Annual Restoring Civility to Civic Dialogue Focuses on Finding Truth in a Post-Truth World

How do you find truth in an era dominated by fabricated posts on social media and photoshopped pictures that go viral? That’s the topic of the Restoring Respect and the Institute for Civil Civic Engagement’s 7th Annual Conference on Restoring Civility to Civic Dialogue from April 10-12.

This year’s event – which includes three Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists – mixes media literacy workshops for students and a plenary session at the University of San Diego’s Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice over three days. The San Diego Union-Tribune political cartoonist Steve Breen, who has secured the Pulitzer Prize at two different newspapers, will be the keynote speaker at this year’s plenary session, Media Literacy: Finding Truth in a Post-Truth World, which is set for Wednesday, April 11, from 8 a.m. to noon at the University of San Diego’s Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, 5998 Alcala Park. The morning will be highlighted by a spotlight panel discussion with former Los Angeles Times reporter and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tony Perry; KPBS Executive Producer for News Natalie Walsh; Voice of San Diego Editor in Chief Scott Lewis; The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial and Opinion Editor Matthew T. Hall; and Fox 5 primetime news anchor Kathleen Blade.

“It used to be said you’re entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts,” said Carl Luna, a professor of political science at San Diego Mesa College who also serves as Director, Institute for Civil Civic Engagement and who will moderate the spotlight panel discussion. “The rise of ‘fake news’ as a tool of partisan and anti-democratic politics has challenged the very basis of the truthfulness of the facts we use in our community and national dialogues. You simply cannot maintain a democracy where we can’t agree on some basic facts about the world. Our conference is aimed at starting a discussion about how we get back to shared facts.”


Following is the lineup of activities during the week. All events are free and open to the public.

Tuesday, April 10, from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

“Tools for Being Media Savvy in an Age of Fake News”

Matthew Hall of The San Diego Union-Tribune will conduct a 90-minute workshop on distinguishing fact from fiction in news and social media.

San Diego Mesa College, Learning Resource Center 435, 7250 Mesa College Drive, 92111

Wednesday, April 11, 8 a.m. to noon

Plenary Session. Media Literacy: Finding Truth in a Post-Truth World

Welcome remarks by The Rev. George Walker Smith, founder of the Catfish Club; University of San Diego President James Harris; San Diego Community College District Chancellor Constance M. Carroll; and Julie Fry, president and CEO of California Humanities. Tom Karlo, general manager of KPBS radio and television, will introduce Steve Breen, who will deliver the keynote address on News, Funny News, and Fake News.

Breen captured the Pulitzer Prize in 1998 with the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey and in 2009 with The San Diego Union-Tribune. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from UC Riverside and was planning to become a history teacher when in 1994 the Asbury Park Press offered him a job in the paper’s art department. Two years later, he became the paper’s full-time editorial cartoonist, and The San Diego Union-Tribune hired him in 2001. Many in the industry foresee another Pulitzer when this year’s prizes are announced on April 16; his series of illustrations and biographies of people living on the streets of downtown San Diego in a series called “Street Art” has drawn attention from across the country.

The keynote address will be followed by the spotlight panel comprising Tony Perry, Natalie Walsh, Scott Lewis, Matthew Hall, and Kathleen Blade.

University of San Diego Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, 5998 Alcala Park, 92110

Wednesday, April 11, 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.

Sorting Fake News from Real News without Starting a Fistfight

Faculty and staff from the Institute for Civil Dialogue at Arizona State University will lead a session on how to lead a fact-based dialogue on campus, in your community, and in your organizations.

University of San Diego Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, 5998 Alcala Park

Wednesday, April 11, 6 to 8:30 p.m.

“On Immigration and Journalism: A Conversation with Sonia Nazario”

This free and public event features a conversation between Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Sonia Nazario and Studiotobe founder Joaquin Alvarado. Nazario lived in Argentina during the so-called Dirty War and was the youngest reporter to be hired by the Wall Street Journal, leaving the paper in 1993 to join the Los Angeles Times, where she wrote about social issues. In 2003, she won the Pulitzer for feature writing after a gripping, six-part series about the experiences of Latin American children who immigrate to join their parents in the United States. Her 2006 book by the same name expanded her newspaper series, became a national bestseller, and has been required reading at hundreds of high schools across the country.

Alvarado is the former CEO for the Center for Investigative Reporting who previously served as senior vice president for digital innovation at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. This event is presented in partnership with California Humanities and the San Diego Community College District in association with the 7th Annual Restoring Respect Conference. RSVPs can be made via Eventbrite.

Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, 404 Euclid Ave., 92114

Thursday, April 12, 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

Pluralism and Journalism

Nazario will lead a presentation on pluralism, truth, and the modern era. Co-presented by California Humanities and the Institute for Civil Civic Engagement.

San Diego City College, Mathematics & Social Sciences Building-162, 1313 Park Blvd., 92101

Thursday, April 12, 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Media, Fake News & Local Politics

San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliot speaks with students and others about truth and media and their impact on local politics.

San Diego City College, Mathematics & Social Sciences Building-162, 1313 Park Blvd., 92101

The Institute for Civil Civic Engagement is a partnership between San Diego City, Mesa, and Miramar colleges and the University of San Diego to encourage, promote, and increase civility in civic discourse. It grew out of Restoring Respect, an initiative led by a consortium of groups and organizations that include the San Diego Community College District, the University of San Diego, the Catfish Club, and others. With workshops open to high school and college students, this year’s Annual Conference on Restoring Civility to Civic Dialogue goes beyond any of the past six annual events.

Restoring Respect is sponsored by the San Diego Community College District, the University of San Diego & the USD College of Arts and Sciences, the National Institute for Civil Discourse, the Institute for Civil Civic Engagement, KPBS, the San Diego Foundation, and San Diego Gas & Electric. Supporters include UC San Diego, Cal State San Marcos, San Diego State University, the League of Women Voters North County San Diego, and IVC Media, and more.

Click this link to register, or search for Restoring Respect 7th Annual Conference on Civility & Civic Dialogue.

As the second-largest of California’s 72 community college districts, the San Diego Community College District serves approximately 100,000 students annually through three two-year colleges and San Diego Continuing Education.  The three colleges, San Diego City College, San Diego Mesa College, and San Diego Miramar College, offer associate degrees and certificates in occupational programs that prepare students for transfer to four-year colleges and entry-level jobs.  Mesa College also offers a bachelor’s degree in Health Information Management.  Continuing Education offers noncredit adult education at seven campuses throughout San Diego.

Photo Caption: File photo from the 2017 conference (L to R): USD President James Harris; SDCCD Chancellor Constance M. Carroll; Dr. Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, Executive Director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse; and Mesa College Professor Carl Luna.


About the University of San Diego

The University of San Diego sets the standard for an engaged, contemporary Catholic university where innovative Changemakers confront humanity’s urgent challenges. With more than 9,000 students from 69 countries and 50 states, USD is the youngest independent institution on the U.S. News & World Report list of top 100 universities in the United States. The university's eight academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, the School of Law, the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, and the Division of Professional and Continuing Education. USD's Envisioning 2024 strategic plan capitalizes on the university’s recent progress and aligns new strategic goals with current strengths to help shape a vision for the future as the university looks ahead to its 75th anniversary in the year 2024.


Lizzette Herrera Castellanos