Open Lens Symposium: Unveiling Truth Through Journalism

On Thursday, May 2, we held our first Ambassador John Price & Marcia Price World Affairs 2024 event, the Open Lens Symposium: Unveiling Truth Through Journalism, and it was nothing short of extraordinary.

The day started with a warm welcome from Dr. Joyce Davis, facilitated by our Board Chair, Dr. Kimberly Madsen. Dr. Davis, the opinion editor for PennLive and Patriot News and the President & CEO of the World Affairs Council of Harrisburg, shed light on the harsh realities journalists face worldwide. With over 80 journalists losing their lives annually and a staggering 21 deaths already in 2024, it's evident that journalism is dangerous. Yet, these brave individuals risk it all to bring us the truth of events happening worldwide and right here in our communities.

Dr. Davis left the audience with two vital calls to action: First, as news consumers, we are responsible for seeking out trusted sources validated by other credible outlets. Second, while global news is crucial for understanding our world, we must also prioritize supporting local news sources. Whether through subscriptions, purchases, or direct donations, our backing ensures their continued existence.

Following Dr. Davis, we delved into a video interview featuring Stanislav Zakharkin, a Russian freelance journalist living in exile, and David Sinclair, Founder and CEO of 4FreedomMobile. Zakharkin highlighted the daunting challenge journalists face in reporting on war, especially the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. From Zakharkin's perspective, the rules of engagement have changed, with journalists no longer being neutral observers but targeting themselves, leading to widespread self-censorship out of fear.

The morning concluded with a thought-provoking conversation led by Taylor Stevens from Fox 13 News, featuring Angele Latham, The Tennessean's First Amendment Reporter. Latham emphasized that society is divided, which has resulted in a reactionary approach to the First Amendment. These reactions often lead to hasty changes in laws and policies, infringing upon the rights of others protected by the First Amendment. Latham noted that debate is essential. "Debate is what creates the rich tapestry of American culture."

During lunch, Lauren Gustus, Executive Editor for The Salt Lake Tribune, brought the discussion to a local level. Gustus underscored the critical role journalists play in amplifying community voices and concerns. However, this vital function is at risk as two local newspapers shutter their doors weekly nationwide. Supporting local news is not just an option but a civic duty to ensure that issues affecting our communities are brought to light.

The day culminated with insights from Brent Lewis, co-founder of Diversify Photo and a photo editor for The New York Times, and Lara Jones, Executive Producer and host of 90.9fm KRCL Radioactive Show. Lewis eloquently spoke to the power of photography in storytelling, humanizing complex issues and giving voice to the voiceless. He stressed the importance of diversity behind the lens, as it enables a more nuanced and inclusive representation of culture, values, and voices.

As we reflect on the enlightening discussions and invaluable insights shared during the Open Lens Symposium, it becomes evident that pursuing truth through journalism is more vital than ever. The symposium served as a poignant reminder of the sacrifices journalists make worldwide to uphold the principles of transparency and accountability.