Why Don’t You Trust the News Media?

Why Don’t You Trust the News Media?


– [Announcer] Your
support helps us bring you programs you love. Go to wyomingpbs.org,
click on ‘support,’ and become a sustaining
member or an annual member. It’s easy and secure. Thank you. (dramatic instrumental music) – The Society of
Professional Journalists came to Casper this year
and hoped to learn, not only why the people in the
conservative state of Wyoming distrust the media so much,
but also what the industry itself could change
to address the issue of media distrust nationwide. Our cameras watch their
final session in Casper. The highlights from The
Casper Project, that’s next. – [Narrator] Funding for
this program is made possible in part by the Wyoming
Humanities Counsel. Helping Wyoming take
a closer look at life through the humanities. Thinkwy.org, and by the members of the Wyoming PBS Foundation. Thank you for your support. – Good evening, and thank you
for coming out for this event. The Society of
Professional Journalists and the Society for Professional
Journalist Foundation decided that we need
to understand better why people don’t
trust the media. It is an institution that is
important to our democracy, yet there’s a disconnect,
and that’s concerning, and so, we started a
project here in Casper, where we got together
about 30 people to talk about the
issues of trust, and other issues that they
have regarding journalism and the press, and why they
don’t believe everything that they’re reading, or even
most of what they’re reading, and seeing. And so this group of
about 20 or 30 people we’ve been meeting,
periodically, and we had some really
good discussions, some tense discussions at times, and those participants
are here among you, but today, we decided
that we will broaden this conversation to
include as many people in Casper who wanted to join in. In our sessions, we
talked about such things as how do you identify news, and distinguish it
from other types of information such as
propaganda or even advertising. We talked about bias
and what is bias, and how do you recognize it. And when is it really bias. We also talked about, we also toured a
couple of news rooms. We went to KT Television
and we also went to the Casper Star Tribune, And people got a chance to see
how the news is put together. Then we gave our
panel an opportunity to speak directly
to journalists. We had journalists
right here in Casper to come out and
talk to our group, and we gave our
members an opportunity to ask them the
questions that they have that might help them understand what is the process for
putting together news, and what are the
steps that you take to make sure what you’re
producing is correct, and accurate and fair. Tonight, we’re doing
the natural next step, and that is to give you, as well as our participants
an opportunity to talk to national journalists. Survey after survey tells
us that people trust their local news organizations
more than they do their national, and so
that’s why we thought it was important to broaden
this and give all of Casper a chance to talk to
national journalists, who are involved in shaping
the news, the national news, that you get into your homes. So I wanna thank
you for coming out, and I encourage
you to participate in this important discussion. It will be informative for
the journalists on the panel, as well as we hope for you. I want to bring out for you now the leadership of the
organizations that I work for. We have Irwin Gratz,
who is the President of the Society of Professional
Journalists Foundation, and J. Alex Tarquinio,
who is the President of the Society of
Professional Journalists. Thank you.
(audience applauding) – Thank you Rod, and good
evening to all of you. I’m Irwin Gratz, I’ve been
a broadcast journalist for 40 years currently
working for main public radio, host and anchor of
Morning Edition, and my message tonight is
on behalf of our foundation, it’s a very simple one really. It is as Rod
mentioned, thank you, Not only to our panelists,
to Governor Sullivan, who will moderate but to you. We have been putting this
putting this project, pursuing this project
in the hope that if you have a better
sense of what it is we do, we’re less likely to
be viewed as your enemy than as your servant, which is
the way broadcast journalist and print journalists
see themselves. The questions and
comments that you bring to this forum tonight
is, Rod mentioned, will help those
of us who are here better understand you,
help us better do our jobs. And we’re also hoping and
this is also important to say Casper is a pilot
project and experiment, if you will, for us in
