NPR’s Lourdes Garcia-Navarro visits DU, talks of trust, accountability, need to bear witness
Updated: Mar 1
NOTE: Originally published on the April, 2016 Washington Park Profile website.
NPR International Correspondent Lourdes Garcia-Navarro is visiting the University of Denver campus and today served as the lunchtime keynote speaker at DU’s third annual Internationalization Summit, the focus of which is “Uncommon Intersections: Cultivating Multiple Perspectives at Home and Abroad.”
Prior to today’s summit, Garcia-Navarro spoke yesterday to an assembled group of students, some from DU’s Media, Film & Journalism Studies Program and some from South High School’s Digital Media Club. The club has received acclaim in the past for its work on police and teenager interactions.
Speaking to what she sees as the core focus of her work, Garcia-Navarro said “I started my journalism career covering conflicts, covering wars … and I think what I have come away with from all these different things I have seen and stories I have done is the feeling that the most important thing we as journalist do is we go somewhere and we bear witness.”
Bias and political bent came up during the discussion, which Garcia-Navarro said are of serious concern to her. Mentioning that the assembled demographic—teens to mid-twenty somethings—was one that she and others are trying very hard to each, she said “When we look at the way news now is consumed, a lot of what’s happening is people just want to hear what it is they already know.”
The big media agencies, she said, in an effort to gain audience share, are trying to figure out how to best position themselves. “There’s a big discussion about whether you need to be transparent and say ‘I have my political opinion, this is what informs my worldview and I’m going to write an article that reflects that,’” she said. “The other side of the argument is you have to be impartial, you have editors, and you want to give an accurate view of something so people can make up their own mind.”
All this, she said, comes to a “very specific thing, and that thing is called trust, and this is the big problem we’re having nowadays. Most consumers of news don’t trust the media anymore.”
“What is the role of the individual in our society? Is it important to have people asking questions and trying to change the way a transport system is working? Is it valuable to have leaks where privileged information, private information, gets put out into the private sphere? These are discussions that are fundamental to the way we live our lives nowadays.”
Prior to her talk Thursday, Garcia-Navarro met briefly with the South High Digital Media Club students who shared the details of their current project with her. The students, led by DU’s Drs. Lynn Clark and Margaret Thompson, choose each year a topic of social concern to investigate. This year, students are investigating whether Denver Public School’s bussing policies are ethical and whether or not the Denver region’s Regional Transportation District, the public transportation authority that manages the region’s busses and light rail lines, could do more for Denver Public Schools students.
“It was really great talking to the high school students here today about their project because it can seem kind of weird when you listen to the radio or a podcast or you read an article and you wonder, ‘What does it mean to me? What ramifications does that have in my life?’” Garcia-Navarro said.
As the keynote speaker at the Internationalization Summit, Lourdes Garcia-Navarro receives the Edward W. & Charlotte A. Estlow Center's Anvil of Freedom Award for outstanding journalism and democracy. She is also being honored by DU as the 2016 Morton Margolin Distinguished Lecturer.
DU is specifically recognizing Garcia-Navarro for her story “Look at This: Rain Forest Was Here," which investigates illegal Amazon deforestation and how logging there is a factor in climate change.
In her Thursday talk with students Garcia-Navarro touched on the great debates in journalism today but highlighted the essential questions that underlie those debates. “What kind of society do we want to live in? she asked. “What is the role of the individual in our society? Is it important to have people asking questions and trying to change the way a transport system is working? Is it valuable to have leaks where privileged information, private information, gets put out into the private sphere? These are discussions that are fundamental to the way we live our lives nowadays.”
Underneath all this, Garcia-Navarro says, is a concern for the role of journalism in today’s society. We’re all wondering about its future, she says.
Even with the seriousness of the talk that comprised most of Thursday afternoon’s discussion, Seraphina Thiare, a freshman leader of the Sough High Digital Media Club, left inspired. “I love these talks,” she said. “They make me want to get out and do something, change something. I am so excited.”