New York State Writers Institute



Telling the Truth in a Post-Truth World
A multi-event symposium of topics crucial to an open democratic society.

Telling the Truth In a time when “fake news” and “post-truth” have become common phrases, the New York State Writers Institute at the University at Albany examined what it really means to tell the truth through a series of events, including movies and discussions, culminating in a two-day seminar on journalism, media and democracy.

The seminar, “Telling the Truth in a Post-Truth World,” was held Oct. 12-14 at the University at Albany. 30 prominent journalists, editors, nonfiction authors, historians and First Amendment scholars engaged in in-depth panel discussions about “matters that are under attack and that are central to a free and open and functioning democratic society,” said Writers Institute Director Paul Grondahl.

“My mentor and Writers Institute founder William Kennedy and I had been talking about organizing this symposium since the early days of the presidential campaign, when the terms 'fake news' and 'alternative facts' began to gain traction,” Grondahl said. The seminar recalled the Writers Institute’s 1991 event, “Telling the Truth: A Symposium on the Craft of Nonfiction,” which brought in 35 high-profile nonfiction writers to take a deep dive into the practical and ethical problems of writing nonfiction.

“We felt it was imperative to convene a symposium in 2017 for a deep examination into what constitutes truth in an era that has been dubbed 'post-truth' — selected the international word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries in 2016,” Grondahl said.

Panel discussions

(CBS News veteran Bob Schieffer and panelists Shane Goldmacher, Harry Rosenfeld, Amy Goodman and Douglas Brinkley on Friday, Oct. 13, 2017 at Page Hall at the University of Albany. Photo credit: Anthony Tassarotti /

Media in the Age of New Technology: Fake News, Information Overload, & Media Literacy
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Moderator: Bob Schieffer, moderator of three presidential debates, former anchor of CBS Evening News and Face the Nation, and author of Overload: Finding the Truth in Today’s Deluge of News (2017)
Franklin Foer
, staff writer of The Atlantic and former editor of The New Republic, and author of World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech (2017)
David Goodman,
contributor to Mother Jones magazine and co-author with his sister Amy Goodman of the book Democracy Now! Twenty Years Covering the Movements Changing America (2016)
Maria Hinojosa,
trailblazing journalist and talk show host, anchor and executive producer of Latino USA and founder of the Futuro Media Group, dedicated to promoting diversity in American media
Tim Wu,
professor at Columbia Law School, originator of “net neutrality” and author of Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires (2010), and The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads (2016)

Friday, October 13, 2017
Presidents and the Press: Trump, Nixon & More
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Moderator: Bob Schieffer, moderator of three presidential debates and former anchor of CBS Evening News and Face the Nation
Douglas Brinkley,
CNN Presidential historian and biographer of Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford
Amy Goodman,
investigative reporter, host and producer of the award-winning news program, Democracy Now! that airs on over 1,400 public television and radio stations worldwide
Harry Rosenfeld,
Times Union editor-at-large, and former Metro Editor at The Washington Post who oversaw the paper’s coverage of Watergate
Shane Goldmacher,
, Chief political correspondent for the Metro desk of the New York Times.

Saturday, October 14, 2017
Dirty Deeds: Election Mischief, Cybercrimes & Civil Liberties
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Moderator: Victor Asal, UAlbany faculty expert in terrorism and homeland security and Chair, Department of Public Administration
Russell Banks,
bestselling novelist, past President of the International Parliament of Writers, and founder and President of Cities of Refuge North America
David Daley,
Digital Media Fellow at the University of Georgia, and author of Ratf**ed: The True Story Behind the Secret Plans to Steal America’s Democracy (2016)
James Steiner,
ex-CIA official and Program Coordinator for Homeland Security, Cyber Security and Emergency Management at UAlbany’s Rockefeller College
Kelley Vlahos,
Managing Editor of The American Conservative, longtime political writer for, and journalist specializing in national security, war policy, and civil liberties

Saturday, October 14, 2017
Race, Class, and the Future of Democracy
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Moderator: Gilbert King,
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author of Devil in the Grove (2012)
Carol Anderson,
professor of African-American History at Emory University and author of the national bestseller, White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide (2016)
José Cruz,
associate professor in the political science department at Rockefeller College and author of 'Puerto Rican Identity, Political Development, and Democracy in New York, 1960-1990 (2017)
Juan González,
investigative reporter, co-host of Democracy Now! and author of Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America (2000), and Reclaiming Gotham (2017)
Adrian Nicole LeBlanc,
journalist, MacArthur Fellow, and author of Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx (2003)

Saturday, October 14, 2017
The First Amendment & Free Speech Under Attack
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Moderator: Ashleigh Banfield, award-winning journalist and TV personality, host of Primetime Justice on HLN and former anchor of CNN’S Legal View
Floyd Abrams,
the nation’s pre-eminent First Amendment attorney, senior counsel at Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP, and author of The Soul of the First Amendment (2017)
Anthony Paul Farley, James Campbell Matthews Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence at Albany Law School, where he teaches Advanced Constitutional Law
Kristina Findikyan, senior counsel at Hearst, one of the nation’s largest media companies, where she specializes in First Amendment and libel law
Richard Honen, corporate attorney in charge of the Albany office of Phillips Lytle LLP and conservative commentator on WAMC’s The Roundtable former executive editor of The New York Times and director of The Marshall Project, an investigative journalism project on criminal justice issues

Saturday, October 14, 2017
The End of Newspapers?

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Moderator: Rex Smith, editor of the Albany Times Union and host of “The Media Project” on WAMC/Northeast Public Radio
Bill Keller, former executive editor of The New York Times and director of The Marshall Project, an investigative journalism project on criminal justice issues
Pamela Newkirk,
journalist and professor of journalism at NYU, and author of Within the Veil: Black Journalists, White Media (2000)
Richard Tofel
, founding general manager and current president of Pro Publica -- the independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest -- and former assistant publisher of The Wall Street Journal
Jim Rich, Executive Editor of HUFFPOST (The Huffington Post), and former Editor-in-Chief at the NY Daily News.

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at