Kool & The Gang look to bring the funk to Amphitheater


Grammy Award-winning band Kool & The Gang may be known for their fusion of funk, jazz, and rhythm and blues, but they don’t believe they fit into a specific genre.

Touring with everyone from the Jackson 5 to Kid Rock, Robert “Kool” Bell said they like fusing different genres to create a unique sound.

“We aren’t just an R&B band or a funk band, we’re a musical band,” Bell said. “We play a little bit of everything.” 

The group has tweaked its sound numerous times during its illustrious career. From its start-up jazz-infused funk in the ’60s to R&B-styled ballads in the ’80s, the group has undergone a plethora of change throughout the years.

Despite all the change, four core members have been with the band since its inception.

Bell, along with George Brown, Dennis Thomas and Ronald Bell, are four out of the original eight members that make up the group, and they’re still releasing music to this day.

They’ll look to bring the funk at 8:15 p.m. Friday in the Amphitheater.

Bell got his name while growing up in New Jersey where everyone in his neighborhood had nicknames. Trying to fit in, he got inspiration from a kid whose nickname was “cool.” He liked the vibe of the name, but since it was already taken, he had to change it up.

“I decided to spell it with a K, not knowing that one day I’d become Kool of Kool & the Gang,” he said. “I guess it was destiny.”

Kool & The Gang drew influence from jazz artists like Miles Davis and John Coltrane, but also enjoyed the funk of James Brown.

The group started out as a backup band for local artists, singing Motown hits in Jersey City, which led to the groundbreaking fusion of jazz and funk influences with the R&B stylings of Motown that Bell refers to as “Kool jazz.”

“By the time we were doing our own record, we were doing a little bit of everything, and because we didn’t have singers, we did it instrumentally,” Bell said. “No one else was doing that.”

From there, they rose to prominence in the early ’70s with tracks like “Jungle Boogie” and “Hollywood Swinging,” but hit it big during the late ’70s and early ’80s with Top 10 hits “Get Down on It,” “Cherish” and No. 1 hit “Celebrate.”

Their contribution to music doesn’t just come from their hits. They also influenced the G-funk era of hip-hop with their jazzy production and smooth instrumentals. Samples of their songs have been used by a collective of hip-hop artists including Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Schoolboy Q and many more.

One song in particular, “N.T.,” has been sampled more than 250 times, according to Samples of “N.T.” have been heard in Nas’ “N.Y. State of Mind,” Dr. Dre’s “The Next Episode” and N.W.A.’s “Gangsta Gangsta.”

Bell said he thinks hip-hop gravitated toward his group’s earlier sound because of the raw instrumentals.

“They’d get the groove, do the samples and rap on the track,” Bell said. “I met some of them and they’d tell me how they grew up on our music. At the time that we were doing it, we didn’t know where music was headed, we just played what we felt.”   

To this day, Kool & The Gang continue to tour and release music, including releasing a single in 2016 called “Sexy.” But for Bell, there’s nothing better than playing live for an audience.

“Live music is where it’s at,” he said. “We play off the vibe of the crowd. We might do ‘Hollywood Swinging’ and our trombone player will do a solo. We’re just having fun.”

As for who’s keeping the funk alive in music, Bell credits acts like Bruno Mars and Kendrick Lamar for continuing to expose people to the genre.

When it comes to their performance at Chautauqua, Bell said the audience should be ready for them to “mix it up.”

“Whatever energy we get from the crowd, we contain that energy and give it back to them,” he said. “We’ll take you through a musical journey.”

Writer Wajahat Ali to join James Fallows in conversation on Islam, media and alternative facts


Wajahat Ali grew up in California in an Pakistani immigrant family that had strong Muslim faith, but was also open-minded.

Now, Ali is a leading voice in critiquing an administration that would keep families like his apart, if they weren’t already in the United States. Ali will contribute his perspective to the interfaith portion of Week Eight, “Media and the News: Ethics in the Digital Age,” at 2 p.m. Friday in the Hall of Philosophy.

The conversation, titled “Halal Taco Trucks, Radical Moose Lambs, and Alternative Facts!,” will lead Ali and James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic, into a discussion on the depiction of Islam in the news media and the current political climate.

“The value and importance of this week,” Fallows said, “is having people who have spent a lot of their lives thinking and writing from a different and complementary range of perspectives about how to prepare for, how to deal with … strains on all the institutions that hold us together.”

Ali, who went to law school, is now a kind of jack-of-all-trades, but the common denominator in his career has been his faith. He is a regular op-ed contributor for The New York Times and The Atlantic, wrote a play titled The Domestic Crusaders and was a lead author and researcher of a report on Islamophobia by the Center for American Progress.

Ali wasn’t always intent on being a Muslim-American leader. In an interview with, he said he was lucky that his parents were encouraging of his creative talents because young Pakistani-American men were typically guided toward becoming doctors, engineers or businessmen.

“(My parents) gave me space to mess up, which really allowed me to find my groove and my identity in a very natural way that wasn’t suppressed or repressed or victimized or angry or retaliatory,” Ali said in the Feb. 1, 2013, article.

This creative talent was fostered in tandem with natural leadership abilities and comfort in his Muslim-American identity. In grade school, Ali said he was usually the only Muslim his friends knew, so he helped educate them.

When 9/11 happened, Ali was a board member of the Muslim Student Association at University of California, Berkeley. He joined his fellow MSA students in inviting the entire campus to join them in prayer.

Around the same time, he began working on The Domestic Crusaders, a play about a family of Pakistani-Americans much like his own.

Ali now writes about how Islam deals with internal pressures and with the strains it’s under in Europe and the United States.

“I would call them, from my own personal perspective, pressures of bigotry and prejudice,” Fallows said.

Ali’s columns cover a range of topics, but still feature the things that he said were most influential in his youth: family, faith and a strong sense of self. He also uses humor often, which he has said helped make people more receptive to hostile ideas they otherwise wouldn’t have entertained.

Maureen Rovegno, associate director of religion, said humor will play a key role in Ali’s conversation with Fallows on Friday.

“Wajahat Ali has a helpful and needed sense of humor,” Rovegno said. “Having an endearing history with trolls in the ‘Islamophobia industry,’ he will address with humor the ethical pathologies inherent in social media and other news forums, especially as they have been directed at Islam.”

Throughout his columns, however, there is also a thread of hope. In a Feb. 4 column for The New York Times, Ali wrote about how he is peacefully resisting the anti-Muslim policies and rhetoric of the Trump administration.

“The days look bleak right now, but I refuse to give into cynicism, nihilism or hate,” Ali wrote. “My faith commands me to remain hopeful. There’s a beautiful saying of the Prophet Muhammad: ‘Even if you see the day of judgment coming around the corner, plant a seed.’ ”

Century after New York suffrage, Kathy Hochul to discuss current challenges for women


Susan B. Anthony was teaching public school in Canajoharie, New York, in 1848 when she found out that teachers who were men were being paid $10 a month, while women teachers were making $2.50 a month for performing the same job.

That same year, the first-ever Women’s Rights Convention was held in Seneca Falls, organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. Sixty-nine years later, in November 1917, New York became the 12th state to allow women to vote.

In March, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the creation of the state’s Women’s Suffrage 100th Anniversary Commemoration Commission, which oversees events and programs across the state lasting through 2020, a century after the ratification of the 19th Amendment granting all American women the right to vote.

Hochul is the chairwoman of that commission, and at 3:30 p.m. Friday in the Hall of Philosophy, she will discuss “Women’s Suffrage: 100 Years in New York State” as part of the Oliver Archives Heritage Lecture Series. And while she will touch on historical aspects of the women’s movement and draw parallels to what the early suffragists endured, Hochul will not be lecturing her audience (“I don’t like reading to a crowd,” she said). Instead, she will focus largely on the challenges women continue to face today.

