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Journalists address social responsibility in the era of Trump

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Posted: Thursday, October 26, 2017 11:54 am | Updated: 10:04 am, Wed Nov 1, 2017.

The second event in the Forum on Contemporary Issues in Society lecture series “What in The World Is Going On?” was held Oct. 24 in Community Arts.

The lecture was presented by Eugene Applebaum, chair of Community Engagement, and hosted by Irving D Reid, president emeritus and director of FOCIS.

Last month’s topic for the lecture featured a keynote speech on immigration and world politics by Vicente Fox, the former president of Mexico. The topic for this session was “The Press and The Presidency.”

It included discussions and speeches from three prominent journalists on how to navigate a career in news during Trump’s term, and in the face of plummeting approval and trust for the media in the wake of the 2016 election.

After a short anecdote by Reid on the history of the presidency and the press, Sandra O’Brien, Board of Governors member, and journalism professor Alicia Nails introduced the moderators—Devin Scillian and Vickie Thomas—and the keynote guests.

Each speaker had 10 to 15 minutes to deliver an uninterrupted address to the audience, during which they outlined their own personal philosophy and advice for being successful journalists in the modern era.

“When I was a young reporter, there was no such thing as alternative facts,” said Eugene Robinson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and political analyst. “And when you say that, you sound like a villain to some people, like you have an agenda. But it isn’t the press versus Trump. It’s the truth versus falsehood, and people have lost sight of that.”

Robinson said that while the current president has the most contentious attitude toward the press that he has seen, he understands that “things shouldn’t be ‘kumbaya’ between us in a democracy.”

“When the Washington Press was denied access to Trump rallies, it was a great reminder that access is not our job, accountability is our job,” said Robinson. “When access is cut off, you remember what you got in this business for.”

His view was shared by Joy Anne Reid, an MSNBC national correspondent. In her address, she spoke about the conglomeration of news networks and the bias taking over mass media in local areas that contribute to distrust.

“In a democracy, there is [an] adversarial relationship between the press and the presidency,” said Reid. “Positively, Trump has forced us to reconnect with our true responsibility. We exist as journalists to discover the truth.”

Audience members also had the opportunity to hear from FOX news contributor and former Trump campaign operative Steve Cortes, who labeled Trump’s obsession with the media as “strategic.”

“I think the media helped us in ways they couldn’t imagine,” Cortes said. “The media has lower ratings of approval than Trump, and I think there is a very good reason for that, what with all the fake news and misinformation.”

Although they disagreed on key points such as Trump’s governing, policies and relationship with the truth, the moderators and speakers agreed that fake news was a threat to both democracy and free news media.

For more information on FOCIS and their upcoming events, visit

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