engaging members of the public with journalists, if
as we already suspect, this project is
deemed to success, we plan to replicate many other
places around the country. The Foundation supports the work of the Society of
Professional Journalist, which is this nation’s
most broad based journalism organization,
and it is my pleasure now to introduce the Society’s
President, Alex Tarquinio. (audience applauding) – Thank you Irwin, and welcome to the final
event in our Casper Project. This is a different
sort of project for us. Ordinarily, our programming
involves training or inspiring journalists
to do great work, but last year, we decided
to take a new tact. We first began by
sending journalists into middle schools and high
schools across the country to teach work shops on how
to recognize verified news in a program we call
Press For Education, and we were so encouraged
by that project that we wanted to
reach out to the public beyond the classroom. So I hope those of
you who participated in the project here in
Casper felt that you found that as a valuable experience. Now we’re concluding
with an all-star panel looking at the raise of
mistrust of the media, a nationwide concern that
really begs a solution before it undermines
our democracy. As Americans, we
have an innate trust in the freedom of
speech and of the press, yet many of ourselves now
find ourselves dubious of information, especially
that we read online, because it is
easily manipulated, or repackaged in
numberless viewpoints. Unfortunately, in nations
and cities across America, a deep-seated
mistrust has now led to a growing lack of confidence
in our national news media. Well tonight, we’re handing
the microphone to you. The journalists in
the room look forward to hearing how you view
the modern news media, and what we need to do
to regain your trust. So thank you very much
for joining us tonight. – A very pleasant good day
to each of you and welcome. I would like to personally thank
the SPJ journalist on call, who is, you already
met him, Mr. Rod Hicks. Who has developed and managed
this marvelous project. Please give him a
round of applause. (audience applauding) Pete Williams, justice
correspondent for NBC News, and a native of this
beautiful plaid valley, was scheduled to
moderate the forum. The delay of the Mueller
Hearing in DC has presented his appearance here today. The suits at NBC News can’t
get along without him, so he will not be with us, but he will address
you via videotape. So today joining us as
moderator will be Mike Sullivan. As most of you know,
Mike grew up in Douglas, and practiced law in Casper, and of course was Governor
from 1987 until 1995. Those were, ladies and
gentlemen, as you may remember, some tough times. Life has many ways of
testing the person’s will, either by having
nothing happen at all, or by having everything
happen at once, and it did, and Mike pulled us through. When Mike ran for Governor,
he went around the state always appearing in
a beat-up cowboy hat. His campaign staff spent long
hours beating up those hats. I don’t know if you
knew that or not (audience laughing) He was, as you may remember,
US Ambassador to Ireland from 1998 until 2001. Only in America could
a guy named Sullivan be named Ambassador to Ireland. Ladies and gentlemen, please
welcome Mike Sullivan. (audience applauding) Well my thanks, good evening. My thanks to you for coming, for being here for what I hope
is an important conversation and real opportunity, I
know it’s an opportunity, because I met panelists, and know it affords us an
opportunity for an conversation. I want to urge you, and I
believe it will be true, that this is a
civil conversation. As many of you know, I’ve participated in a
few panels about civility, and while I have no
question in my mind, there will be many
differences of opinion aired here this evening, because I know the
people of Wyoming. I also am confident that it
will be a civil discussion, and one in which we
could all be proud, and happy to have attended. For tonight is as much as about
hearing what you have to say and what questions you
have, as it is about hearing from the outstanding panelists
presenting this tonight by this Society of
Professional Journalists, and I have to admit, this
is a different role for me. The politician asking
questions of the journalists, because I reserved the
right to ask some questions. (audience applauding) Now these panelists,
as I’ve already said, are outstanding journalists, and we’re happy
to have them here, but as Al Simpson said, “They wanted to get
here in the worst way” and most of them did.