Kathy Hochul

A lot of the blatant unfairness confronted by Anthony, Stanton and other fighters for women’s rights in New York state has been addressed, but many hurdles still remain, Hochul said.

“We still have challenges,” she said. “New York state has the smallest pay gap between men and women in the nation, but there are still disparities.”

Hochul noted that nationally, 25 percent of public school superintendents are women, while 72 percent of K-12 teachers are women and most of the women in supervisory positions work in grade schools, not high schools. Likewise, women make up only 20 percent of the United States Congress and 25 percent of the members of state legislatures, she said.

Hochul is the only woman elected to statewide office in New York. As lieutenant governor, she serves as the president of the New York State Senate and chairs regional economic development councils across the state. She co-chairs the New York State Heroin and Opioid Abuse Task Force and the Community College Councils. She previously represented the 26th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, served as Erie County clerk from 2007 to 2011 and distinguished herself in local politics, in business and as an attorney.

And yet, she said, “I often still find myself the only woman in the room.”

Why has progress been so slow? Hochul blames “cultural norms that are not conducive to providing a welcoming place for women.”

“How will we be judged in 100 years?” she asked. “Poorly. I would say we fell short.”

On the other hand, Hochul said she is optimistic that change is happening. She pointed out that a record number of women are now running for elective office supported by groups like Emily’s List and the Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy, even after the bitter 2016 presidential campaign.

“I take heart in the dynamic of more and more women coming forward and having their voices heard in the corridors of power, both in politics and corporate boardrooms,” she said.

Marty Baron and Eric Newton to speak on the changing era of journalism

Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron

Marty Baron and Eric Newton have a long history. Their timeline together started at a meeting for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, where Newton is a consultant and Baron is a trustee. Timeline markers include Baron’s start at The Boston Globe in 2001, Newton’s transition to Arizona State University in 2015 and Baron’s move to The Washington Post in 2013.

Baron, executive editor of The Washington Post, and Newton, innovation chief at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, will come together again for a conversation at 10:45 a.m. Friday in the Amphitheater as part of Week Eight’s “Media and the News: Ethics in the Media.”

Many Americans became familiar with Baron through the 2015 Academy Award-winning film, “Spotlight,” which portrays The Boston Globe, under the direction of Baron as depicted by actor Liev Schreiber, and their 2001 investigation into child sex abuse cases of Boston Roman Catholic priests.

According to Baxter Holmes of Esquire, Baron is “one of the greatest newspaper editors of his or any other era”; according to an anonymous colleague at The Los Angeles Times, Baron acquired the nickname “boy wonder”; and according to Newton, Baron is executive editor of the Post at a time of “historic convergence of issues.”

This convergence meets at the apex of four elements: The Washington Post, journalism, the First Amendment and the United States, Newton said.

“The big factor, having to do with media ethics in the digital age, is what economists call the ‘creative destruction’ of the economy of American journalism,” he said. “It’s difficult to be ethical if you’re falling off a cliff.”

Marty Baron

In fact, from 2006 to 2016, there have been 20,000 total documented journalism jobs lost, according to a Poynter study. In the wake of these losses, newsrooms are scrambling to cope.

“The digital communications industry is exploding, growing astronomically,” Newton said. “More people are consuming news, including the news the newspapers are producing online, than have ever consumed news before. It is part of the information paradox: There are fewer newspaper journalists, but more people are paying attention to what they’re doing.”

Thus, Newton said, Baron’s job, and the jobs of The Washington Post staffers, have never been more crucial.

“Marty’s coming at a very interesting time for history of The Washington Post,” Newton said. “Will it show us how a newspaper can succeed in the digital age? Will it show us the new best practices for journalism in the digital age? Will it show us a way to cope with the attacks on freedom of expression? Will it give us guidance, set an example on how to deal with the unprecedented political divide?”

Last November, after accepting the second annual Hitchens Prize, which honors the memory of the late Christopher Hitchens, a contributing editor and columnist at Vanity Fair, Baron addressed the audience with remarks about two individuals: Hitchens, whom he held in high regard, and newly elected President Donald Trump.

“It is no wonder that some members of our staff at The Washington Post and at other news organizations received vile insults and threats of personal harm so worrisome that extra security was required,” Baron told the audience. “It is no wonder that one internet venue known for hate and misogyny and white nationalism posted the home addresses of media executives, clearly inviting vandalism or worse. Thankfully, nothing that I know of happened to anyone.”

When taking into consideration the criticism journalists would bear the brunt of, Baron addressed the fate of the journalistic profession post-election.

“Many journalists wonder with considerable weariness what it is going to be like for us during the next four — perhaps eight — years,” Baron said in November. “Will we be incessantly harassed and vilified? Will the new administration seize on opportunities to try intimidating us? Will we face obstruction at every turn? If so, what do we do? The answer, I believe, is pretty simple. Just do our job. Do it as it’s supposed to be done.”

Eric Newton

Matt Ewalt, associate director of education and youth services, said the conversation between Baron and Newton will give the audience an insider’s perspective on the way “it’s supposed to be done.”

“It will … take us not only inside the newsroom for decisions that are made, but considerations of a news organization’s covering of the current administration, looking at the really remarkable work … under Marty Baron’s leadership at the Globe and elsewhere,” Ewalt said.

And because of the friendship between the two journalists, Ewalt said the pair should be able to delve into the deepest issues right away.

“In a week that both asks ‘What are the ethical obligations of journalists’ and of us as news consumers,” Ewalt said, “this is also a peek inside of that process — to gain a more nuanced understanding of the very difficult conversations the news teams are having, the responsibility they feel to those they serve and to one another, and that broader role that not only institutions, but individuals who make up those institutions, have in those larger communities.”

Audience members will, therefore, gain insight on being active consumers while, Newton said, “navigating a world of viral deception” and “a media landscape that overwhelms us with information.”

Newton touched on this idea in his perception of news: it is beginning to divide and multiply. For example, whereas people used to buy toys at a department store, such as Macy’s, customers now find a toy store.

The same goes for journalism — where Americans used to get their news through more streamlined publications, information is now becoming more specialized and distributed more widely.

“There used to be a fishing column in the newspaper and now there’s an entire fishing communications industry, websites and apps,” Newton said. “They’ll tell you, ‘Hey, good time for mackerel right now! Go get in your boat right now!’ ”

Because of the rapid upkeep the media must maintain, Ewalt hopes after Baron’s lecture, the audience will consider the intensity of newsroom decision making.

“It’s easy to pick up The Washington Post in your hands or online and to think of that larger institution, but we often forget those decisions made by leadership, by editors, by reporters, by copy editor (and) by those who are curating content for the web,” Ewalt said. “Every single one of those decisions impacts that which we are consuming and engage with each and every day.”

Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster Brian Reagin will take on solo role at tonight’s concert


Every time Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Brian Reagin revisits Ernest Chausson’s “Poème,” op. 25, he says it’s like riding a bicycle.

It’s sort of a dark joke, considering Chausson supposedly died from slamming into a brick wall while riding a bicycle.

Reagin, first violin and Mischakoff/Taylor Concertmaster Chair, will perform the work with the CSO at 8:15 p.m. Thursday in the Amphitheater. The program, under the direction of guest conductor Giancarlo Guerrero, will also include Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 in A minor, nicknamed the “Scottish,” and Jean Sibelius’ “Finlandia,” op. 26.


“It’s a pretty standard violin solo,” Reagin said. “Most of us can’t really get away with not being exposed to it somehow or another.”

