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University of Wisconsin–Madison

2017 Conference

Truth, Trust and the future of journalism

The Center for Journalism Ethics’ annual conference brought together journalists, scholars and advocates to address critical issues facing journalism today:

  • Fake News
  • Conspiracy Theories
  • Disinformation
  • Public Mistrust
  • Possible solutions in what some are calling a “post-truth” era

Nearly 200 journalists, students, scholars and community members gathered to discuss how we have gotten to historically low levels of trust in news media and how we can ensure a free, courageous and responsible press in times of extreme partisanship.


8:15 Registration opens
8:50 Welcome and opening remarks from CJE director Katy Culver
9:00 Keynote conversation with Margaret Sullivan
10:00 Panel: The Responsibility & Challenge of Truth: Fact, Fiction and News
11:15 Panel: Blind Beliefs? Conspiracies, Hoaxes and Disinformation
12:15 Lunch
1:00 Small group discussion
2:00 Shadid Award for Journalism Ethics Winner Announcement
2:15 Panel: Where Do We Go From Here? Solutions in an Allegedly Post-Truth Era


Keynote speaker Margaret Sullivan

Margaret Sullivan is the media columnist for The Washington Post. Before joining The Post in 2016, she was The New York Times public editor, and previously, the chief editor of The Buffalo News, the largest news organization in upstate New York. She began at The News, her hometown paper, as a summer intern. She was a government reporter, metro columnist and city-desk editor. As top editor, she emphasized local enterprise reporting, diversified the 200-member newsroom staff, and established the paper’s first investigative team. While New York Times public editor, she successfully pressed for the strengthening of The Times’ guidelines on the use of anonymous sources. A graduate of Georgetown University and Northwestern University’s Medill School, she lives in Washington, D.C. She is a former member of the Pulitzer Prize Board and was twice elected as a director of the American Society of News Editors, where she led the First Amendment committee.  Sullivan has taught in the graduate schools of journalism at Columbia University and City University of New York. She is the mother of two children, now in their 20s, both working in public defense.

05/22/2015 BOSTON, MA Raney Aronson (cq), the new Executive Producer of FRONTLINE, poses for a portrait at the show’s offices in Boston. (Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)

Raney Aronson-Rath is the Executive Producer of FRONTLINE, PBS’ flagship investigative journalism series, and is a leading voice on the future of journalism. She has been internationally recognized for her work to expand FRONTLINE’s reporting capacity and reimagine the documentary form across multiple platforms. From the emergence of ISIS in Syria to the hidden history of the NFL and concussions to the secret reality of rape on the job for immigrant women, Aronson-Rath oversees FRONTLINE’s acclaimed reporting and directs the series’ evolution and editorial vision. She has developed and managed nearly 30 in-depth, cross-platform journalism partnerships with outlets including ProPublica, The New York Times and Univision. Under her leadership, FRONTLINE has won every major award in broadcast journalism and dramatically expanded its digital footprint. Prior to FRONTLINE, Aronson-Rath worked at ABC News, The Wall Street Journal and MSNBC. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her master’s from Columbia Journalism School.

Ken Vogel

Ken Vogel is the chief investigative reporter for POLITICO. He is the author of “Big Money: 2.5 Billion Dollars, One Suspicious Vehicle, and a Pimp—on the Trail of the Ultra-Rich Hijacking American Politics,” which chronicles the characters and motivations behind the explosion of unlimited money in politics after the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision. He has covered politics and government at all levels, from small-town cop shops and school boards to statehouses, Congress and the presidential campaign trail. Before joining POLITICO prior to its 2007 launch, Vogel reported for The News Tribune in Tacoma, Washington, The Times Leader in Wilkes-Barre, Pensylvania, The Center for Public Integrity in Washington, D.C. and The Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut. He grew up in Philadelphia, graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and lives in Washington, DC.

Charles Sykes

Until he stepped down in December after 23 years, Charles Sykes was one of Wisconsin’s top-rated and most influential conservative talk show hosts. He is currently an MSNBC contributor and a co-host of the national public radio show, “Indivisible,” which originated from WNYC. He is an outspoken critic of the Trump Administration and of what he calls the conservative “alternative reality” media. Sykes is also author of eight books, including “A Nation of Victims,” “Dumbing Down Our Kids,” “Profscam,” “The Hollow Men,” “The End of Privacy,” “50 Rules Kids Won’t Learn in School,” “A Nation of Moochers” and “Fail U.: The False Promise of Higher Education.” He was co-editor of the National Review College Guide. He is currently working on a book titled “How the Right Lost Its Mind,” which will be published by St. Martin’s Press in October 2017. He is also the founder and editor in chief of the website Right Wisconsin. Sykes is a senior fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, where he is editor of the group’s magazine, “Wisconsin Interest.” He lives in Mequon, Wisconsin, with his wife and two dogs. He has three children and two grandchildren.

Michelle Ye He Lee

Michelle Ye Hee Lee is a reporter at The Washington Post. She writes for The Fact Checker column, digging for the truth beyond political rhetoric on the 2016 presidential campaign. Previously, Michelle was government accountability reporter on the investigative team at The Arizona Republic in Phoenix, Arizona. She is senior vice president of the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) and a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE).