(audience laughing) Rod Hicks, who you have
already heard from, spent until 02:00 AM
in the Denver Airport, waiting to be told that
the plane was canceled. Some of you have
experienced that. Three of the other
panelists, I believe, came through hail storms
on their way here. One of the panelists had the
good fortune to find himself in Chian the first day of
the opening of the Capitol, and that was a
special privilege. But let’s introduce
them to you now. Each has a long list of
accomplishments in the field, but I’m just going to give
you some of the highlights so we can get to the
meat of the program, and the conversation. The first panelist
is Hayes Brown. He’s a world news editor
and Senior Reporter for Buzzfeed News,
covering the breaking news around the globe. He can also be seen
as a guest host for Buzzfeed programing, his live stream on
Twitter Broadcast, as well by a way of Facebook. Ladies and gentlemen,
please welcome Hayes Brown. (audience applauding) And Hayes, I could only say
that they didn’t have Twitter, or Facebook, or Buzzfeed
when I was in office, so I don’t know how I’m
going to handle you. (audience laughing) – Just treat me like everyone
else, it’ll be great. – Lori Montgomery is
Deputy National Editor at the Washington Post, where she helps manage coverage
of the Trump Administration, and Robert Mueller’s
investigation into
Russian involvement in the 2016 election. She previously was
Europe Bureau Chief for Knight Ridder Newspapers. Please welcome Lori. (audience applauding) Noreen Gillespie’s
wide-ranging career has included Deputy
Sports Editor, leading coverage of
the Rio Olympics. A Legislative Reporter
in Hartford, Connecticut, and now Deputy Managing
Editor for US news at the Associated Press. In this role, she
oversees a team of journalists based
in all 50 states. Please give a warm
welcome to Noreen. (audience applauding) And after working
in various positions at Dow Jones and company, Neal Lipschutz became top
editor for Dow Jones News Wires, and then Standards
and Ethics Editor for the Wall Street Journal. Today he’s Deputy
Editor in Chief at the Wall Street Journal. Please welcome Neal. (audience applauding) And I’m going to take a
seat and I reserve the right to ask the first question. Then I hope you’ll
trample over each other trying to get to the microphone. So you can both share your opinions, and ask your
questions of these panelists. Thank you very much! (audience applauding) – Good evening.
– Good evening. – This is a question that
I have been interested in, and this panel
brought it to my mind, and I think we just
a well start here, because it has some
local currency, and that is, have
you considered, or can you comment upon what impact geographic, and demographic bias for journalists may have in the reporting that takes
place in the national news? And I’ve seen it refer to, just so we understand
what I’m referring to, is the bubble of
the coastal cities that generates
the national news. Anybody like to start? – I’ll take a crack. Listen I feel very strongly
that diversity in newsrooms is crucially important. Diversity by race,
diversity by ethnicity, national origin diversity,
by gender in positions of authority, decision-
making positions, but I do agree with you
that geographic diversity, and frankly, I think, diversity
of economic circumstance, if I can use that phrase are equally important,
because I do think that we, while I do believe people
can make decisions broadly, and empathize with
people in circumstances other than their own, people bring you a wide range
of their own experiences to the decision-making,
and to the reporting, to the editing,
whether it’s video, or words, or
digital publication, I do think helps, and I think
that it is an important factor and one like all diversity
that many newsrooms can do better at. – I’ll take a crack at it too, so I was thinking about
this very question on the drive up
here from Denver. – [Mike] Good, that’s
because you realized you were in a different place.
(all laughing) – Yeah, I mean driving across
the beautiful countryside, by the way, thank
you for having us, this is a gorgeous place. You know the things that
we dwell on in Washington seem very far away, and
a little bit ridiculous, and I grew up on a farm
outside of Pittsburgh, and when I go home
to see my mom, as I will this weekend
when she turns 80, Washington also
seems very far away, and a little ridiculous, but at the Washington Post, we come from all
different places, and because we are trying
to cover your government, I mean the people who
are running the country, you have to sorta get into
that bubble, and understand it. So I think that we
all try to bring our individual experiences
to that reporting, but it’s hard to tell you, and explain
and as clearly as possible what’s happening without
actually immersing yourself in that bubble. So that doesn’t maybe totally
satisfy your question, but that’s kinda how it is. – One of the things
that we try to do, he mentioned before
that we have reporters in all 50 states, and that’s
something that we’re proud of at AP, we have at least
one person, if not more, in every state capitol, and
I think that that footprint to us, that physical presence
in all of these places informs the way that we report, and we deliberately try to
construct our coverage teams, whether it’s on something
like immigration, or whether it’s our
2020 campaign team, to take advantage of that. We wanna make sure that
we’re pulling reporting, and observations from people
who live in the communities that we’re writing about,
and that means we have people all over the country,
who are going to church, going to school, and live in
the places that we wanna pull those observations from. So when we talk about stories, we construct the conversations, and the participants of