Chausson’s piece is something of a rite of passage for violinists, if anything because of its sheer difficulty.

“There are some lyrical passages, which as far as I’m concerned are what the violin was made for,” Reagin said. “But it’s all sandwiched between these incredibly difficult passages.”

While the violin is primarily a melodic instrument, composers often ask soloists to draw the bow across multiple strings simultaneously to produce chords. According to Reagin, the “Poème” is full of them, thanks in large part to composer and violin virtuoso Eugène Ysaÿe, for whom the piece was written.

“I think Ysaÿe was largely the inspiration for — if not responsible for actually writing — some of that passagework because he was certainly known for that,” Reagin said.

Ysaÿe’s own compositions, including a famous set of six unaccompanied violin sonatas inspired by J. S. Bach, relentlessly employ multiple stops.

“There are even examples in his sonatas where he asks for five or six notes,” Reagin said. “Obviously you have to roll them because we only have four strings.”

Reagin spends most of his time in the concertmaster’s chair, both at Chautauqua and with his home orchestra, the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra. He said the occasional transition from leader to soloist takes some effort.

“There’s always the slam of a gear shift to switch roles like that, in terms of comfort and execution,” Reagin said. “I’m not Augustin Hadelich, who does this all the time. For me, it’s a couple times a year.” (Hadelich will appear with the CSO in the final concert of the season.)

Reagin expects some difficulty balancing his sound with the orchestra, especially as the orchestra continues to adjust to the new Amp’s acoustics.

“(‘Poème’) is rather heavily orchestrated,” Reagin said. “Fortunately, there are a couple of extended cadenza passages where you’re all by yourself, so that’s not an issue.”

Chausson’s “Poème” was reportedly a hit at its first performance in 1896. Still, a music publisher apparently rejected the score two years before the composer’s death in 1899, calling it “vague and bizarre.”

As the concert approaches, Reagin is inclined to agree with that assessment. But, he added, “it’s also really, really beautiful.”

Arzu Geybulla explores the need for journalism under authoritarian regimes


Henry Luce, co-founder of Time magazine, once said he “became a journalist to come as close as possible to the heart of the world.”

Arzu Geybulla, a journalist and columnist who focuses on the human rights and press freedoms of her native Azerbaijan, has a slightly different motive.

“I became a journalist to come as close as possible to the heart of storytelling,” Geybulla said.

Speaking Wednesday morning in the Amphitheater amid Week Eight: “Media and the News: Ethics in the Digital Age,” she brought some of those stories to Chautauqua.

Situated at the borders of Russia, Iran, Georgia, Armenia and the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan has a relatively small population at 9.8 million.

“And yet, it is a country with the highest number of political prisoners per capita,” Geybulla said. “Its leaders wouldn’t tell you about this; in fact, much of what I’m about to share with you today, they won’t like.”

“But then,” she added, “that is why I cannot travel back to Azerbaijan, and live in self-imposed exile.”

After being ruled by a rotating series of empires and dynasties, Azerbaijan experienced a brief period of liberal independence in 1918. But within two years, Soviet Russia invaded. For the next 70 years, it would stay in power.

When the Soviet Union finally collapsed, Azerbaijan was left to face “economic collapse, domestic political chaos and an ethnic war with neighboring Armenia over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh,” Geybulla said.

A democratic election took place in 1992, but a “former KGB strongman” named Heydar Aliyev ousted the winner and took charge. Aliyev soon opened Azerbaijan up to Western oil corporations, but the influx of wealth degraded democratic institutions.

“The consequences of this decision — choosing energy over democracy — were catastrophic,” Geybulla said. “Without any internal mechanisms of control, we, the people, found ourselves in a state where fraudulent elections, corruption, (a) dismantled legal system (and) systematic crackdown on critics became a norm.”

Of course, not every institution was degraded. Kept in place by nepotism and corruption, the ruling family consolidated power and rewrote laws to broaden the scope of their powers.

“The only thing that has changed in the history, in fact, of all the elections that we’ve seen in Azerbaijan take place since independence, is how open these violations have become,” Geybulla said. “And no one is trying to hide it anymore. So you can really watch how ballots are being stuffed at polling stations.”

By the 21st century, there remained virtually no independent media institutions that could act as a check on the government.

But there are still journalists: “men and women who’ve risked their lives to cover these stories.”

It is a country with the highest number of political prisoners per capita,” Geybulla said. “Its leaders wouldn’t tell you about this; in fact, much of what I’m about to share with you today, they won’t like. But then, that is why I cannot travel back to Azerbaijan, and live in self-imposed exile.”

One such figure was Elmar Huseynov, the editor-in-chief of a weekly publication who, in 2005, was shot in front of his apartment and left for his wife to find.

“The magazine angered officials,” Geybulla said. “It faced several lawsuits and its journalists, including the editor, Elmar, were constantly persecuted and received threats. Huseynov never gave up, and he was committed to doing the journalism that he was doing.”

By 2009, the government had further entrenched itself by eliminating presidential term limits through a sham referendum. Soon after, foreign radio services were taken off the air.

“The same year, two of my friends, Emin (Milli) and Adnan (Hajizada), got arrested,” Geybulla said. “All of a sudden, the authorities were not just after members of traditional opposition parties, but they were also after this modern, tech-savvy, Western-educated youth.

“Let me rephrase that,” she continued. “They were after those who were not on their side.”

Milli and Hajizada had founded two different Azerbaijani youth initiatives, one of which helped students study abroad and the other that engaged returning students in community work.

“This was not something the authorities liked, especially because they had no control or influence over the context of these youth movements and the teachings that they were providing,” Geybulla said. “Emin and Adnan were potential threats.”

Following the pair’s production of a satirical video mocking the Azerbaijani Ministry of Agriculture’s purchase of two $41,000 donkeys, they were both arrested on trumped-up hooliganism charges.

“Now, for us it was funny; I see for you, it also sounds very funny,” Geybulla said to the audience. “But the government didn’t think it was funny.”

Hajizada and Milli were sentenced to two years and two and a half years, respectively. The international press decried the violation, and after a year they were both released. But since they were freed by a presidential pardon, not a court retraction, the criminal charges stayed on the books.

State corruption continued as usual through the next election cycle.

“But then came the Arab Spring,” Geybulla said.

Inspired by what had happened in other countries, activist Elnur Majidli took steps to “test the borders and see whether something (similar) could actually happen in Azerbaijan.” Using social media, Majidli organized a day of national protest on March 11, 2011, to “express … dissatisfaction with the authorities.”

But the movement’s Facebook page had been infiltrated by government spies, and when the day came, the police had already taken control of the designated meeting places.

Soon after, Geybulla (who was living in Istanbul) got a call from her dad.

“His first question was whether I was plotting to overthrow the government with my friends,” Geybulla said. “I said, ‘Hi, Dad. No, Dad. Wait, do they really think we’re overthrowing the government? Were authorities so intimidated?’

“Turns out they were,” she added.

Within a year, a series of exposés were written about the illegal business practices of the ruling family. Khadija Ismayilova, “Azerbaijan’s best and most well-known investigative reporter,” was key in unearthing such scandals as the million-dollar Dubai real estate owned by President Ilham Aliyev’s 11-year-old son and the stakes in the country’s biggest telecom company held by his daughters.

“Thanks to the work of journalists like Khadija, and (the) Panama Papers, today we know just how wealthy the ruling family in Azerbaijan is, and how all of that wealth was accumulated through offshore companies, complicated business schemes, corruption and money laundering,” Geybulla said.

The government was mostly silent about the revelations, but the investigative reporting did not go unpunished. Later in 2012, Ismayilova was anonymously blackmailed with a covertly filmed sex tape of her and her partner.

