Tucker Carlson will speak at UNC-Chapel Hill, and everything will be all right

The School of Media and Journalism at UNC-Chapel Hill announced Tuesday that Tucker Carlson of Fox News would be a guest speaker at the school in April, and you might have thought the school had invited the spawn of Alex Jones and Peter Thiel. The outrage on Twitter was quick and piercing.

These were some of the calmer ones. More here.

Meanwhile, the same day, Frank Bruni, a liberal op-ed writer for the New York Times and UNC alum, visited with Chancellor Carol Folt and UNC president Margaret Spellings. And no one seemed much concerned.

Apples and oranges, to be sure. No, maybe closer to each other than that. More like oranges and grapefruits. Both opinion purveyors for large media organizations. Way differing methods and mediums. Both journalists. (Journalist is broadly defined.)

OK, I get the outrage over Carlson. I’m a liberal. My blood pressure goes up with I watch Fox News. Carlson wouldn’t have been my choice to speak to the students, but the university didn’t ask my opinion. I’d have preferred someone who affirmed my journalism values more closely. Or, say, Jon Stewart. As a television talk show host, Carlson says what I consider offensive, ugly and wrong-headed things. Often. (When the Daily Stormer praises you, you’ve got to be doing something wrong.)

And that’s why his visit and speech are valuable. UNC-Chapel Hill is an educational institution. Students are there to learn. Among other things, the journalism school teaches critical thinking and skepticism. If your mama says she loves you check it out. Carlson’s visit provides the perfect opportunity to teach students about the principles of journalism, about truth-telling, fact-checking and bias. About journalistic independence and speaking truth to power.

Journalists are inquisitive people. Part of the job is to critically explore ideas — both those they agree with and those they oppose. They need to know what to do when they hear ideas that don’t hold water, that are filled with skewed data and venom. They certainly are going to hear them when they’re out in the real world. Despite what Fox News commentators would like you to believe, students in the Journalism School aren’t snowflakes. They can handle ideas across the spectrum, and they need to know how to question them all.

For what it’s worth, Tucker Carlson isn’t the only speaker addressing students at the School of Media and Journalism.

Next week, Ames Alexander of the Charlotte Observer and Joe Neff of the Marshall Project – both top investigative journalists – are speaking about the role journalists play in monitoring and reporting abuses in the criminal justice system.

The week after that, the J-school is hosting a panel discussion later this month called Holding Power Accountable. It features, among others, David Folkenflik of NPR and Emily Steel of the New York Times. Not a lightweight among them.

School is a place where you learn from people with different experiences and different ideas. It’s intellectually healthy.

4 thoughts on “Tucker Carlson will speak at UNC-Chapel Hill, and everything will be all right

  1. Great advice and mature perspective from this professor. Please note however, Tucker Carlson worked at CNN and MSNBC, so he is not a closed-minded conservative like some of these students think. Also, NPR and the New York Times are not bastions of unbiased reporting.

  2. Professor, you buried the lead. The problem here is not merely that Carson’s an ass or that he claims to be a Conservative ass. The problem is he’s a propagandist-and our beloved J-School should not provide its imprimatur to him. I wouldn’t walk out onto my deck to hear from Carlson if he was calling out that he’d found a bag of cash that seemed to be mine. Because I’m a purist? No. Because I WOULD NOT BELIEVE HIM.

    Bill Kristol? Nicolle Wallace? Steve Schmidt? Jennifer Rubin? George Will? Yes, indeed. I’d want to hear from any of them. Even Hugh Hewitt. I agree with NONE of these people politically, but I am delighted to defend their credibility, with should be the prime directive for the J-School. This feels instead like click bait and it’s more than disappointing-it’s damaging.

    Jean Bolduc
    JoMC ‘94

    • We may still lovingly refer to ourselves as the J-School, but remember– this is technically the School of MEDIA and Journalism. Regardless of his questionable journalistic integrity, no one can deny that Carlson is a prominent figure in the Media at large.

      Carlson, like many other media commentators of both the left and right, will often stretch or manipulate the truth to support his own ideology. I believe the point of this blog is that we should promote the free exchange of ideas and encourage young students to use their journalistic training to counterbalance his rhetoric and editorializing with facts and thoughtful analysis.

  3. The Park Lecture is more than a guest speaker. It’s an honor. Two suggestions for the speaker for 2019: Emily Steel of The New York Times or Brian Stelter of CNN.

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