the team with that in mind. Does it get us
all the way there? I’m sure that you can point to
places where we can improve, and I think as an industry, we’re always looking
for ways to do that, but that’s one way that
we try to address it at the Associated Press. – So, I’m gonna talk
about Buzzfeed News, and the way that
we think about this in two parts really. So first of all, I work
on the world news desk, so I’m working with
correspondents based
around the world, and one of the biggest
enemies for people who are foreign correspondents is something called
parachute journalism. That’s where someone
who is not from a place, comes in, spends like
two or three days there, writes a story about
it, and leaves, and people left
behind are wondering, well what is this place
you’ve written about, I don’t recognize it. So we’re constantly
telling our reporters, and honestly, they’re very good, so they’re very good at this, that they need to
work to avoid that, they need to be actually
speaking to the people who are being affected by
whatever issue they’re covering, they need to actually
be talking to the people who have lived whatever it
si they’re talking about, who are from that community,
much like the AP does. Here’s a secret for you though about a lot of
media institutions. A lot of them are broke. It is not a good
industry to be in, in terms of money, and in
terms of trying to make it so that you can have a
wide range of coverage. That’s why you’ll notice that, I know that you guys have
a lot of great local papers out here, but
around the country, a lot of those are closing, and so national papers,
and national media outlets like the Associated Press,
are left to fill those gaps. So I think that a big
part of why national media can struggle sometimes to
seem to be doing its best to cover the issues, the way
that they’re being viewed from the communities that are
actually experiencing them is a lack of time or resources. Like for example,
on our breaking new
desk in Los Angeles, where you would expect
not many people to care about Western Lands, we
had a reporter named Jim, who was obsessed with
covering the minutiae of how Western Lands, especially
those being administered by the Federal Government, which
is a huge part of the West, how that’s actually
being handled. Unfortunately, due to,
unfortunately he’s moved on to another outlet, but I
just wanted to bring him up as an example of, even
if people are from, are based in Los Angeles,
based in New York, based in Washington DC,
they still bring with them their interest, and their
desire to cover those issues, it’s all a matter of
can they have the time, and resources to actually
go and do that reporting, and do that journalism. – A Gallup poll showed
that the trustworthiness of journalists rated at 32%. Journalists ranked just ahead
of car salesmen and Congress. (audience chuckles) And I think until the
media, and journalists, and hard news recognize
they have an issue, they have a problem, it’s
never going to be corrected. And if the media, hard news
journalists, don’t recognize they have a problem, the 32%
is gonna continue to go down. Thank you. – Can I ask a followup
of you? (laughs) – [Man in Polo Shirt] Yes.
(audience applauds) When you say hard
news journalists– – [Man In Polo Shirt] Yes.
– Tell us a little bit more about what your definition,
is it us on the stage, are there other outlets
that you’re considering– – Well, no, I’m
referring to news anchors and referring to journalists. So I’m referring to news
reporters on CNN, to the AP, writers of the AP,
“The Washington Post”, “The New York Times”,
certainly not as much “The Wall Street
Journal”, but… – Are you referring to news or
are you referring to opinion? – No, you know, I
have this conversation and I’ve had it for five months. I know the difference
between opinion. I know the difference
between hard news. And so we’ve spent the last
five months demonstrating hard news bias, so I don’t
wanna waste everybody’s– Well could you maybe give us
an example of what you mean? Well, hard news is an AP
article in the paper, I mean I– – No, I know, but I of bias. What are you talking about when
you talk about liberal bias? – So you don’t understand
what liberal bias is? – I wanna understand
what you mean. – Well, it could either be
how something’s reported, an angle, but mostly opinion
written by journalists. So instead of
journalists writing facts and describing the facts
and the news story, they interject their
opinions in the article. So it’s supposed
to be hard news, but what comes out is opinion. So as an example, say an
article that refers to people that support
abortion to be activist, and somebody that opposes
abortion, they’re anti, you know, they have an anti
agenda against abortion. It’s just the way you
present something. That’s just a small example,
but again, I don’t wanna take all of these, everyone’s
time in goin’ through it because I provided,
I don’t know, 15, 20 different hard news articles
that showed liberal bias in reporting, and I think
it’s even further than that. I think it’s really
not what you report, it’s what you don’t report. It’s when the stories are… (audience applauds) It’s when the
stories are positive towards conservative
ideas they get buried or they get ignored. – You’re invested in the
narrative of this country and you’re invested
in how it’s reported and that’s the whole
point of the conversation we’re gonna have here today. So I think we can have this
conversation respectfully. – Sure. – I think I’d like to stay
away tonight from discussion of individual articles, though
I’m happy to talk to you on the side about that, just
because I wanna make sure that I have my information
correct about the articles that you’re referring to. And I can’t possibly know
five years of coverage sitting here on
the stage tonight. But I’d like to continue