Her brother was also sent the video, likely in the hopes that he’d kill her for having premarital sex.

But Ismayilova did not back down.

“At a press conference she organized shortly after receiving the package, she was very strong, and she was bold,” Geybulla said. “She said she had no intentions of stopping her investigative work.”

The government cracked down. New regulations made it harder to obtain information about property ownership, and all ex-presidents and ex-first ladies were granted immunity.

The leaders of another youth group, Nida, were the next to get arrested. The sentences ranged from six to eight years, and the members (some as young as 16) were accused of trying to overthrow the government.

The repression continued.

“In the summer of 2014, following their arrest, offices of international organizations that had presence in the country since their early years of independence were raided,” Geybulla said. “Criminal investigations were launched against Open Society Foundations, IREX” and other organizations, including local media partners.

“At one point,” she said, “virtually all of the country’s well-known activists and NGO experts, including rights defenders, were under arrest on charges of hooliganism, tax evasion (and) drug possession.”

Ismayilova was arrested that December; radio and TV stations closed or were shut down, and independent journalists were rounded up and questioned. Some were let go, but others were charged.

By September of 2015, Ismayilova had been sentenced to seven and a half years; a number of other prominent journalists were jailed for similarly lengthy sentences.

“The reason these people ended up in jail was because President Ilham Aliyev was paranoid,” Geybulla said. “He feared that international organizations were in the country to fund an uprising and eventually overthrow him. And to prevent that, people had to be punished.”

Many of these political prisoners, including Ismayilova, were eventually released.

“But these men and women should not have spent a day in jail to begin with,” Geybulla said.

And 160 political prisoners still remain behind bars. Ten of them are journalists.

At one point,” she said, “virtually all of the country’s well-known activists and NGO experts, including rights defenders, were under arrest on charges of hooliganism, tax evasion (and) drug possession.”

“So where do I fit in all of this?” Geybulla asked.

In 2009, after starting a blog, she was invited to write with an Italy-based publication that covered the Caucasus and Balkans. And amid what she called “the golden days of blogging and social media,” Geybulla had the opportunity to train other aspiring Azerbaijani writers.

Through this work, she became involved with the Imagine Center for Conflict Transformation, a small nonprofit aiming to bilaterally end Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

“Engaging in any kind of cross-border work comes with a price,” Geybulla said. “And often, especially these days, it’s interpreted as an act of treason.”

But she did it anyway.

The writing allowed Geybulla to cover the human side of the conflict, which Azerbaijan’s mainstream media typically ignored.

“People wrote what they were paid to write when they went back home, and what their editors were told to cover, especially given the political sensitivities of the conflict,” Geybulla said. “Humanity mattered little.”

This work made her a target for Azerbaijan’s government. She became “the target of (an) online defamation campaign,” and strangers labeled her everything from a sellout to a traitor to a whore. She was threatened with torture, rape and murder.

“It was quite interesting to watch all of this happen,” Geybulla said.

She considers herself lucky. Unlike Ismayilova, she wasn’t sexually blackmailed or prevented from leaving the country. And unlike various other dissidents, she doesn’t have a sibling in jail. She was never forced to hide in a foreign consulate, and she’s never been tortured, or had her teeth broken during pre-trial detention. She’s never been kidnapped from home, forced to re-enter the country and charged with illegal border crossing.

It could be a lot worse. And for many of her fellow citizens, it is.

“I’m lucky to stand here and be given the honor to share with you these stories, as well as a story of my own,” Geybulla said. “Azerbaijan is a place where media freedom is a distant concept. It is a place where, as of March of this year, access to independent and opposition websites has been blocked on a regular basis. It is a place where there are no checks and balances. It is a place where independent journalism is perceived as a threat.”

She isn’t optimistic about the future of her country, truth be told.

“I have no illusion about change in leadership,” Geybulla said. “What I do know, and continue to strongly believe in, is the art of storytelling. And that, I’m not ready to give up on just yet.”

Diane Winston to discuss how changes in religious ethics have affected society with James Fallows


Journalism ethics cannot be considered separately from the ethical compass of the country at large.

Diane Winston will be talking about what that means for the priorities of the news media at 2 p.m. Thursday in the Hall of Philosophy as part of Week Eight, “Media and the News: Ethics in the Digital Age.” Winston, a leading scholar in news ethics and religion, will talk with James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic, during a conversation titled “From Reagan to Trump: Religion, Ethics and the News Media.”

“Journalism does not exist independently of our entire culture; it is part of our culture. The ethics of journalism reflects the highest standards of our society in general,” said Winston, the Knight Chair in Media and Religion at University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Diane Winston

The focus of Thursday’s conversation will be on how these standards have changed in the United States, Winston said, because they reflect on the state of religion, politics and news media, which are all interlinked.

All of these subjects — which have been the focus of many of Chautauqua Institution’s themes this summer — are heavily affected by the values and priorities of Americans, Winston said. However, because these relationships aren’t obvious on a daily basis, they are hard to conceptualize.

Winston explained, as an example, that journalists don’t actively think about what influences their moral compass during the day-to-day grind.

“Insofar as journalists are decent humans, they will apply their personal ethical code and being a decent person to their journalism,” Winston said. “But I’m talking about something even larger than that, which is what we stand for as a society.”

Winston has traced the roots of both political and journalistic ethics back to religion, which is what she will talk about Thursday with Fallows.

She will conclude with connecting religious ethics to changes in religion from the time of former President Ronald Reagan to current President Donald Trump.

James Fallows

Although she is now a professor, Winston did not just read about these changes in books. She experienced them firsthand as a religion reporter in the late 1980s in North Carolina, the heart of Southern Baptist and Evangelical territory.

This was a new world to Winston, who had grown up in a secular Jewish family in the Upper West Side. Winston said she had long been fascinated by religion because she was not raised with it, so she went to study at Harvard Divinity School. However, she quickly realized that others back home were not as interested in learning about religion.

“People would blow it off and think that this was just something crazy that was just beyond anything that would be meaningful to them,” Winston said.

Winston, though, was seeing for herself how large the influence of religion was on the identity of people in the South. She has continued to report on it through her books, like The Oxford Handbook on Religion and the American News Media, and her online magazine, Religion Dispatches.

Winston said this disdain for religion on the part of liberals is why she could have seen the Trump era coming while so many others didn’t.

“There is a bias that suggests religion is about superstition or it’s about ignorance … and so many people do not take it seriously,” Winston said. “They miss the power it has to galvanize people and to instigate and motivate social movements.”

Nancy Gibbs and David Von Drehle discuss being a journalist in the digital age during a polarizing political climate


For Nancy Gibbs, the managing editor of Time magazine, there’s a large difference between making a mistake in a story and intentionally getting a fact wrong.

However, both of these have mistakenly been grouped together by the public with the popularization of the term “fake news.”

Fake news, or the idea that news organizations sometimes deliberately distort information they gather, Gibbs said, is something she is weary to entertain as a new problem for journalists.   

“It’s always been in the interests of people who disagree with a story to suggest something in it is inaccurate, but up until now we didn’t call a mistake fake news,” Gibbs said. “It’s not a new phenomenon; it’s a new name.”

Gibbs will discuss similar issues of the ethics of journalism today with longtime friend and former editor-at-large for Time magazine David Von Drehle at 10:45 a.m. Thursday in the Amphitheater.

Nancy Gibbs

Von Drehle, who recently returned to The Washington Post to serve as a columnist, will join Gibbs to have a conversation about their different challenges in journalism through their unique perspectives.

