Sense of Community

March, June, September, December

From poverty concerns to major policy decisions, this series dives beyond the headlines to provide in-depth coverage of issues facing people and organizations in the Ozarks. KSMU's team of reporters combine for 10 stories each quarter, to air the final weeks of March, June, September and December.

Scott Harvey KSMU

As KSMU's Sense of Community Series on the State of Civility In Our Community winds down, we're looking back several years at a then forward looking, and now on-going initiative. Be Civil Be Heard is designed to encourage and incorporate civil engagement in our community.

Elizabeth Dudash Buskirk, is a Communications Professor at Missouri State University, and Curator of Be Civil Be Heard, a not-for-profit partner of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, currently administered out of the MSU Center For Community Engagement.  Dudash-Buskirk says the concept for Be Civil Be Heard, came after a series of contentious Springfield City Council meetings, several years ago: “I think it was somewhere between eight and ten years ago, the City Council and others in Springfield, really wanted to get a grip on having community conversation that was more civil than what was occurring.  They felt the city conversations were really problematic.”

Dr. Roger Ray

Springfield City Manager Greg Burris says the State of Civility in our Community is "Improving, but we need to be watchful."

Last month, when City officials learned President Trump was to visit Springfield, August 30th, one of the first things Burris did, was to shoot off a letter to the editor of the Springfield News-Leader.  Burris asked citizens and visitors to the city, supporters and protesters of the President, to be civil, courteous and polite to each other.

Ryan Welch / KSMU

All this week, we’re investigating civility and what role it plays in our community.

Today, we’re considering the news media:  what role do – or should – journalists play in encouraging civil discourse?  And what’s the state of civility in terms of how journalists themselves are treated?

Let’s tackle that one first by taking a step back and looking through a nationwide lens.

Christ Episcopal Church

On the corner of Kimbrough and Walnut in downtown Springfield sits one of the city’s oldest churches:  Christ Episcopal Church.  Inside, the Reverend Kenneth L. Chumbley, or “Father Ken” as he’s known, is delivering a sermon to his flock.

Father Ken has been here for nearly 22 years, and he says he’d rate the state of civility among Christian groups here in Springfield as “good.”

“It’s healthy. In my experience here, I can think of no occasion when Christians have been uncivil to one another. I think generally, we treat one another very respectfully. I think we generally treat one another as children of God,” Chumbley said.

(Photo courtesy Missouri State University)

Since we've been talking this week about the issue of civility and civil discourse in Springfield, there's a program here at Missouri State University that deals every day with those very issues: the Center for Dispute Resolution, a part of the MSU Department of Communication. The Center provides numerous services and support programs to help individuals, organizations and communities deal with conflict in positive and productive ways.  And they can boast an impressive record of success in this area. So we thought the Center's Director and Associate Director, Dr. Charlene Berquist and Heather Blades, would have some valuable insight into the problem and creating, and maintaining, civil discourse in a society that seems to be geared toward everything but civility. 

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