that conversation with you. I will say broadly
that you’ve mentioned a couple of different topics. You’ve mentioned Russia,
you’ve mentioned abortion, you’ve mentioned a
few other things. One of the things
that we do at AP is we have a style book that
talks about language and usage and we share that
with the industry. And it guides us in how we
discuss in an unbiased way issues like abortion and
issues, I mean even on stories that come up and change that
aren’t in the style book, we’re constantly
having conversations
about that language. We have readers in the
U.S., and we have customers like the local paper here
that our content goes to to be shared with
other audiences. Sometimes those editors
reach out to us and say, “You know what, we think that “you didn’t describe that
right. We think you’re off.” And sometimes we change it,
and sometimes we go back and we’ll say, “This
is the reason why “we believe it’s sound.” And I think the hallmark
of an organization that’s committed to
being transparent, and an organization that’s
committed to accurate reporting has to be able to
stand up and say when they’ve gotten it wrong. And none of us sitting
up here are perfect. But we do go through
a lot of processes, whether it’s multiple layers
of editing on a story. Whether it’s thinking
very deliberately about the type of
language that we’re using and hearing feedback both
from people in the newsrooms that we work with and people
who are consuming the news to inform those decisions. So I don’t want you to sit down. I want you to keep
telling us if you think that we’re not getting it right, and I thank you for voicing
what you voiced today. – Thank you. Thank you. – Can I take one aspect
of your question? I mean at “The Wall
Street Journal”, obviously a lot of
what we report on is business and finance oriented. And to the degree you’re
looking for the good news of the last few years,
we’ve reported extensively, as have others, about the record
high levels of employment, the low unemployment rate,
you know some of the issues, obviously we also deal with of income disparities
in the country and wealth disparities. But the good news of the economy has certainly been something
I think widely reported. I would just offer
one other thought about all the investigations
of the president. Again, I’ll speak for he
Journal, but I do think it is probably a bit more
broadly applicable. When news organizations
report accusations, or ongoing federally
mandated investigations such as the Mueller
investigation, they’re not saying we
agree with every aspect or that we agree that
there is something there, we’re reporting on important
news, I would venture, for all Americans, that these
investigations are going on, and also reporting the claims of some other elected officials about what they
think might be there. Of course, to be fair, all
sides should be quoted. Certainly the administration’s
view should always be quoted, but I would only offer that
covering an investigation does not mean that “The Wall
Street Journal” has concluded that it will find
some wrongdoing. It means we’re
reporting that there’s an important
investigation going on. – Can I just ask a quick
question with that? So if somebody goes on and
makes an outrageous claim, then don’t you think you
should have some evidence or do some research to make
sure that that claim is correct before you report it? – [Hayes] So–
– [Neil] Yes please. – I’m gonna jump in
there really quickly, because I think that a lot of
what you’re speaking about, in situations where
you see someone on T.V. and they’re just
spouting off claims as you’re going, “That’s
not right, that’s not real.” Cable news is a very
particular animal in the journalism world. Like all of us up here are
mostly print reporters. So the guidelines
and the way that we go about reporting
stories is pretty different. It’s hard to correct people
live on air like that. It’s hard to know
when to jump in. I think that one thing that
a lot of people out here would be surprised by is how
much journalists get yelled at. Not only by people who
hold conservative views, but by people with liberal
views, by other journalists, we yell at each other
a lot if we think that someone has
gotten the story wrong. So that’s just a
constant in this field. As far as what you see, I will say that story choice
is very important in newsrooms. ‘Cause like I said
in my first answer, time and resources
are everything for most news organizations. Time is the most important
thing we can put out there. Time researching a story. Time talking to people. Time actually drafting the
story, having it edited. We can’t cover everything, in
a situation like we’re seeing over the last couple of
years where there are a lot of things
that are happening that have never happened
before in the history of this country, and those
things tend to rise to the top as far as, at least
our organization, because they’re what we find
to be more outside the norm. More weird, more
distressing at times. And so those are
what we help surface. I do think that something
else that might surprise you, I remember seeing, I
believe it was a week ago, during the debates
between the democrats. Do you know on Facebook which
outlets had the most views? The answer’s
conservative outlets. Your sites like Breitbart,
The Daily Caller, et cetera. So when you talk about the idea that those stories
aren’t out there, that the coverage that
skews a certain way towards the administration
isn’t out there, it is out there and it’s being
well read by a lot of people. They’re doing very well
for themselves on Facebook, which a lot of people
have also accused of trying to suppress
conservative news. So I just wanted to bring
those points to light in response to your questions. – Thank you very
much, I appreciate it. – [Neil] Thank you.