After Von Drehle called Gibbs to inform her he’d be leaving Time, she got the idea to include him in her morning lecture as a kind of informational exit interview, drawing on his experiences in journalism — especially the last two years during the 2016 presidential race.

“He was on the front lines of both our coverage of the campaign and now this administration,” Gibbs said. “It struck me that it’d be interesting for me to draw him out on what he’s seen and learned and how the approach of our work has changed, particularly over the last two years.”

One of Von Drehle’s more well-known pieces from that time period was a cover story in the January 2016 issue about how President Donald Trump had already won the election, decoding methods that helped him become the 45th president of the United States even before the New Hampshire Republican primary had taken place.

Von Drehle said part of Trump’s rise came because of his engagement on social media and how people, especially his supporters, reacted to it.

“People weren’t necessarily relying on the middle man of the media, the press or the political parties to make their political decisions,” Von Drehle said. “Instead, more and more of them would go directly to the source, forming what felt like to them more personal relationships with the candidates.”

David Von Drehle

With social media’s role in society growing everyday, Von Drehle sees a problem with unlimited communication.

“It’s become very easy for people to choose only voices that tell them what they want to hear,” Von Drehle said. “That makes it easy for people to close their minds and shut out any new way of looking at the world.”

However, Von Drehle believes the majority of the world wants to learn, as opposed to being told what they want to hear.

“But those folks are feeling disenfranchised right now,” Von Drehle said. ”The extremists on the right and left have an ability to effectively find each other, multiply their voices and drown everyone else out.”

Von Drehle said the solution is to become a more active audience and support open-minded thinkers to counteract the extremists.

Knowing these challenges helps Von Drehle and Gibbs adapt to their audience, but they also have to adjust to the new ways of storytelling, something Gibbs said young journalists should know.

“They need to be extremely versatile,” Gibbs said. “Everyone has to be fluent in many languages of distribution because that’s the ecosystem now.”

But even with the changes to the media landscape, for up-and-coming reporters, some aspects of journalism remain the same.

“The reporting always has to be what guides you,” Gibbs said. “People don’t care what we think, they care what we can find out. It’s our job to find things out that are useful and valuable for people to know.”

Juggling, jokes return with ‘The Passing Zone Saves the World!’

© Jay Blakesberg/Retna LTD.

Not too many acts can do what The Passing Zone promises to do: save the world in 90 minutes.

Owen Morse and Jon Wee, the duo behind the comedy and juggling act, said they are up to the task. Having put on their show “Gravity Attacks” at Chautauqua Institution in 2014, Wee and Morse will return to present “The Passing Zone Saves the World!” at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Amphitheater.

“We discover at the beginning of the show that there’s a serious situation in which the earth is in danger,” Wee said. “And some people with superhuman powers are going to be needed to save the world, and we start to wonder if maybe that could be us. And then the plot unfolds from there — and I use the word ‘plot’ very loosely.”

There will be stun guns, chainsaws, superhero capes and pingpong balls, but, most importantly, Morse and Wee said, there would be humor for all ages.

Audience members often tell the duo they were expecting a straight juggling show, like something out of a children’s birthday party, and instead got a comedy show with juggling stunts. It’s part of their schtick to try to change what people think of when they think of “the ‘J’ word,” Wee said, referring to juggling.

“The main point of the whole show is to entertain everybody and get everybody laughing,” Wee said, with Morse adding their act is similar to Penn & Teller or the Smothers Brothers.

The two learned juggling separately as children, and then met in 1986 at a juggling convention. After graduating college, they pursued a career in entertainment together, making their first television appearance on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” in 1990. Other career highlights include providing their juggling skills for “The Addams Family” movie, performing for Prince Charles and in the White House, and competing on two seasons of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.”

Now based in California, the two do something daily to stay sharp, either working out at the gym or rehearsing the routine. Even so, no matter how many times they rehearse tossing running chainsaws, it’s always a little nerve-wracking.

“Chainsaws are probably the scariest,” Morse said. “There’s no good way to mis-catch a chainsaw.”

The Passing Zone has been awarded five Guinness World Records and 18 gold medals from the International Jugglers’ Association, but the duo said there’s less of an emphasis on breaking records today.

“The level of juggling in the show is still very high, but the show is more focused now on entertaining people,” Wee said.

To that point, Wee and Morse, bantering the same way they do during a performance, promised Chautauquans would be in for a treat if they come to the Amphitheater show.

“They will have the greatest night of their entire lives,” Wee said. “This could be the highlight of your life.”

“Yes,” Morse added, “especially if we save the world.”

Kathleen Hall Jamieson tells real story about fake news


Iraqi soldiers stole incubators from Kuwait hospitals and left the babies to die.

Hillary Clinton ran a child prostitution ring out of a D.C. pizzeria.

Tilapia is worse for you than bacon.

These are all eye-catching, interest-baiting headlines. They are also all lies.

Speaking Tuesday morning in the Amphitheater during Week Eight, “Media and the News: Ethics in the Digital Age,” co-founder Kathleen Hall Jamieson explored why these lies spread and how they can be stopped.

“I want to set up two premises to start at the top,” said Jamieson, the Elizabeth Ware Packard Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication and Walter and Leonore Director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. “The first is (that) political deception can matter, and the second is that the advent of what is called fake news — or what I call viral deception — increases the power of deception.”

Passed from person to person, and friend to friend, these misleading or flat-out false narratives rise in credibility as more and more people share them online.

And with each additional click, she said, public discourse is degraded just a little bit more.

The stakes of fake news extend beyond just the ones and zeros of the digital world, though.

“Deception is problematic because it can mobilize national action which you might not take in the absence of deception, it can mislead the electorate, it can invite non-responsive policy, … it can impugn character, and it can even endanger lives,” Jamieson said.

Deception can come from politicians, as with President Barack Obama’s promise that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it” and President Donald Trump’s claims of “42 percent unemployment.”

But it can also be propagated by political operatives (like Nayirah al-Sabah’s congressional testimony about Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait), media organizations (like the Daily Mail’s allegations that First Lady Melania Trump was once an escort) and fake news websites (like those that pushed the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory).

It is the veneer of authority, however, that allows all of these — and especially the last two, which went viral — to get away with blatant falsehood.

“The reason that fake news was called fake news was (because) it’s engaging in identity theft,” Jamieson said. “It’s pretending it’s news by looking like news, and as a result, you might be deceived.”

Fake news is not, she clarified, merely information one disagrees with.

Viral deception, meanwhile, need not adopt the guise of legitimate journalism. Instead, it consists of any harmful content spread between people — much like, as Jamieson cheekily noted, another infamous “VD.”

“Deception is problematic because it can mobilize national action which you might not take in the absence of deception, it can mislead the electorate, it can invite non-responsive policy, … it can impugn character, and it can even endanger lives,” Jamieson said.

“Viral deception has deceptive content, it digitally transmits to like-minded individuals, its actual source or its authorship is not disclosed and, importantly, when it is called out as being inaccurate, it is not corrected,” Jamieson said.

Playing a clip from Alex Jones’ “Infowars,” wherein the conspiracy theorist claims that NASA is running a slave colony on Mars, she noted that “most of us don’t believe that, but if people do, we need to be concerned.”

Even something that seems funny, like USA Today’s coverage of nonexistent “selfie shoes,” exemplifies this phenomenon.

Ending either of these twin scourges means understanding how they work, though.

“Human vulnerabilities make us susceptible,” Jamieson said. “We’re prone to uncritically accept and spread content we agree with, and we don’t think before we do that. Once we accept misinformation, it’s remarkably tenacious. We’re prone to accept information consistent with what we already believe, and familiarity equals perceived accuracy.”

