Democracy and the Informed Citizen

Investigating the State of the Media

"Democracy and the Informed Citizen" examines the critical role of journalism and the power of the humanities to enrich understanding of local and national issues and inspire citizen engagement

SDHC is one of 49 humanities councils in the U.S. to receive local funding for the initiative, which was kicked off with a special event at the University of South Dakota April 26. 

Martin Baron, Washington Post Executive Editor, hosted a public forum at the Al Neuharth Media Center in Vermillion on Thursday, April 26, the first in a series of events SDHC is promoting and producing as part of the initiative. Baron, who received the 2017 Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in The Media from USD, said the questions raised by the initiative are both important and difficult to answer. 

Baron told audience members to avoid information sources that "pander" to audiences and to find publications that offer multiple perspectives. 

"If that's all they do is they're trying to reinforce your point of view, you should be highly suspicious of those news sources, because that's their purpose," he said. "Their purpose is just to tell you that you're right all the time."

"Democracy and the Informed Citizen" is funded as part of a national initiative supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils, according to the Federation.

"In 2016, as questions related to journalism and the media increased throughout the presidential campaign and in other events, the Federation and Pulitzer again collaborated to develop a new opportunity for programs designed to examine what it means to be an informed citizen in a democracy."

Sampling of 'Democracy and the Informed Citizen' Scholars:

  • Former AP Reporter Dirk Lammers: Just the
    Facts: Staying Informed in the Era of Social Media,
    "Fake News" and Clickbait
  • De Smet News Editor Dale Blegen: Democracy and
    the Informed Citizen
  • Journalism Professor Rocky Dailey - Democracy
    and the Informed Citizen: First Amendment
  • Many more in our Program Catalog
Martin Baron, Washington Post Executive Editor (left) discusses the state of news in 2018 with Gene Policinski of the Newseum Institute during a public forum at the University of South Dakota April 26.

Martin Baron, Washington Post Executive Editor (left), discusses the state of news in 2018 with Gene Policinski of the Newseum Institute during a public forum at the University of South Dakota April 26.

2018 Schedule of Events 

  • June 6-7: Reflective conversation facilitation training by Oregon Humanities at SDSU Journalism Department’s Yeager Hall in Brookings and K.O. Lee Aberdeen Public Library in Aberdeen for coordinators and scholars involved in “Information Literacy” forums.
  • June – September: Forums/Panels in South Dakota communities, Topical Speakers Bureau presentations, One Book South Dakota conversations (“Informing the News” book), Book Club to Go (“Overload” and “Losing the News” books) conversations
  • September 20 – 23: South Dakota Festival of Books – Sioux Falls & Brookings, featuring more than 50 authors in 100 events including events based on local forum consequential outcomes and several Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists or authors. Keynote address from One Book South Dakota author Thomas E. Patterson
  • October 1-7: National Newspaper Week – Potential branding in statewide newspapers - e.g. the blank front page campaign in 2017
  • October: Recognition of Native American journalists with special events on Native American Day

As part of a special partnership created to promote the initiative, SDHC and the South Dakota Newspaper Association will host a series of public forums focusing on public trust and the media. At least 10 South Dakota forums will feature experts on these topics, including Pulitzer Prize-winning authors or their work, current and former journalists, journalism professors and others.

In conjunction with this programming, groups around the state will read and discuss the 2018 One Book South Dakota, "Informing the News: The Need for Knowledge-Based Journalism" by Thomas E. Patterson.

Keynotes Featured in Programming Initiative

Working with SDNA, South Dakota Public Broadcasting and other academic and media partners, SDHC will produce keynote events featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning authors and journalists who will explain why critical thinking is so important in the 2018 media environment.

"The work that journalists do to provide news and information every day helps citizens make informed decisions and be more engaged in our democracy," said SDNA Executive Director David Bordewyk. "This is an essential role for newspapers and all news media in South Dakota."

Programming will explore "infoliteracy"—the skills needed to determine source quality, to recognize biases that can distort reporting, and to navigate the proliferating media available to consumers. SDHC will also host journalism and social media experts at the South Dakota Festival of Books in September, where Patterson will give a keynote lecture about his book. Closing events will focus on National Newspaper Week in October and recognition of Native American journalists with special events on Native American Day.

SDHC's "Book Club to Go" will also feature the One Book author and other selections relating to the theme. To ensure civil and productive discussion, SDHC will host a two-day training in facilitating reflective conversations. The Oregon Humanities Council, nationally known for training facilitators, will work with project scholars and coordinators from both North and South Dakota in early June.


Informing the News'

Anchoring the programming is the 2018 One Book South Dakota, which argues that deeply introspective, or "knowledge-based," reporting is crucial to the future of democracy and public information (read more on adjacent page). The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded $1.7 million to the Federation of State Humanities Councils in June for "Democracy and the Informed Citizen." The Federation, which facilitates programming for humanities councils around the U.S., invited councils to submit proposals for the program.

"This is a timely and worthwhile program," said Sherry DeBoer, SDHC executive director. "Once again, we thank The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their generous support of this initiative and the Pulitzer Prizes for their partnership."


ATTN to Media & Other Interested Organizations

Are you a reporter, editor, publisher, news director in South Dakota? Or an organization interested in contributing to informed citizenry in South Dakota? Please fill out the form below and join our partnership with the South Dakota Newspaper Association in "Democracy and the Informed Citizen," a statewide initiative created to educate our citizens on how to find accurate news in 2018.   

Fill out my online form.