– [Hayes] Thank you. – [Pamela] Hello,
my name is Pamela. Welcome to the wild, wild west. (panel chuckles) – Thank you. – I am so grateful that you
have chosen to come to Wyoming. And I understand why. I happen to be somebody who is totally enthralled
with journalism. It’s my first love. I believe in the fourth estate. I believe in the
work that you do and the truth telling
that you try to do. And as somebody who
loves this profession, I gotta say I am so fed up
with the gotcha journalism. It seems that we
spend so much time focusing on sensational
issues and not real issues. And I think the media
is complicit in that. This last weekend is
a perfect example. We’ve all gotten up in
arms, one way or another, regarding the president’s
latest tweets. And the reality is there
are court cases going on. There are foreign policy
issues that are going on. There are so many
critical matters that we should be paying
attention to, and instead we’re
all up in arms. Whether we’re
conservatives or liberals, and we’re so tied up in these
sensational gotcha issues and we’re not paying
attention to real matters. And I just wonder, my
question is, where do you fall in terms of your feelings
of responsibility. (panel chattering)
– I think we all wanna answer you.
– [Pamela] For dealing with sensationalism
versus the reality. – [Hayes] Oh no, yeah.
– It’s a good question. And I think one of the
things that I would ask is who your audience is that
you’re talking about there. There’s certainly sensationalist
stories that exist across the U.S., but
there’s also good reporting going on all the time on
issues outside of Washington. One of the stories that
I’m proudest of this year that AP worked on was a
collaboration with a number of media outlets in
California around recovery from last year’s wildfires. And what that did,
we brought together a number of newsrooms
across California to do an accountability
driven project looking at how many
homes were in danger in the upcoming
years from wildfires, and it concluded that
one in twelve were. We gave data to newsrooms
all across California so that they could tell that
story for their local audience so that they could describe
how the danger pertained to the people who were
living in their community that they cover every day. Those types of
stories are important and they are happening
all over the U.S. We have so many choices
about the news outlets that we can pay
attention to and trust and consider to be
reputable reporting. And there are stories
outside of Washington. We tell them all the time. In the past couple years
at AP we’ve told stories about women who’ve gone missing
from Indian Reservations and how a lot of those cases
weren’t looked at for decades. That reporting exists and
it’s not hard to find. You just have to keep digging
a little bit deeper to see it. – Yeah, I would just add again, speaking for “The
Wall Street Journal”, you know we publish more
than 200 articles a day. We have more than
1,000 journalists based all over the world. We have a print newspaper
where several pages a day are devoted to world news. Several pages are
devoted to U.S. news. So the breadth of what we’re
doing on substantive issues day in and day out
is fairly broad. So again I think that from a
news readership point of view, there is a way to seek
out various outlets because the media
is not a monolith and people have different
levels of both ambition in journalism and in
breadth of coverage. And the coverage of
substantive issues, I totally agree with you, which is extraordinarily
important, I think is there if one looks. – [Hayes] Mm-hmm, goa head. – Yeah I would sort of
echo the same thoughts. I mean we have hundreds
of journalists covering dozens of stories a day. We’ve covered, we have
news about foreign policy, we have a big project underway about the effects of climate
change, we had a major project in the last year, in
the last couple years about fatal police shootings
and unsolved homicides in small towns, towns large
and small across the country. So we cover lots
and lots of things, but there’s a place,
there’s a website we got to that tells us what
our traffic is. And you know what? When Donald Trump
tweeted over the weekend about those four congresswomen, thousands of people
flocked to that story. Now does that mean
that’s why we cover it? That’s not why we cover it. I think we have a
responsibility to cover what the president says, particularly when what the
president says is so far outside the norms of
political discourse. We feel like we have to
hold a mirror up to that so that people can see
what it is, what it is. It’s our responsibility. And is it ideal that that’s
what people choose to focus on? Is it ideal that that’s what
the cable news channels, that’s what the cry
on is all the time? I don’t think so. I mean we should be reading
more about the opioid crisis. We should be reading about
any number of things. But for whatever reason, this president has captured
people’s attention. – And I just wanna end this
little round by saying, Pamela, we, Buzzfeed
News, we focus a lot on what goes viral. We like to write stories
that people want to share. That’s how we think about it. When we’re choosing and
writing up our stories, we want to find stories
that touch humanity and stories that
once you read them, people immediately want to