“These are tendencies that we all experience,” she added. “Including journalists; including people who run”

As evidence, Jamieson referred to a Pew survey showing that a quarter of U.S. adults had shared fake news, as well as a recent meta-analysis of relevant research revealing that “misinformation tends to persist even in the face of debunking.”

In yet another study, “people rated familiar fake news as more accurate than unfamiliar real news,” Jamieson said.

In the face of these “human biases,” how can the effects of fake news and viral deception be mitigated?

Long-form journalism, like that which produces, provides one answer.

“If we can get you to read the whole correction, it will displace the misinformation,” Jamieson said. “But if we just tell you our conclusion — ‘It’s misleading’ — and even if we just say, ‘It’s misleading because’ and just give you one sentence, we’re far less likely to get rid of the misperception.”

Audio and video journalism also work well, as they can penetrate the deeper levels of belief that short-form writing cannot.

Cutting lies off at the pass also works. When Melania Trump sued the Daily Mail over their escort claims, she stopped the fake news from spreading, got a retraction printed and disincentivized future claims.

Gatekeepers like Facebook and Google can also help, as with the former’s post flagging and verification systems and the latter’s autocorrect and search result algorithms.

“They’re minimizing the likelihood that those who are pushing the viral deceptive content out are being rewarded by getting the clicks, and hence the revenue,” Jamieson said.

Broadcast media also has tools with which to combat inaccuracies, using things like chyrons and video evidence to dispute political claims in real time.

And over time, consistent repudiation can overwhelm even deeply entrenched misbeliefs.

“There are times in which continuing to pursue a correction over time ultimately creates an effective change in the discourse,” Jamieson said.

Presenting articles from conservative press like the The Wall Street Journal and Fox News, she pointed out how long-term debunking of Obama-era birtherism eventually created a bipartisan rejection of the claim, up to and including one of its lead propagators: Trump.

Outside of media, corporate and political entities, though, the average citizen can also work against fake news and viral deception. But they need to be equipped to do so.

“The ultimate protection is arming the public to detect deception,” Jamieson said.

One way to do this is to attack inaccuracies through unconventional mediums; for instance, “The Daily Show” has access to a younger demographic than more traditional news media do.

“The question is, can we find venues like this that reach younger conservative audiences as this reached younger liberal audiences?” Jamieson asked.

In an animated video titled “How To Spot Fake News,” she revealed other strategies that everyday readers can use when evaluating a given piece of news for accuracy:

  1. Consider the source
  2. Read beyond the headline
  3. Check the author
  4. Ask what the support is
  5. Check the date
  6. Consider if it’s a joke
  7. Check your biases
  8. Consult the experts

Jamieson went on to say that misinformation falls into certain prescriptive formats or reuses particular techniques. Awareness of these strategies helps reduce their efficacy.

“We need to learn to detect patterns of deception,” she said.

One way has tackled this issue is by producing a series of satirical attack ads set during the 1864 presidential election. The campaign reveals popular manipulation tactics without having to take into account modern-day political biases.

Played out in the characters of Abraham Lincoln and George McClellan, three such strategies — “taking things out of context, guilt by association and insinuating deception into a pattern of acceptance” — are brought to light.

Testing has shown this material effective at increasing awareness of manipulative techniques.

But when put back in the modern-day political environment, things get more complicated.

“It’s very difficult to recognize deception when our own ideological side is engaging in it,” Jamieson said. “And so we’ve created an example in which each side is using exactly the same deceptive move, in the hope that people will see that their side did it too.”

The example, a video called “Death By Wheelchair,” depicts a politician pushing an elderly, wheelchair-bound woman off a cliff in the context of a health care-themed attack ad. But the face of the killer is left unseen, and it remains up to the viewer to determine whether it was Obama or Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

Thus, both sides of the aisle are shown to be guilty of using strategies like “pseudonymous sources” and “a dramatic visual.” Manipulation is bipartisan.

Media consumers need to be wary of these sorts of techniques, Jamieson said. And they need to call them out even if it is members of their own side using them.

And through persistent work against fake news and viral deception on an individual level, they can be ended.

“We can really dampen down the effects of viral deception with the help of these structures if we recognize that the most important protection in this process isn’t (Facebook and Google), although they’re all important,” Jamieson said. “But rather, the ultimate protection is all of us.”

Professor Gustav Niebuhr to discuss increased interest in religion in media with Jim Fallows


The news media may finally be catching on to the importance of religion.

Gustav Niebuhr, associate professor of newspaper and online journalism and religion at Syracuse University, will discuss the value of this with James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic, at 2 p.m. Wednesday in the Hall of Philosophy. Their talk, titled “Some (Limited) Good News: Religion and the Media,” will bring a positive note to Week Eight’s theme, “Media and the News: Ethics in the Digital Age.”

“It appears to me that there’s more coverage out there, even if it’s not day to day, and it’s through this that there’s more opportunity for people who are consuming news to learn,” Niebuhr said. “And that makes me somewhat optimistic.”

Niebuhr has been observing the field of religion reporting for a long time, both as professor and reporter. While working on a career covering politics in New Orleans, he was told that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution was creating a position for reporting on religion.

They wanted to get religion on the front page, Niebuhr said.

Something clicked as Niebuhr considered the position. Part of it may have had to do with a family legacy in theology and religious ethics, though Niebuhr said he isn’t so sure.

Niebuhr is the grandnephew of Reinhold Niebuhr and grandson of H. Richard Niebuhr, two of the leading theologians of the 20th century who influenced many American leaders, including President Barack Obama and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. His father, Richard Reinhold Niebuhr, was also a prominent theologian who taught at Harvard Divinity School. However, Niebuhr didn’t want to be a scholar.

“Basically, I wanted to see religion from kind of the ground level, and the best way to do that was to be somebody who worked as a journalist and always felt he was discovering something new and learning something about the American culture,” Niebuhr said.

During his career as a religion reporter, which spanned nearly two decades, Niebuhr said he had the field mostly to himself. He was able to report on major stories with relatively little competition because there were so few other reporters. Other major news outlets quickly picked him up, including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The New York Times.

Nowadays, though, the field is a little more crowded, which Niebuhr said is a positive trend. On Wednesday, he will talk about how the increased interest in religion has led to increased coverage and, consequently, a better understanding about religion throughout the country.

Niebuhr conceded that increased coverage of religion means more bad reporting alongside the good, but he thinks the notion that the media is failing or unbalanced is a generalization. He said the complaints he encounters about religion reporting are usually about the ignorance of reporters, rather than about them being openly hostile to religion.

While Niebuhr said he is hesitant to talk about definitive trends because things are always changing, he’s still optimistic about the growth of religion reporting. Niebuhr thinks that could have a major impact on humanity’s understanding of one another.

“Religion has news. It’s pretty much fundamental to understanding life in America and overseas,” Niebuhr said. “And, to pay attention to that, is to have the possibility to really expand your mind and your knowledge and becoming much better educated about the world and the way it works.”

Azerbaijani journalist Arzu Geybulla to talk global press freedom challenges


Arzu Geybulla believes it’s imperative that people speak up for journalists’ rights — not just in the United States, but throughout the globe.

“We live in the 21st century, where information is abundant, in a world where you can and should talk about injustice,” said Geybulla, an Azerbaijani journalist and columnist. “Freedom is really a luxury for many people in many countries in the world.”

Geybulla will discuss the limits on press freedom in her home country of Azerbaijan at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday in the Amphitheater as part of the Week Eight theme “Media and the News: Ethics in the Digital Age.” Her talk will touch on ethical challenges, government crackdowns and her own struggles as a journalist.

