/English forum explores disillusion in media narratives

English forum explores disillusion in media narratives

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Lacey Alexander

Staff Writer

The English department hosted a forum joining in on the national discussion of trustworthiness in the media. 

Nearly 50 students and faculty were in attendance on Wednesday, Feb. 15, when the English department presented its 44th Forum on Language and Literature with a panel of professors from three departments.

English professors Patricia Waters, Festus Ndeh and Priya Menon joined political science professor Richard Ledet and music professor Bret Woods for a panel discussion on a multitude of topics.

The professors treated the forum as a panel, giving their own individual statements on issues and asking for questions from the audience of attending students and faculty.

The forums are organized by English professors Katona Weddle and Ben Robertson. Forums are typically presented three times a semester, ranging in topics from poetry to politics.

“The forums are designed to showcase some of the special talent we have in the English department,” Robertson said. “The point of the forums is to help with professional development and to share publicly the unique talents and skills of the English faculty.”

The forum focused on journalism and media in light of recent controversial statements by President Donald Trump and other government figureheads.

Early Wednesday, Trump tweeted “The fake news media is going crazy with their conspiracy theories and blind hatred. @MSNBC & @CNN are unwatchable. @foxandfriends is great!”

“(The speakers) basically talked about ‘alternative facts,’ ” said forum attendee Holly Scott, a sophomore multimedia journalism major from Panama City, Florida, “and how your mind perceives facts and beliefs as one thing sometimes.”

Patricia Waters, assistant professor of English, said the forum was important for professors to teach students how to navigate a large variety of news sources.

“To my mind, the purpose of this forum is to bring together these people to discuss very contemporary issues that impact our teaching and our scholarship,” Waters said. “How do we go out and teach students to discriminate between sources that are legitimate and sources that are not?”

Bret Woods, assistant professor of ethnomusicology, told the audience that information from people in power cannot always be trusted.

“In many cases, authority alone is used to legitimatize facts,” Woods said. “This creates a culture . . . that promotes authority rather than ideology.”

Speaking after Woods was Richard Ledet, assistant professor of political science. He echoed Woods’ statements and contributed his thoughts on the media.

“We can’t even trust our president to tell us the truth,” Ledet said.

Ledet offered the topic of tolerance in his speech, saying that tolerance, along with participating in voting and being educated, was crucial in being a democratic citizen.

“You’ve got to know, not just what the system looks like, but how it works,” Ledet said. “We have to extend our civil rights to others.”

Scott said she appreciated the speakers addressing the controversy surrounding the media.

“I think it’s just prevalent in our country today,” Scott said. “Everyone is just on edge about everything happening in the world . . . it’s good to have educated conversations about what we’re all thinking.”

Waters agreed that the forum discussion was necessary for a collegiate audience.

“It’s part of our civic dialogue; it’s what we need to be talking about as citizens,” Waters said.

The forum was held in the Smith building in Room 267 at 3:30 p.m., filled to near capacity.