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Dialogue uplifts media barriers, opportunities

To discuss barriers to and opportunities for sharing wisdom through media, The Fig Tree is planning a community dialogue on “Wisdom and Media” at 7 p.m., Tuesday, April 27, at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John, 127 E. 12th.

Organizers ask congregations, media, community groups, higher education and youth programs to recruit groups of eight to engage in table discussions in response to a panel presentation.

Steve Blewett of The Fig Tree Board and journalism professor emeritus at Eastern Washington University will give an overview of journalism and faith community coverage.  A five-member panel will reflect on avenues for sharing information and understanding about groups, among groups, and between groups and the media. 

Panelists are Susan English, associate director of journalism at Gonzaga University and Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media board member; the Very Rev. Bill Ellis of the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John; the Rev. Scott Kinder-Pyle of Latah Valley Presbyterian Church; the Rev. Joyce O’Connor Magee of Manito United Methodist Church and the Rev. Happy Watkins of New Hope Baptist Church.

After their presentations, participants will engage in discussion at their tables about how media coverage empowers or disempowers faith communities.

“In their coverage of issues, few media seek perspectives from faith communities,” said Steve.  “Media rely on secular points of view from politicians, educators, special interest groups, interested and affected individuals and professional commentators—except when faith communities politicize their agendas or enter into the political or social arena.”

As gatekeepers of the public discourse, newspapers, TV and radio can influence conversations and perceptions, he said.  

“That environment has changed with the internet,” Steve said.  “Now, any person or group can produce media to share their messages and promote their own agenda and perspectives.  That has added to the cacophony of voices.”

The small-group dialogue will explore ways faith communities can break through barriers in traditional and emerging media that prevent sharing their wisdom.  They will discuss opportunities in traditional and new media to share wisdom to add constructively to public discourse.

“We hope to start an extended dialogue among communities of faith in the region to help interested parties better understand how media shape our understanding of wisdom and public issues and what can be done to more effectively shape that process in authentic ways,” Steve said.

For information, call 535-1813.