pass them on to other people so that they can read them too. And I gotta say, do you
now how annoying it is when a story that has been weeks
if not months being written gets couple thousand
views versus a short post on the presidents tweets that
gets half like half a million? It’s frustrating to us too. But, much like she just
said, they’re still news because it is the president. If it was any other person
just writing on Twitter it would be a different story. But when that is the
case, it is the president who is saying these
things, it’s our job to actually write about it. And we’re a digital only outlet. So we know exactly how
many people have read each and every one
of our stories. And we have what we call
the news curation team whose job it is to try
and put those stories in front of people. We are begging
people all the time to read our serious and sober
pieces and try to figure out strategies to get
people to want to read about protests in Sudan, to want to read
about climate change and the opioid crisis
and all of these things. But when you have
situation where the president is writing
things that makes a lot of the country feel cut off
and alienated and othered, and like, “Why
would you say that, “that is extremely hurtful?” That then becomes
our responsibility to put that our there
and say, “Look.” Though, I will say,
it has been shown that most people aren’t on
Twitter following Trumps tweets. They see what he says
because of what we do. We put them out there because
we decide that they are news. Because he’s the president. And so it’s a tough balancing
act to try and figure out how much weight do
you give that versus how much do you spend
your time and energy, again, our most
precious resource, covering what he
says on Twitter? – [Eric] I wanted to
shift focus a little bit. My names Eric. I’ve been teaching on
politics in the media for about 30 years now. [Hayes] Woo. – And there’s been persistent
studies showing, and surveys, that American knowledge about
basic political institutions, processes, is in decline. And you combine
that with the growth of confirmation bias, same
surveys who are showing that, and I’m just kinda shifting
the focus off you for a second, on us, the viewers
and the readers, what responsibility do we
have to be better consumers, better listeners and so forth. And I just kinda
throw that out to… (panel laughs)
(audience applauds) – Thank you. That’s a wonderful question. – Thank you. Listen, if I could start, I mean I think that it
is incredibly important. I think it is a very confusing
place out there as a reader. I don’t think there’s
any doubt about it. It’s the phrase that get used is a lot of news comes at
people sideways, right? They get it from a friend or
an acquaintance on social media or they’re somehow introduced
to a piece of news, and they don’t either
quickly look at or recognize the news organization that
produced that piece of news and they form opinions. I mean we’re in a day and
age where literally anyone can become a publisher tomorrow. So I mean, or view, my
view certainly is that news brands matter
more than ever. Being able to discern
between news and opinion. Which is harder
than ever frankly, even when we probably label it because news is atomized, right? I’m old enough certainly to
remember pre-internet era when you read a print
newspaper and you knew where the editorials were, you
knew where the news was, you knew where the opinion was. And now I think for many
readers, it comes at you from all angles and
it’s, even when labeled, it’s hard to distinguish
between the two. So I do think there is
an obligation and I think people talk about
news literacy now and teaching it in schools,
that there’s more obligation on readers to look at the brand, look at what they stand for, look at their past history, look at how they treat
correcting errors when they make errors. All those things I think
add up to what gives a news brand integrity
and therefore should earn readers trust. But the readers have to do some
of that discovery themself. – I think a byproduct of
this environment has been that there’s programs
like this one. There’s programs like
MediaWise, there’s curriculums that are coming up in
school for elementary and middle school kids
that kind of force them to start to have
discussions about how do you evaluate
a credible source. There’s groups like the
trust project that work with media organizations to
try to instill basic indicators of trust for their audience. And I think that’s a
really positive trend. You know, you’ve seen a lot of groups responding
to that challenge. You know I didn’t have
media literacy skills when I was in school,
did any of you? – [Noreen] No
– [Hayes] Heck no. – The fact that that’s being
incorporated into classrooms at a really young age I think
is something that’s needed and also something that’s
really encouraging. I have three young kids at
home and they have overheard more conversations with me
and reporters (laughing) I’d care to, but what
we do is we talk about the importance of being there. The importance of confirming
through primary sources. And I think the more those
conversations can be instilled at a very young age, you’re
building up the muscle to know how you can
disseminate fact from fiction. – Right. And I wanna say that your
point about confirmation bias extremely important
since in this day and age you can choose not only who
