To Tell the Truth

4-Week Writers Institute Series Explores Topics Critical to Open Democracy

"All the President's Men," Starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, will be screened Oct. 6 at Page Hall.

ALBANY, N.Y (Sept. 21, 2017) — In a time when “fake news” and “post-truth” have become common phrases, the New York State Writers Institute is taking a look at 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,” is set for Oct. 13 and 15 in Page Hall on the Downtown Campus. It will feature 30 prominent journalists, editors, nonfiction authors, historians and First Amendment scholars engaging 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 upcoming seminar recalls 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.

While the big event is the October symposium, supporting events begin Friday with the movie Harvest of Empire, based on the book by award-winning journalist Juan González. On Oct. 6, another journalism-related film will be screened: All the President’s Men, based on The Washington Post’s work uncovering the Watergate break-in.

A documentary based on the Juan González book, Harvest of Empire, will be screened Oct. 22.

The full schedule:

Friday, Sept. 22: Screening of Harvest of Empire, 7:30 p.m. Page Hall

Directed by Peter Getzels and Eduardo López (2012, 90 minutes). Featuring Junot Diaz, Luis Enrique, Juan González. Based on the nonfiction book by award-winning journalist Juan González, this powerful documentary examines how the influx of immigrants from Latin American countries to the United States has been linked to American foreign policy. González will participate in the panel “Race, Class, and the Future of Democracy” on Oct. 14.

Friday, Oct. 6, screening of All the President’s Men, 7 p.m. Page Hall, followed by discussion with Harry Rosenfeld, Albany Times Union editor-at-large, and former Washington Post news editor in charge of the daily coverage of the Watergate expose.

Directed by Alan J. Pakula (1976, 138 minutes). Starring Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Jack Warden. In this classic political thriller based on true events, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncover the details of the Watergate scandal that leads to President Richard Nixon’s resignation. Screening cosponsored by UAlban’s School of Criminal Justice.

Thursday, Oct. 12, conversation with journalist Kurt Andersen and WAMC radio host Joe Donahue, 7 p.m. Campus Center Ballroom

Andersen is a writer, editor, critic and the host of WNYC’s Peabody-winning public radio program Studio 360. Cofounder of Spy magazine, he contributes to Vanity Fair and the New York Times, Time and The New Yorker. Andersen will discuss his new book, Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History, which examines the current phenomenon of “fake news” and the blurred lines between reality and illusion from a historical perspective.

$30 admission; free for UAlbany students. Audience members all receive a copy of Fantasyland. Advance tickets available at The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza (489-4761

The Symposium

"Telling the Truth in a Post-Truth World," Oct. 13 and 14, Page Hall, Downtown Campus. All events listed below are free. Seating is limited.

Friday, Oct 13:

4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Panel: "Media in the Age of New Technology: Fake News, Information Overload, &1 Media Literacy"

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)

  • Panelists: 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)

5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Book signing, light refreshments

8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Panel:" Presidents and the Press: Trump, Nixon & More"

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 Washington Post Metro editor who oversaw the paper’s coverage of Watergate
  • Glenn Thrush, White House correspondent for The New York Times

Saturday, Oct. 14:

9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Panel: "Dirty Deeds: Election Mischief, Cybercrimes & Civil Liberties"

Moderator: Victor Asal, UAlbany faculty expert in Terrorism and Homeland Security and chair, Department of Public Administration


  • David Daley, former editor of Salon, 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 and Public Service Professor, UAlbany’s Rockefeller College
  • Kelley Vlahos, managing editor of "The American Conservative," longtime political writer for Foxnews.com, and journalist specializing in national security, war policy, and civil liberties

11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Panel: Race, Class, and the Future of Democracy

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, Director of UAlbany’s Center for Latino, Latin American, and Caribbean Studies, 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)

2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Panel: "The First Amendment & Free Speech Under Attack"

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

7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Panel: "The End of Newspapers?"

Moderator: Rex Smith, editor of the Albany Times Union and host of “The Media Project” on WAMC/Northeast Public Radio


  • Jeff Jarvis, professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, creator and director of its News Integrity Initiative, and author of What Would Google Do? (2009)
  • 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), and Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga (2015)
  • Lydia Polgreen, editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, and former editorial director of New York Times Global

8:45 p.m. to 10 p.m.: Book signing and public reception

Events and panelists subject to change. For the latest information on the schedule and participants, visit the Writers Institute.

The Writers Institute gratefully acknowledges the support of The University at Albany Foundation, Student Association

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