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SXSW Interactive 2016

Arguing Nicely: Is Civil Debate Still Possible?

On April 1, PBS will premiere "Point Taken," a national debate-driven TV show. The hope is to have a real, civil, constructive debate around the hottest topics of the day, acknowledging the points of view of experts as well as audiences around the country. But in a society of outrage culture and spheres of influence, public forums are becoming increasingly insular. The host of PBS' new "Point Taken" and Susan Ellingwood of the New York Times "Room for Debate" will examine the state of conversation and debate on television and on social media, and ask the big question: Can we still persuade others to accept a different point of view?

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  1. Polls show that increasingly citizens do not trust government, politicians and the media. How can we revitalize civic debate when there is no trust?
  2. How does the relative anonymity of social media help or hurt authentic dialogue? Are we hiding behind our hashtags?
  3. Point Taken is an upcoming PBS broadcast. How can we achieve an authentic conversation on TV? How can we open minds to the other side of an issue?


  • Host of Point Taken (Embargoed), Host, Point Taken, WGBH
  • Susan Ellingwood, Editor, Room for Debate, The New York Times


Tory Starr, Dir of Social Media, WGBH

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