Journalists to share insights as part of U-M’s Democracy in Crisis series

February 28, 2022
Written By:
Daniel Rivkin


While law enforcement agencies and a Congressional committee work to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, attacks on the Capitol—political violence aimed at blocking or overturning the results of the 2020 presidential election—a wave of subsequent efforts seek to undermine the norms and structures that have given Americans basic confidence in elections and in the peaceful transfer of power.

Meanwhile, from statehouses 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 threatening and protecting democratic structures and systems. The series is a partnership between the Ford School of Public Policy, Wallace House, and U-M Democracy & Debate 2021-22, co-hosted 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 upholding democratic institutions—at 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 globe, democracy is being threatened, and journalists are standing up to raise the alarm. This series will help our community and the broader public understand what’s at stake, and what they can do about it,” said Ford School Dean Michael Barr.

Anne Curzan, dean of U-M’s College of Literature, Arts, and Sciences, says “strong, free and open, ethical journalism is essential to a well-functioning democracy.” The series, she adds, offers an opportunity to learn about the state of U.S. democracy as well as “the state of political journalism from an insider’s perspective.”

“Diminishing the role and work of journalists is a key tactic in undermining democracies,” said Lynette Clemetson, Wallace House director. “Bringing visibility to the work of journalists is a necessary antidote to those efforts. We look forward to giving our community a chance to engage with these experienced reporters in a way that cuts through the noise to prompt thoughtful civic engagement.”

The series begins with three events:

  • March 9: Molly Ball of Time magazine, interviewed by veteran political reporter Craig Gilbert.
  • March 23: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Barton Gellman of The Atlantic, moderated by Barbara McQuade, Michigan Law School professor from practice.
  • 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 Top 50 Thinkers of the COVID-19 Age” by Prospect magazine. Barr will moderate the session.

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