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Whitworth professors debate First Amendment issues at annual Constitution Day lecture Sept. 17

September 10, 2012

The Whitworth University 2012 Constitution Day Lecture will feature a debate by Whitworth communication studies professors Jim McPherson, Mike Ingram and Erica Salkin. The three will discuss contemporary politics during their debate, titled, “First Amendment Gone Wild: What We Dislike but Tolerate,” on Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. in the Robinson Teaching Theatre in Weyerhaeuser Hall at Whitworth University. Admission is free. For more information, please call (509) 777-4739.

Constitution Day, which is officially recognized on Sept. 17, is a federally recognized national celebration of the signing of the U.S. government's founding document. The U.S. Constitution was signed on Sept. 17, 1787, by the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention, in Philadelphia, Pa.

“While Constitution Day has brought some excellent speakers to Whitworth in past years, students rarely have a chance to hear issues discussed with a panel that combines these particular talents,” says McPherson. “Erica Salkin is new to Whitworth, but she has already proven to be a noteworthy legal scholar elsewhere. Mike Ingram is a longtime teacher and scholar of free- speech issues. With my background in media history and media criticism, it should be a lively and informative discussion.”

The three professors will discuss pros and cons of First Amendment law, particularly in regard to lying, during the run-up to the November presidential election. The debate-discussion format will allow interaction and civil disagreement among the panelists. Members of the audience will be encouraged to ask questions about political speech, campaign issues and the First Amendment.

“The First Amendment exists to give us access to information we need for self-government,” McPherson continues. “At the same time, we all know that candidates and campaigns lie, yet the lying continues. So how are we supposed to know the truth that we need to govern ourselves effectively? Why would the Founding Fathers develop a Constitution that allows our candidates to lie to us? Is political lying today worse than in the past, and if so, can we do anything about it?”

McPherson, who joined the Whitworth faculty in 2000, is the author of two books and serves as the faculty advisor for Whitworth’s student-run newspaper, The Whitworthian. He is a former newspaper reporter, editor and public relations professional, and his areas of specialization include mass media and society, mass-media history, women in mass media, press rights and responsibilities, and mass media and politics.

Professor of Communication Studies Mike Ingram, who joined the Whitworth faculty in 1988, is also Whitworth’s director of forensics. He has coached the university’s ethics team since 2005; last year’s team won the national Ethics Bowl trophy, defeating schools such as Dartmouth College, Georgetown University and past national champion Clemson University. Ingram’s areas of expertise include debate and forensics, communication ethics, the First Amendment, parliamentary procedure and group communication.

Assistant Professor of Communication Studies Erica Salkin joined the Whitworth faculty this year. Before coming to Whitworth, she taught courses and studied at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. At Whitworth, Salkin teaches courses in Writing for Mass Media, Publicity and Public Relations, and Mass Media Law. Her areas of expertise include mass communication law, educational speech issues and the student press.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of 3,000 students, offers 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


Kathy Fechter, academic program assistant, communication studies, (509) 777-4739 or

Andrea Idso, interim public information officer, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or