New York Times Reporter at WSU to Discuss Utah Teens Deadly TextOGDEN, Utah — Sending a text can wait. That is the message Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Matt Richtel will share March 19 at noon in Weber State University’s Shepherd Union Wildcat Theater.
Richtel also will join a panel discussion with University of Utah psychology professor David Strayer at 7 p.m. in the Stewart Stadium Skyroom Suite Third Floor. They will discuss how the science of attention affects culture and everyday life. The events are free and open to the public.
Richtel, a New York Times reporter, received the Pulitzer Prize in 2010 for his series of stories on distracted driving. One of Richtel’s subjects was a college student from Brigham City, Utah, who caused an accident that claimed the lives of two scientists in 2006. The college student was texting.
“Distraction happens when we are looking at a screen, looking at emails or text messages,” said Luke Fernandez, WSU’s Program and Technology Development manager. “We are aware of those problems, but they are much more acute and have so much more import and consequence in a driving situation. His story is not just about driving and distraction, but also about attention in the digital age.”
Richtel turned his reports into a book published in 2014 that explores the aftermath of the college student’s life, culminating in his receiving forgiveness from one of the victim’s daughters. The book is called “A Deadly Wandering: A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption in the Age of Attention.”
“Richtel’s book is framed within this larger issue about the challenges of distraction we have faced ever since we have been humans, but it has been enhanced and amplified by all of the digital technologies we use,” Fernandez said.
Richtel will speak about the dangers of distraction in the digital age, particularly while driving — and also the reasons people use their phones when they are aware of the risks.
“We know we shouldn’t drink and drive, and we are pretty good about that,” Fernandez said. “The consequences of texting and driving are equally fatal, but we have yet to address them with the gravity with which we address drunken driving. Why is that? That is part of what he will interrogate in this presentation.”
The presentation is sponsored by the College of Applied Science & Technology Speaker Series, the College of Arts & Humanities, the Department of Psychology, and the Weber State Neuroscience Program.
For more information on Richtel’s distracted driving series, visit https://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/technology/series/driven_to_distraction/index.html.
Visit weber.edu/wsutoday for more news about Weber State University.