“I wanted to focus on what ethics means in journalism in Azerbaijan and how difficult it is to abide by these norms because of the pressure that a lot of journalists are facing,” Geybulla said.

That pressure in Azerbaijan has escalated in recent years, as journalists there face censorship, threats, arrests and violence, she said. At least 25 government critics remained wrongfully imprisoned in the country in 2016, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

Geybulla, named one of BBC’s 100 Women in 2014, received her master’s degree in global politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and her bachelor’s degree in international relations from Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey.

After starting a blog in 2008, she went on to write for numerous media outlets, including Al Jazeera, openDemocracy and Foreign Policy’s “Democracy Lab.” She also worked for several think tanks and not-for-profit organizations, such as the National Democratic Institute, the Foreign Policy Research Institute and the European Stability Initiative.

Geybulla began receiving threats in 2014 after writing columns critical of the Azerbaijani government for a newspaper in Istanbul, she said, with some labeling her as an enemy of the state and others sending her death threats. Around that time, Azerbaijan began arresting more journalists and shutting down more media organizations.

Now, it isn’t safe for Geybulla and other Azerbaijani journalists to return to their home country.

“If we decide to go back home, we might end up at the police, questioned and arrested for crimes we haven’t committed,” she said.

Despite the situation, Geybulla remains determined to tell people’s stories and hold governments accountable.

“The most important thing that keeps motivating me is the fact that I want Azerbaijani people to have equal rights,” she said. “Not that many voices in Azerbaijan that have access to international community. I think it is a must to continue what I do and to continue tell stories of people whose voices are being silenced.”

Geybulla believes anyone can demand change. She encourages people to tell stories and influence decision makers in their governments.

“People forget what it means to fight for your rights,” she said. “Be active, be engaged. It’s another important reminder for people that they have a right and they have ability, so they should be engaged more proactively.”

Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ continues at CTC with free community matinee


Shakespeare is getting out of the high school English classroom and back on the stage for area students, thanks to an initiative from Chautauqua Theater Company.

“They are meant to be seen and lived through,” Andrew Borba, CTC artistic director and Shakespeare enthusiast, said of the Bard’s works.

When CTC’s Romeo & Juliet, the final show of the season, resumes its run, it will do so with a free community matinee at 11 a.m. Tuesday in Bratton Theater. There will also be a general admission show at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Bratton Theater.

The endeavour is a long time coming for CTC, Borba said, and part of an overall plan to increase the theater’s community engagement. Because there was the interest, and CTC saw it as “the right thing to do,” the theater is taking on the cost for this first year, Borba said.

In the weeks leading up to the performance, CTC contacted area schools, community centers, church groups and arts organizations with information on reserving a free ticket to the performance, said Jessica Kahkoska, CTC director of marketing and external communications.

Once someone makes the reservation through the Chautauqua Institution Ticket Office, all they have to do is get themselves to Chautauqua, where they will also have free access to the grounds in the time before and after the show.

“We hope that we’ve taken out a lot of barrier to access,” Kahkoska said.

After receiving more than 100 reservations from people outside of the Institution, the deal was also opened up to community members, Institution employees and students here for the summer, Kahkoska said.

Romeo & Juliet, in which the entire CTC conservatory is participating, is the perfect show to start on, given its accessibility and frequent inclusion on syllabi. Borba hopes audiences will enjoy the play, but also that it will help grow their interest in the arts.

“If we can get plays, specifically Shakespeare plays, to a younger audience, the statistics of their reading, the statistics of their continued patronage of not just the theater, but the rest of the arts, is extraordinarily high,” Borba said. “We’ve got to get in early.”

Considering future shows that connect with students and the community, Borba said the theater is looking at ways to grow and link this initiative with the goals of Chautauqua Institution as a whole. One of those is working on helping those who don’t easily have access to transportation.

Already, the theater is planning on a touring Shakespeare show that will go into the local community next summer.

“My hope is that this is the first in a long line of these,” Borba said. “And so it’s not just about building that relationship with those people who have come from those organizations that we’ve reached out to, but that we can continue to sort of spread our arms open to those groups, to bring them into the work we do, and maybe take some of the work we do out to them.”

Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra performs a night of Russian music


When the average classical music lover thinks of Russian orchestral music, he or she most likely thinks of the grand, sprawling symphonies by Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich and Prokofiev.

At 8:15 p.m Tuesday in the Amphitheater, the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra and Music Director Rossen Milanov will present a different side of the Russian repertoire as part of the “Into the Music” series. The concert will not have an intermission, and there will be a Q-and-A session afterward.

“This time, I wanted to focus on something more on a smaller scale,” Milanov said.

The reasoning behind at least one of the selections should be fairly obvious.

“The theater company is doing Romeo & Juliet, so I had to include Tchaikovsky’s version of it so people could hear one of the best musical representations of that story,” Milanov said.

Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s musical depiction of the Shakespeare classic is perhaps one of the most well known because of its frequent use in popular culture. One of the great clichés of on-screen romance is when the two lovers’ eyes meet to the swelling accompaniment of Tchaikovsky’s music. It’s rivaled only by the lush third movement of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 as a soundtrack for romance.

According to Milanov, Tchaikovsky epitomizes the intense, unvarnished emotion that characterizes Russian symphonic music.

“It’s difficult to avoid the music of Tchaikovsky,” Milanov said. “It’s so special and unique in its way of bridging the Russianness of the music and the soundness of the structure that would resemble music being written in the West at the time.”

It’s no surprise, then, that Tchaikovsky has been the most well-represented composer on CSO programs this season, with works like his first piano concerto, Fourth Symphony and the “Pathétique” symphony among others.

“He was probably the only Russian composer at the time who could go in one direction or the other without completely changing his style and staying very recognizable,” Milanov said. Russian music doesn’t limit itself to romance, however. Composers as early as Modest Mussorgsky didn’t shy away from more dark and grotesque themes drawn from Russian folklore. The waltz from Sergei Prokofiev’s operatic adaptation of War and Peace will open Tuesday’s concert.

“It’s as far away as one could imagine from the waltzes we’re used to hearing all the time by Johann Strauss. It’s not a Viennese waltz,” Milanov said. “It’s a waltz full of danger and a sense of oblivion or something terrible lurking in every corner of the music.”

Another work on the program, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Russian Easter Festival Overture,” seems to foreshadow later developments in orchestral writing throughout Europe and the United States.

“Let’s not forget that most of these works are from the 1880s. This was way before Impressionism was even on the minds of any composers in France,” Milanov said. “You can almost hear what’s going to happen 10 years later, when Impressionist composers would embrace modal structure in their melodies and interesting repetitive harmonies.”

While Tchaikovsky was not a formal member of the Big Five — a nationalistically minded group of Russian composers comprising Mily Balakirev, César Cui, Alexander Borodin, Mussorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov — he certainly took inspiration from Russian folklore. The concert will end with a rousing selection from Tchaikovsky’s dark, political and rarely performed opera Mazeppa.

“The ‘Gopak’ from Mazeppa may as well have been written by one of the Big Five,” Milanov said. “The uniqueness of their folklore, going all the way back to pagan times, was so important that it changed the way music would be written in the 20th century.”

Kathleen Hall Jamieson to discuss how to combat viral deception of fake news


Just as the neutral term “politics” — the art or science of government or governing — has become a pejorative over time, so too has “rhetoric” — the art or science of using language effectively and persuasively.

Yet underpinning each is a rich history of scholarship and practice dating back to antiquity which, when combined, can guide societies in developing the muscular dialogue necessary for exploring and resolving complex and tenacious policy problems.

