|Observer Editor To Speak at Davidson on Public/Press Partnership
April 10, 2008
Contact: Bill Giduz
The fate of our democracy, Fannie Flono believes, depends in large part on the collaboration of citizens and the press to exercise their rightful power to oversee the government. Flono, an associate editor of The Charlotte Observer, will discuss that opinion in a public lecture at Davidson College on Monday evening, April 14.
|Batten Professor Fannie Flono|
Her talk, titled “In the Eye of the Storm: The Press, the Public, and Our Democracy,” will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Hance Auditorium of Chambers Building. There is no charge to attend. For more information, call 704-894-2204.
Flono is serving this semester as James K. Batten Visiting Professor of Public Policy at Davidson, teaching a class in “Ink, Images, and Influence: The Role of the Media in Our Democracy.” She will discuss the important role the media plays in sustaining democracy, and what’s at risk when media resources are cut, and when citizenry takes the media for granted.
“The circle of media, citizenry, and democracy needs to remain whole,” she said. “The important role of the media in providing essential information can be harmed if people don’t recognize the value of the information they get. If the circle cracks, we’re in perilous times.”
During a 20-year career at The Charlotte Observer, she has cherished and participated in the media’s watchdog role. She has tried to show her students at Davidson the importance of newspapers in shedding light on wrongdoing and governmental neglect. No other media, she contends, devotes the resources and time to conducting the research required to analyze facts and present malfeasance to the public.
She provided editorial support more than a decade ago in The Observer’s “Taking Back Our Neighborhoods” project, which held officials responsible for the crime, social problems and poor physical condition of some Charlotte neighborhoods. More recently, she's proud of The Observer's coverage and exposure this year of the fraudulent action by developers that led to neighborhoods with high foreclosure and vacancy rates. That story was in the making for about a year before print, she noted. Both series were finalists for Pulitzer Prizes.
Flono asked the Davidson students she teaches to design their own public journalism project. Each of two groups with the assignment focused on the role of Davidson’s Patterson Court system of fraternities and eating clubs, suggesting that fliers, community meetings and public presentations to the school administration could lead to a more positive impact on campus life for those organizations.
“My goal in the class has been helping students understand the relationship between what news organizations do and how democracy is able to work well,” Flono said. For instance, she noted that American authorities would never have addressed racial inequality during the Civil Rights era unless news organizations had reported the stories of those seeking justice.
“Ideally, the press and public work in partnership in questioning authority,” she said. “The danger of the decline of daily newspapers today is that we lose the original content they develop. No other organization or group can fill that role. If we don’t have organizations that can delve into issues, and spend money and time to uncover problems, then democracy is in jeopardy.”
She also invited several of her professional colleagues at The Observer to talk with students about their experiences. Joe Denneny talked about the power and pitfalls of polling, and Eric Frazier discussed the paper’s centennial coverage and public apology concerning the 1898 Wilmington, N.C., race riots. Liz Chandler testified about the positive government actions resulting from “Taking Back Our Neighborhoods,” and Mark Washburn talked about his experiences as an embedded reporter during the Iraq War.
Flono writes editorials and opinion columns for the Observer in the areas of local news, education, women’s issues and politics. She also launched the editorial board’s blog, “The Daily Views,” speaks to community groups, and is currently serving as a judge for the national Robert F. Kennedy Awards for courageous journalistic endeavors.
She was born in Augusta, Ga., and spent pleasant summers as a young girl on her grandparents’ farm, expressing her feelings about life and current events in writing. She grew up during the Civil Rights movement, and became a passionate advocate for social equality. She was politically active during her undergraduate career at Clark College in Atlanta, campaigning for Andrew Young and helping with voter registration campaigns.
She began her newspaper career as a summer intern in Macon, Ga., and joined the staff of a Florida paper after graduation. She also worked for Columbus, Ga., and Greenville, S.C., newspapers before joining The Charlotte Observer staff in 1984. She worked as a city editor, state editor and political editor, and was then asked to join the editorial board. Among her awards and honors are a Nieman Fellowship that allowed her to attend Harvard University in 1998-99.
Flono concluded that her career in journalism has been tremendously satisfying. “It’s great to have a job where your work matters, where you have a chance to actually change things,” she said. “Even with the challenges papers face these days, it’s still a great profession when think about your power to do good.”
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,700 students. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. # # #
Posted By: Bill Giduz