Each year the University selects a book that will provide a shared intellectual experience for faculty, staff, and all first-year students. The First Year Book provides an opportunity for community dialogue on a topic from the perspective of different disciplines, from the sciences to the humanities. Guest speakers, films, and panel discussions provide additional opportunities outside of class to generate discussion around a common theme. Our community is stronger when we are free to challenge one another and to listen respectfully. The University does not shy away from challenging or controversial issues; on the contrary, free and spirited speech is at the heart of an academic community.
This year, the First Year Book committee selected journalist Brooke Gladstone’s The Influencing Machine. Gladstone, perhaps best known as the host of NPR’s On the Media, built a career covering the media in all its intricacies. The Influencing Machine tells a history of journalism in a graphic format that goes back 2,000 years. Gladstone argues that the “media machine is a delusion,” comparing it to a funhouse mirror that reflects, in part, ourselves. The book considers the role of “objectivity” and bias in the media, and observes that we use social media to filter and make sense of what we hear from traditional journalism sources. The role of citizen journalists has taken on new prominence, including their influence on the Arab Spring, the Tea Party, and the Occupy Movements. Guest speakers, films, and panel discussions provide additional opportunities outside of class to generate discussion around a common theme.
I look forward to the many discussions we have as a community about The Influencing Machine.
Donna B. Hamilton
Associate Provost for Academic Affairs and
Dean for Undergraduate Studies