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South Dakota News Watch co-sponsors USD state of democracy conference

The state of American democracy, and the role the media play in creating an informed electorate, will be at the heart of a daylong conference to be held on the campus of the University of South Dakota in Vermillion on Friday, March 10.

The annual Democracy Conference, sponsored by the Chiesman Center for Democracy at USD, will feature presentations, a panel discussion and a keynote speaker who will all address ways to improve democratic government and civic engagement in South Dakota.

The Chiesman center is a non-profit organization that is “dedicated to facilitating public dialogue, active civic engagement and the promotion of civic values” as a path toward protecting democracy in America, according to its website. The center conducts polling and research into democratic institutions, representative government and civic engagement, and provides information and activities aimed at increasing civic engagement and the fundamentals of a democratic nation.

Shane Nordyke, a USD political science professor who leads the Chiesman center, said attendees of the March 10 conference can attend sessions providing an update on polling and research data on democracy in South Dakota; hear presentations from USD students on civic engagement research; and listen to a roundtable discussion and ask questions of media members from around the state.

The keynote speaker is Michael W. Wagner, a professor of journalism at the University of Wisconsin who will discuss the nexus between democracy, civic engagement and the media.

“Increasingly people have questions about the health of democracy,” Nordyke said. “In our polling data, we’re seeing a disconnect and a disengagement from the process.

“We’ll address what is the state of democracy in South Dakota currently, and how do people feel about their engagement in the political process and the ways in which they are represented, and we’ll highlight the important role of journalism and the media in facilitating healthy democracies.”

South Dakota News Watch is a co-sponsor of the event, and News Watch content director Bart Pfankuch will be a panelist in the media roundtable discussion.

The event begins at 8:30 a.m. and runs until 3:45 p.m. Central time and will be held at the Al Neuharth Media Center, 555 N. Dakota St., on the USD campus.

Attendance is free and lunch will be provided.

CLICK HERE to RVSP for the event, which is encouraged for attendees.