American Studies professor Jack Colwell delivered the fourth and final lecture in the Mendoza College of Business Ethics Week series Thursday, stressing the public’s responsibility to stay informed and invested in politics without falling into the trap of “taking things for granted.” Colwell, who is also a political columnist for The South Bend Tribune, framed his discussion of ethics with the interaction between politicians and journalists, two entities that deeply affect the public experience of government. He said the role of the journalist has shifted to accommodate the partisanship and divisive nature of politics today. “Many viewers seek out the news that they want to believe,” Colwell said. “Objectivity is boring and fact-checking is biased if those facts dispute what you want to believe.” The business of journalism affects the content of the message the public receives, Colwell said, and voters today are very willing to avoid logic and rationality in order to doggedly adhere to their political parties of choice. “Voters want to believe what is claimed by candidates and commentators of their particular side of the political spectrum,” Colwell said. “They think the other side must be lying, must be cheating, must be stealing the election, must be defeated.” Colwell discussed the prevalence of negative political advertisements and their success in altering the public opinion of political figures. The ads’ target populations take the policies of their affiliated parties for granted and assume these loyalties should supersede practicality, he said. The parties’ unwillingness to compromise severely inhibits legislative productivity and polarizes news outlets, Colwell said. “In Congress, it is easy to spout anger at any time, for any purpose, in any way and that is not good for democracy,” he said. “Divisiveness and anger in politics is not totally uncommon … but [compromise] is something I fear we lack today.” Colwell said the increased number of news sources, legitimate or not, creates a disconnect between the reality of politics and public awareness. “Don’t think that [everyone] is providing unbiased news or objective news,” Colwell said. “I hate the term ‘news media.’ The term has come to encompass everything from The Wall Street Journal to tabloids at the supermarket … to Twitter to some blogger writing in the basement in his underwear. “The term now means anything and everything and thus, it now means nothing.” Colwell said the unbiased presentation of facts and political information is an important part of journalists’ duty, and society needs more qualified reporters to take on this mission. “We need reliable news in our democracy, even if it isn’t coming from newspapers delivered on our porch like it used to be,” Colwell said. “We need real journalists. We need real news. We can’t rely on what is said by that blogger in the basement, nor can we rely on what politicians say in their 30-second spots.” The ethical dilemma of the political media relates to the unbiased presentation of facts, Colwell said. The manipulation of public opinion to win elections is a dangerous, ignoble result of the media culture today. “It’s possible, though I won’t say probable, that the voters will stop taking things for granted,” Colwell said. “And if they do, the political consultants will respond. Their job is to win and the negative attacks have won [in the past], but if that changes, their strategies will change as w
Today, UGA Extension has a presence in 157 of Georgia’s 159 counties. For information about the UGA Extension centennial, see 100years.extension.uga.edu. In addition to prints and negatives stored in the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library in the Russell Special Collections Building, the University Archives collaborated with the Hargrett imaging lab and the Digital Library of Georgia to make the photographs available to the public. The Digital Library of Georgia includes digitized and searchable versions of newspapers, photographs, books, official documents and other pieces of Georgia’s history. “What makes this collection so valuable is that many of the photos came with some type of documentation,” Killens said. “Many of these negatives came with notes about the event and subject of the photos and often with the place where they were taken and the photographer’s name.” Photos and descriptions “These photos tell the stories of the Georgians whose lives and livelihoods were touched by UGA Extension over the past century and illustrate the vital role that UGA Extension has had in shaping Georgia’s history.” Pictures of crops, livestock, more The Digital Library of Georgia is part of the Digital Public Library of America, a network of local digital archives houses more than 7 million photos and documents from museums, archives and libraries across the county. Archivists are busy scanning and cataloging the rest of the negatives and documents that are in the UGA Extension collection. Each negative sleeve contains between one and 20 negatives. The size and scope of the collection provides an excellent photographic record of Georgia folk life and farm life, said UGA archivist Caroline Killens, who is managing the project. The first 1,292 photos of the collection were released this month and are available at http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/CollectionsA-Z/caes_search.html. This first set of photos contains numerous shots of grain crops, livestock shows and forage fields from across the state. The bulk of the prints date from the 1930s to the 1960s, but some are from as early as the 1900s. “The 100-year history of UGA Extension is the history of thousands of individual Georgians who spent their youth at 4-H summer camps, helped to organize an Extension field day or hosted a demonstration field for their community,” said Beverly Sparks, associate dean for Extension in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. CAES and UGA Extension communications and information technology staffers collected the photos from an old storage room in the basement of the Hoke Smith Annex building on the UGA campus in Athens. There were boxes of negatives, but also important paper documents and older glass photographic slides. UGA Extension, originally known as the UGA Cooperative Extension Service, was founded in May 1914 through the Smith-Lever Act, a federal law that established and funded a state-by-state national network of educators to bring university-based research and practical knowledge to the public. For as long as there have been portable cameras, University of Georgia Extension agents and Extension photographers have used them to help identify crop diseases, demonstrate best farming practices and document community events. “Someone at some point had started the process of archiving them, but the project was never finished,” said Brian Watson, the college’s associate director of information technology. Since many of the sleeves of negatives contain images covering a broad subject area, archivists started by grouping the sleeves by subject and assigned them a file header. The descriptions have helped immensely as the library staff starts to scan and catalog the photos, Killens said. Watson contacted Killens at the library as the Hoke Smith Annex basement was reorganized to provide more office and workroom space. College administrators provided funding for a student worker, a computer and a scanner so the images could be digitized at the library and made available to the public. Many of the photos were used as part of UGA Extension’s centennial multimedia exhibit, both online at 100years.extension.uga.edu and in the rotunda of the Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries. History through images “I think many people will enjoy these, not just those who are interested in agriculture,” Killens said. “There are a lot of photos in this collection that people have never seen before. People researching their genealogy or the history of their town or county will find a lot of information in this collection.” With at least one agent in most Georgia counties, UGA Extension agents and their photographers have produced a collection of more than 60,000 sleeves of negatives. For the first time, some of these photos are available to the public online through the Digital Library of Georgia.