Charlotte Talks: Making Political Debate Polite

Mar 4, 2019

Monday, March 4, 2019 

Can Americans disagree politely anymore? In an increasingly polarized political climate, it certainly doesn’t seem like it. But, that’s the idea an upcoming forum at Queens University of Charlotte called “Can We Talk?” will explore.

Just having conversations about divisive issues in our nation today isn't enough. What matters is the approach. 

New York Times best-selling author and journalist Amanda Ripley realized that her career as a reporter hadn’t completely prepared her for dealing with conflict and people she disagreed with.

While Ripley was having conversations with people who disagreed on controversial issues, she didn't always bring the complexity of views each individual had when explaining what they believed. 

But after learning from professionals who deal with conflict, Ripley has written about the issue, and now thinks it’s possible to turn conflict from toxic conversations, to useful ones. 

Newsrooms play a role in all of this. How journalists represent political issues to the public can frame the way people discuss them, and cause them to oversimplify or make assumptions about the other side, or allow for complex narratives and individuals that can strengthen the bonds between people who disagree. 

GUESTS

Amanda Ripley, author of "The Smartest Kids in the World--and How They Got That Way," a New York Times best-seller, and "The Unthinkable." She writes feature stories for the Atlantic, Politico and other outlets, and will present a lecture titled “Can We Talk” at Queens on March 14.

Rick Thames, forum coordinator, a visiting professor of journalism in the Queens James L. Knight School of Communication, former executive editor of The Charlotte Observer, and a trustee on the N.C. Humanities Council board.

Sherry Paula Watkins, executive director of the North Carolina Humanities Council.