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Role of news media examined in ethics presentation

Oct. 15, 2009

KALAMAZOO--The role of a free news media and whether freedom of the press actually promotes democracy will come into sharper focus in a presentation Thursday, Oct. 29, at Western Michigan University as part of the Center for the Study of Ethics in Society's fall series.

The session, titled "A Free and Undemocratic Media?" will feature Dr. Stephen J.A. Ward, director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Ward's talk starts at 7 p.m. in 2028 Brown Hall and is co-sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Ward will explore whether a free press is necessarily a democratic press and whether a liberal theory of the press assumes too easily that a diversity of free voices promotes a just and flourishing democracy. Such questions are important in an era witnessing a revolutionary expansion of the media universe.

Ward argues that freedom is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for democracy and will put forward some suggestions while showing that the same questions about liberal press theory were also raised at the end of 19th century.

In addition to his role as director of the Center for Journalism Ethics, Ward is the James E. Burgess Professor of Journalism Ethics, an endowed chair in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of the award-winning "The Invention of Journalism Ethics: The Path to Objectivity and Beyond," co-editor of "Media Ethics Beyond Borders" and associate editor of the "Journal of Mass Media Ethics." He is also the author of an ethics column titled Ward's Words, which can be found on Canada's main portal for the discussion of journalism issues at www.j-source.ca.

Ward's research interests include the history of journalism ethics, ethical theory, global media ethics and science journalism. He worked as a reporter, war correspondent and newsroom bureau chief for 14 years. He is also a media ethics columnist for Media Magazine and the founding chair of the Ethics Advisory Committee of the Canadian Association of Journalists.

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Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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