“Why Talk Radio Skews Right” and “Fact in the Age of Truthiness” will be the topics explored at the School of Journalism and Communication’s annual event honoring the late former dean and professor John Hulteng. Conversations in Ethics 2011 will be held on Thursday, May 19 at the UO Portland and on Friday, May 20 in Eugene.

With thousands of radio shows and programs available to listeners of all backgrounds and ages, why are most American talk radio programs skewed to the right on the political spectrum? Radio professionals, academics and media critics will explore this and other questions on day one of the 2011 John L. Hulteng Conversations in Ethics conference presented by the School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC). “Why Talk Radio Skews Right” takes place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday, May 19 at the UO Portland, located at 70 NW Couch St. in Portland.

Thursday’s program will be hosted by Peter Laufer, the SOJC’s James Wallace Chair in Journalism, and Al Stavitsky, the SOJC’s senior associate dean and Turnbull Center director, and kicks off at 9:00 a.m. with a live broadcast of Oregon Public Broadcasting’s “Think Out Loud,” an award-winning talk show hosted by Emily Harris.

At 10:00 a.m., conference participants will be treated to a lively debate between syndicated talk show host Lars Larson (who calls his right-of-center show “Your Dog in the Fight”) and veteran war correspondent Terry Phillips, former host of “Quality of Life,” an interview/call in show airing on NPR stations in Central California.

Phillips was fired after writing an opinion piece critical of inappropriate sponsor influence on program content.

Laufer and Stavitsky, who both have experience as radio talk show hosts, will lead a lunchtime panel discussion featuring Bicoastal Media CEO Ken Dennis, whose company’s stations include KPNW-AM in Eugene, which broadcasts Rush Limbaugh, Lars Larson, Glenn Beck and Michael Savage; Drew University professor Scott Bonn, whose recent book “Mass Deception” analyzes communication methods used after 9/11 and during the U.S. invasion of Iraq; former Clear Channel Program Director John Scott, who managed both the company’s right-wing and left-wing talk stations in San Francisco; and University of West Florida professor Randy Bobbitt, whose book “Us Against Them” analyzes talk radio trends.

“Is talk radio a carnival side show or journalism influencing the electorate?” Laufer says. “ As a participant in the industry since the inception of its current incarnation, I find its growing influence sobering and well worth continuing study.”

Conference attendees will hear a diverse range of opinions and ideas from conference participants, who represent a sampling of the entire spectrum of practitioners in the talk radio business, Laufer says.

As citizen journalism and social media continue to steer public conversation, where do objectivity and opinion fit into news journalism? Ethicists and Media Scholars will explore that question as the conference continues Friday on the UO campus in Eugene with “Fact in the Age of Truthiness.” Two panel discussions will be held from 10 a.m. to noon in the Gerlinger Alumni Lounge, 1468 University St. Doors open at 9:45 a.m.

The program will be hosted by Tom Bivins, the SOJC’s John L. Hulteng Chair in Media Ethics, includes two panels. Participants in the 10:00 a.m. panel, “Exactly what is the place of opinion in news journalism?” include Bivins; Michael R. Fancher, executive editor of The Seattle Times for 20 years and a 2008-2009 Donald W. Reynolds Fellow in the Missouri School of Journalism; Lee Wilkins, a Curator’s Teaching Professor at the University of Missouri; and Michael Huntsberger, Assistant Professor of Mass Communication, Linfield College.

The 11:00 a.m. panel, “Can We Handle the Truth?” includes SOJC graduate students Ed Madison, Jacob Dittmer, Staci Tucker, Lauren Bratslavsky, and Karen Estlund.

The John L. Hulteng Conversations in Ethics is an annual event made possible by the family of the late John Hulteng, former SOJC dean and professor, who set standards of journalism ethics that remain intact today. For more information, contact Andrea Kowalski, director of communication, andreak@uoregon.edu or (541) 346-2897.