Telling the Truth in a Post-Truth World: a symposium

          “The press is not the enemy of the people. It’s the enemy of liars.”

                            — Frank S. Robinson

This was a program of the New York State Writers Institute, founded by the great writer William Kennedy (with his MacArthur grant money); its director is Paul Grondahl. The Oct. 13-14 symposium entailed six panels, totaling nine hours, star-studded with luminous names. Many important topics were discussed, and some great points were made.

I will recap each panel’s highlights in separate blog posts (mostly without detailing who said what; and with a touch of my own spin).


But first an aside. I don’t consider my social skills strong. However, I’ve learned that compliments always go down well. And here I gave out a lot of them — all well deserved. I complimented Paul Grondahl three times (for masterminding this wonderful event; for deftly handling a loquacious questioner; and for his graciousness in honoring a longtime staffer). I complimented Rex Smith (editor of the Albany Times-Union) for the excellence of his weekly column; and several of the panelists for what they said. I lauded Floyd Abrams for his longtime purist First Amendment advocacy.


I remarked to Bill Kennedy how great he looks (I might have guessed his age at 65; it’s actually 89).

When I found Russell Banks sitting quietly alone, I told him how much I’d liked his book Continental Drift. I said, “People read novels basically to help them understand other people. And that book helped me a lot in that way.” I could see Banks deeply appreciated this; he just lit up on hearing it.

It all left me with a glow of positive feeling myself: that there’s so much good and right in the world. (But read on, about some panelists I did not compliment!)

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