“Skeptical, Not Cynical” — Jelani Cobb

imgresHere is the complete audio from tonight’s talk at the New York Public Library, hosted by the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers and featuring New Yorker writer and Columbia prof Jelani Cobb.

Cobb’s focus this evening, the first of two lectures he will give this spring, was the importance of understanding and defending the First Amendment in a time of “alternative facts”, claims– and accusations– of “political correctness”, and the echo chamber of social media.

Cobb offered three big ideas to help guide response:

  1. Journalists need to fact check in real time, calling out false claims as they are made, not following up later with corrections or addenda.
  2. Journalists should show their work– allowing readers better access to sources or at least a better understanding of what these sources are. Anonymous voices are no longer an option. We need “a different kind of annotation”.
  3. Readers need to cultivate a higher degree of media literacy– do not believe everything you read, especially pieces that align perfectly with what you already believe.

Cobb closed the evening by telling the story of John Morse, a McCarthy-era Senator from Sacramento who ran for office “in direct response to what he had seen of McCarthy.” Morse would go on to champion what became known as the Freedom of Information Act.

Dark as these days seem, there may yet be positive developments and new safeguards that emerge.

This is the audio.