Journalists will share their insights as part of UM’s Democracy in Crisis series



As law enforcement and a congressional committee work to investigate the January 6, 2021 attacks on the Capitol — political violence aimed at blocking or nullifying the results of the 2020 presidential election — a wave of Subsequent efforts seek to undermine the norms and structures that have given Americans fundamental confidence in elections and the peaceful transfer of power.

Meanwhile, from state houses to the Supreme Court, bitter debates rage over voting rights, access and security.

The University of Michigan will host four award-winning journalists who will share their insights into the forces that threaten and protect democratic structures and systems. The series is a partnership between the Ford School of Public Policy, Wallace House, and UM Democracy & Debate 2021-22, co-organized by the Gerald R. Ford Library and Museum and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation.

The Democracy in Crisis series will also explore the current state of journalism and the role of the press in maintaining democratic institutions – in a time of demagogic attacks on the media and dramatic shifts in media ownership and independence.

“Here in the United States, and in many countries around the world, democracy is under threat and journalists are rising to raise the alarm. This series will help our community and the general public understand what is at stake and what they can do about it,” said Ford School dean Michael Barr.

Anne Curzan, Dean of UM’s College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences, said “strong, free, and open ethical journalism is essential to a well-functioning democracy.” The series, she adds, provides an opportunity to learn more about the state of American democracy as well as “the state of political journalism from an insider’s perspective.”

“Dimishing the role and work of journalists is a key tactic to undermine democracies,” she said. “Giving visibility to the work of journalists is a necessary antidote to these efforts. We look forward to giving our community a chance to engage with these experienced journalists in a way that cuts through the noise to spark thoughtful civic engagement.

The series begins with three events:

  • March 9: Time magazine’s Molly Ball, interviewed by veteran political journalist Craig Gilbert.
  • March 23: Barton Gellman, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of The Atlantic, moderated by Barbara McQuade, Professor of Practice at Michigan Law School.
  • March 31: Sarah Kendzior, author of “Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America,” in conversation with Ford School lecturer Jonathan Hanson.
  • April 4: Anne Applebaum will close the series with a keynote at the Michigan League. Author of “Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism”, she was named one of the “50 Best Thinkers of the COVID-19 Era” by Prospect magazine. Barr will moderate the session.

The Ford School events page has details of the talks, all of which will be streamed and some of which will also include in-person participation.


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