent from 1976 to1982. He is the author of five books, including his most recent bestseller, Who Stole the American Dream? In 1989 he began producing television documentaries for the Public Broadcasting System, including two that won Emmy Awards.

Sarah Stillman has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 2013, publishing long-form articles about social injustice. She directs the Global Migration Program at the Columbia School of Journalism and teaches literary nonfiction writing at Yale. She has received numerous awards and prizes for her work, including a National Magazine Award. In 2016 she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship.

Floyd McKay served as a professor of journalism at Western Washington University from 1990 to 2004, including as department chair. Before that he spent three decades as a reporter in Oregon, which work is recounted in his new book, Reporting the Oregon Story. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and received the Dupont-Columbia Broadcast Award.


This event was cosponsored by Janet Alderton, Joe Cohen and Martha Farish, and Frank Greer and Stephanie Solien. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.