SDN Encounter | A Surprisingly Short History of the ‘Right to Know’

SDN was delighted to host Professor Michael Schudson of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism on a visit to the University of Sydney on 12 and 13 March this year.  During his time at the University, Michael Schudson delivered a public lecture on the US FOI Act and the ‘right to know’ and was also guest of honour at the inaugural SDN Encounter where he responded to presentations and questions on his  work spanning the publication of Discovering the News (1978);  Advertising, the Uneasy Persuasion (1984); Watergate in American Memory (1992); The Good Citizen: A History of American Civic Life (l998),  and Why Democracies Need an Unlovable Press (2008).


A Surprisingly Short History of the ‘Right to Know’

Thursday 12 March 2015

Co-presented with the Sydney Ideas, the Department of Media and Communications at the University of Sydney and UTS School of Communication

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) passed by the US Congress in 1966 was the first modern law of its kind in the world. This lecture by America’s most distinguished scholar of media and communications re-examines its Cold War origins and shows why the law has helped in unexpected ways to strengthen a robust culture open to challenging established authorities and institutions. Professor Michael Schudson reconsiders the 21st-century meanings of the ‘right to know’ and suggests several reasons why a ground-breaking law with local origins and a surprisingly short history is today of global significance.


Professor Michael SchudsonMichael Schudson is Professor of Journalism in the Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Sociology. He gained his first degree from Swarthmore College before completing his doctorate in sociology at Harvard. Michael Schudson has taught at the University of Chicago and the University of California, San Diego and since 2009, has been a full-time member of the prestigious Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. For his pioneering contributions to such fields as the history and future of American news media, advertising, citizenship and popular culture, Michael Schudson has received many honours, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur Foundation ‘genius’ award. In 2014, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Groningen.

He writes regularly for such newspapers as The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and the Financial Times. His work also appears in the Columbia Journalism Review, Wilson Quarterly and The American Prospect, and he has published many books. Among the best known are Discovering the News (1978); Advertising, the Uneasy Persuasion (1984); and Watergate in American Memory (1992). The Economist urged all Americans to read The Good Citizen: A History of American Civic Life (l998), while the London-based Times Higher Education praised Why Democracies Need an Unlovable Press (2008) as ‘eloquent and wise’. He has also co-authored an influential report on the future of news, The Reconstruction of American Journalism (2009).

Photos from an Encounter with Michael Schudson Friday 13 March 2015, Darlington Conference Centre. All images by Nick Rowley.