Jill Giesler

Jill Geisler is the Bill Plante Chair in Leadership and Media Integrity at Loyola University Chicago. Previously, she spent 16 years guiding the leadership and management programs of the Poynter Institute. She is the author of the book “Work Happy: What Great Bosses Know,” writes a monthly management column for the Columbia Journalism Review, and produces the podcast: “Q&A: Leadership and Integrity in the Digital Age” on iTunes U. Her first podcast, “What Great Bosses Know,” has been downloaded millions of times and ranks in iTunes U’s top ten collections. Geisler’s first career was in broadcast journalism, as a reporter, anchor, and one of the first female TV news directors in the United States at WITI-TV in Milwaukee. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s in leadership studies from Duquesne University.

Stephen Ward

Stephen J. A. Ward is an internationally recognized media ethicist, author and educator. He is a distinguished lecturer in ethics at the University of British Columbia, Courtesy Professor at the University of Oregon, and the founding director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of several award-winning books, including “The Invention of Journalism Ethics,” “Global Journalism Ethics,” “Ethics and the Media: An Introduction” and “Global Media Ethics: Problems and Perspectives.” His most recent book, “Radical Media Ethics: A Global Approach,” won the 2016 Tankard Book Award.

Dawn Garcia

Dawn Garcia is Director of the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford University. Garcia helped transform the JSK Fellowships from a sabbatical model to one that challenges fellows to become innovative leaders and change agents to reinvent journalism. She began her career as a reporter and editor at West Coast newspapers, including the San Jose Mercury News and the San Francisco Chronicle. She has served on nonprofit boards championing First Amendment rights, women journalists and quality journalism education. She has a master’s degree in liberal arts from Stanford and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon.

Michael Wagner

Michael Wagner is associate professor and Louis A. Maier Faculty Development Fellow in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He directs the Physiology and Communication Effects Lab. He is affiliated with the Department of Political Science and the La Follette School of Public Affairs. He’s published more than 40 books, journal articles and book chapters in the areas of political communication, journalism, public opinion, and biology and politics, including the book, “Political Behavior of the American Electorate.” A former radio/television news reporter and anchor, Wagner is an award-winning teacher and adviser. He is the current Forum Editor for the journal Political Communication and a regular guest host on the local radio program, “A Public Affair.”

Joanne Miller

Joanne Miller is an associate professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota. She also has appointments in Psychology and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Her work, which has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts, centers on the psychological underpinnings of political attitudes and mass behavior. She is the recipient of three best paper awards from the American Political Science Association, including the Paul Lazarsfeld Award for the best paper delivered on a Political Communication panel. Her work has been published in journals such as the American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, Political Psychology, and Public Opinion Quarterly. Her most recent research, on the antecedents of conspiracy beliefs, has been featured in The New York Times, Salon, The Washington Post and The Atlantic.

Marty Kaiser

Marty Kaiser is a Senior Fellow for the Democracy Fund and journalism consultant. He specializes in leadership, digital innovation, ethics, investigative reporting and editing. He was Editor/Sr. Vice President of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel from 1997 to 2015. Under his leadership, the Journal Sentinel earned a national reputation for its journalism and digital innovation. Kaiser’s newsroom won three Pulitzer Prizes and was honored as a finalist six other times. In 2009, Editor & Publisher magazine named Kaiser Editor of the Year. He was president of the American Society of News Editors 2009-2010. In addition to the Journal Sentinel, he worked for the Baltimore Sun, Chicago Sun- Times and Florida newspapers in Sarasota and Clearwater. He earned his bachelor’s at The George Washington University and completed the Northwestern University Kellogg Graduate School of Management Executive Program.

Jason Stein

Jason Stein covers the state Capitol for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and is the author with his colleague Patrick Marley of “More than They Bargained For: Scott Walker, Unions and the Fight for Wisconsin.” His work has been recognized by such groups as the American Society of News Editors, the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, and the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors.

Lucas Graves

Lucas Graves is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. His research focuses on new organizations and practices in the emerging news ecosystem and more broadly on the challenges digital networks pose to established media and political institutions. His book “Deciding What’s True: The Rise of Political Fact- Checking in American Journalism” came out in 2016 from Columbia University Press. Graves is affiliated with UW’s Holtz Center for Science & Technology Studies and with the Center for Communication and Democracy. He has been a research fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C., and the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy at Columbia University in New York. His research has been supported by the American Press Institute, the Poynter Institute, the Duke Reporters’ Lab and the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

Deborah Blum

Deborah Blum is the director of the Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, the author of five books, and publisher of the digital science magazine, Undark. In addition to her book work, which includes The New York Times best-seller, “The Poisoner’s Handbook,” she’s written for publications including the Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, TIME, Discover and Scientific American. Before becoming KSJ director in 2015, she was the Helen Firstbrook Franklin Professor of Journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Jason Shepard

Jason M. Shepard, Ph.D., is a media law scholar, associate professor and chair of the Department of Communications at California State University, Fullerton, one of the largest mass communications programs in the United States. His research examines the role of the First Amendment in American democracy, journalism and culture, and he teaches courses in journalism and media law, history and ethics. Shepard’s journalism and media-law scholarship includes more than 60 publications and presentations. He is co-author of Major Principles of Media Law, an annually updated textbook published by Cengage. His first book, Privileging the Press: Confidential Sources, Journalism Ethics and the First Amendment, explored the history and ethics of journalists’ protection of confidential sources. He writes “Online Legalities,” a regular media law column for California Publisher. Shepard has a Ph.D. in mass communications, with a minor in law, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Shepard has two master’s degrees, in education (Pace University) and in journalism and mass communication (UW-Madison), and a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science (UW-Madison). Before academia, Shepard worked as an award-winning journalist in Wisconsin and for Teach For America in New York City.

location & parking

The 2017 conference was held at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery (WID) on the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison, Wisconsin.