“The capacity to recognize and make a good argument is the basis of decision-making,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, co-founder of the nonprofit website

Neither deceit nor misrepresentation are elements of a good argument, which is a course of reasoning aimed at demonstrating truth or falsehood. They are also not the basis of sound public policy-making.

As part of Week Eight’s “Media and the News: Ethics in the Digital Age” programming, Jamieson will give an address titled “Debunking Political Deception and Viral Deception (‘Fake News’)” at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday in the Amphitheater.

Jamieson — the Elizabeth Ware Packard Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication and the Walter and Leonore Director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania — discussed “fake news” stories during her March 5 interview with Brian Stelter, host of CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”

“I’d like to call them ‘viral deception,’ and I’d like to use the VD acronym, because I’d like to associate it with venereal disease,” she told Stelter. “We don’t want to get venereal disease. If you find someone who’s got it, you want to quarantine them and cure them. You don’t want to transmit it.”

Kathleen Hall Jamieson

Saying “fake news” calls into question what “real news” is, and invites people to label what they disagree with as “fake news.”

“As a result, it’s not a useful concept,” Jamieson continued in the interview. “What are we really concerned about? Deception. And deception of a certain sort that goes viral.”

In 2003, Jamieson co-founded with the award-winning journalist Brooks Jackson, after persuading him to work for the Annenberg Public Policy Center. During the 1992 presidential campaign, Jackson pioneered CNN’s “adwatch” and “factcheck” reports on the advertising, financial, and political strategies and statements of the candidates. That same year, Jamieson’s sixth book was published — Dirty Politics: Deception, Distraction and Democracy.

At the APPC, Jackson and Jamieson co-wrote unSpun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation (2007).’s purpose is to serve as a nonpartisan “consumer advocate” for voters to improve their understanding and to “reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics” by “monitor(ing) the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players.”

Last December, as part of the Facebook initiative “debunking fake news stories,” joined several other organizations in identifying and labeling phony news stories flagged by Facebook users. In July, with financial support from Facebook, it enhanced its efforts to contain the spread of viral deception.

Jamieson is eminently qualified to take on perpetrators of political deception and viral deception. Her grounding in argumentation — the presentation and elaboration of an argument — began in college and continued through graduate school. At Marquette University, she earned her bachelor’s degree in rhetoric and public address.

“It wasn’t unusual to study rhetoric and philosophy then,” Jamieson said. “Now it’s ‘communications,’ and rhetoric, which was originally part of a classics education, has been lost. … Training in the use of evidence to create good argument ought to be the foundational part of a communications degree.”

Father Flynn, a Jesuit priest and philosophy professor at Marquette, was Jamieson’s primary mentor. He taught a course in metaphysics, the branch of philosophy that explores the fundamental nature of reality. She said his course addressed the question, “How do you argue about things it’s difficult to argue about?”

“He taught at 8 a.m. and I am a late-night person,” Jamieson said. “But I would get up and drink large amounts of caffeinated tea. I would sit riveted through his classes while other students slept.”

Jamieson said that she wanted to be like Flynn, who was generous in his time with her and followed her through her career. He advised her not to go into the field of philosophy because as a woman, she would experience “rampant discrimination.”

Based on Flynn’s advice, Jamieson earned her master’s and Ph.D. in communication arts at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. During her 15 years at the University of Maryland, she successfully advanced along its tenure track to full professor, and in 1979 was awarded the Pan-Hellenic Council and Student Government Association’s certificate for excellence in teaching.

In her 1995 book, Beyond the Double Bind: Women and Leadership, Jamieson wrote optimistic narratives of how women from all walks of life overcame the double bind — i.e. the “you are too special to be equal” assertion and the “uterus-brain bind” (children and ideas cannot be conceived simultaneously) — that could easily have prevented their success no matter what they chose to do.

Jamieson chaired the speech communication department at the University of Texas for three years before being selected as the dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication in 1989. At the APPC, which she has led since its founding in 1993, her areas of research include “political communication, rhetorical theory and criticism, studies of various forms of campaign communication, and the discourse of the presidency.”

All told, Jamieson has authored, co-authored or edited more than 250 works, including 18 books, plus book chapters, journal articles, op-ed articles, reports and an anthology. Recently, she was the principal co-author of “Finding Consensual Fact in Political Debate” in Venomous Speech: Problems with American Political Discourse on the Right and Left, and “What is Civil Engaged Argument and Why Does Aspiring to it Matter” in Can We Talk? The Rise of Rude, Nasty, Stubborn Politics.

A widely sought-after authority on political communication and presidential elections, she has frequently been tapped for appearances on television and radio news programs. In The NPR Interviews 1995, for instance, there is a chapter titled “Kathleen Hall Jamieson.”

In addition to six teaching awards, Jamieson has received more than 50 prestigious honors. And over the years, universities foundations and anonymous grantors have presented her with 55-plus substantial grants. She has been appointed to 18 prominent task forces, commissions and panels, including at the presidential level, and to eight major boards and committees, including at the Center for Public Integrity and the Council for Excellence in Government.

“There are ways in which we as consumers of media can arm ourselves from viral deception,” Jamieson said. “There are habits of mind; things one can do that are habitually protective. … We are not powerless to recognize deception. If we all did these things, the problem would go away.”

Journalists Peter Beinart and Jim Fallows to connect Trump rhetoric to Jewish tensions


In times of intense division, sometimes media adds fuel to the fire of deeply entrenched conflict.

Peter Beinart, journalist and professor, will talk about how media has affected current tensions within the American Jewish community during a conversation with James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic, at 2 p.m. Tuesday in the Hall of Philosophy. Their conversation, “Tribalism, Globalism, and Judaism in the Age of Trump,” will add to the interfaith component of Week Eight’s theme, “Media and the News: Ethics in the Digital Age.”


“The debate that Trump has kind of framed has shifted the debate inside the American Jewish community in ways that are going to be significant for a long time to come,” said Beinart, associate professor of journalism and political science at the City University of New York.

The debate inside Judaism, Beinart said, is between tribalists and globalists.

Just as President Donald Trump’s rhetoric supports nativism and isolation, these Jewish tribalists want to protect the Jewish people from outsiders and support a strong Israel. Globalists, on the other hand, identify Jewish people as a minority group and want to support the rights of other minorities, like refugees.

Beinart said he will talk about how Trump and the onslaught of various types of media in the information age has influenced this division. Breitbart is an example of this, he said, because it is both hated and appreciated by Jewish people. Those who criticize it see its anti-Muslim, anti-Latino rhetoric as offensive because Jews identify with other persecuted groups.

“And yet, there’s a very strong connection to Breitbart among those Jews who essentially see Jewishness in Israel as on Trump’s side in this clash of civilizations both in the United States and globally,” Beinart said.

Beinart himself is currently a working journalist, and is a contributor to The Atlantic, a senior columnist at The Forward and a political commentator for CNN. Fallows said he knows Beinart as someone very involved in politics both in the United States and the Jewish world, based on his books, including 2012’s The Crisis of Zionism.

Fallows said Tuesday’s talk will be similar to his Monday conversation with Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson’s, in regard to talking about the larger evolution of politics in the United States. But, Fallows said, Beinart’s talk will be from the Jewish perspective. Beinart said that there is a notable difference between the three Abrahamic faiths.

“Like Christianity and Islam, (Judaism is) a religion with a universal message for all people, but it’s also a religion that’s bound up in a particular nation, a particular people,” Beinart said.

Fallows said this week’s lectures will not just discuss the challenges of modern society because people are already well aware of them. They will also address how to deal with and buffer those strains.

“I think this series (is) an examination by some of the best qualified and most articulate speakers about the ways in which the traditional bulwarks of successful civil society can cope with these pressures,” Fallows said.

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