you follow on social media, you can choose which news
you go and check out. You can find someone
who agrees with you on almost any
point in the world. No matter what you
believe in this world, somewhere on the
internet there is someone who agrees with you. So I think it’s really
important to have people be able to, when
you see something click the links back. Follow it back. Where did this
story first start? Did it start from
“The New York Times”? Did it start from a meme
someone saw on Facebook that someone through together
involving Hitler and AOC? Did it start, or did
you just see a headline? There’s so much that scrolls
by us each and every day now that we’re so
invested online. So invested on our phones. That it’s very difficult
for people to take the time to sit and actually
read through everything that goes by them. We found that, I mean,
people read headlines. They don’t read stories
a lot of the time. People see what’s in
that first sentence and maybe the lead, and they
make their decisions from there a lot of the time. So news organizations
have to figure out how to make sure that both
the headlines are accurate, that they fit into the context, to fit enough context
in there though still that people can understand at a glance what’s
happening here. And there’s been a lot of
debate in the media about how you put those
things our there. When the president
says something and it’s been proven to
be false, like just say he cites a number about how
much the economy has grown, well no actually it’s
grown by this much. If you put out just in
a headline, “President:” whatever he said, that in
itself can be misleading. It’s exactly the words he said, but if you’re just
reading the headlines, that’s all you come away with. And that can be confusing
because then when you hear someone say something
different you’re like, “But, no, but I saw. “I saw then heard that this
was how it actually is.” So people out there
really do need to have more media literacy. They need to be able to
do better google searches, they need to be able
to follow the source back to the primary
source and figure out where did this come from. – You raise a really
important point. The question was what can
consumers to do to maker sure that they’re armed
with media literacy? What are the things
that we can do too, is that in our reporting that
we’re tracing the origins of some of this
information for you. That we’re showing a
couple of things, right? Where it originated,
who embraced it, how it got into the
national conversation, and why it’s consequential. I think we’re dealing
with a whole scope of information out there. Some of it’s intentional
disinformation, some of it’s just
things that people say that are wrong that we
have to push back on, and some of it we don’t
know, we have to report out. But one of the things
that we’re really trying to do more and more
is show that chain in all types of reporting
whether it’s a news story or a fact check, because
it’s become such a big point of our environment
with the internet. And you know, just
with discourse. Kinda showing where
an argument came from, or showing where a piece
of content came from is as just much part of our job
today as interviewing people. – I’ve been listening
for 40 some years to my colleagues complaining
about bad press that they get. (chuckling) I typically tell them that usually the
cause of bad press in reporting on a
legislative thing is that the reporter
did not understand the subject matter at hand. Our reporters have to cover
a wide spectrum of things. They cannot be expert in
everything they report on. They just can’t be, it’s
not humanly possible. And frequently we tend to
talk in terms of jargon and make assumptions
about background knowledge that are simply inaccurate. So, the source has an obligation in terms of getting
accurate reporting, of making sure that the
reporter understood. And frankly most of
the bad press I’ve seen has come when people did not get that across and the journalist
consulted their prejudices to complete the story, ’cause they didn’t
have the full story. Now, my assumption had
always been that nationally the reporters were
more specialized, had more resources available and could be counted on to do a little more
of the background and understand the
material a little better. And I’m starting to wonder
if that is still true. You know I rely on The Wall
Street Journal quite a bit because I think they
have the resources and take the time to get it
right before they print it. But, it seems to me
that in many cases the resources are
no longer there and that principle
of a major cause of bad reporting is the reporter
simply didn’t understand, didn’t have the time,
didn’t get the help from the sources
that was needed. And my first question to you, is that a real problem
at the national level? – I think that it is less a
problem at the national level than it is at the local level. I’ve personally covered
three state legislatures in Texas, Michigan and Maryland and the quality of
information that you get, the amount of time that you
guys have to explain things, the outside help you get, the staffing support
is much less, much less the reporters
being specialized enough to understand what is happening with the flood control
district or whatever it is. But it’s the reporters
responsibility to ask the questions to get it
right, I mean fundamentally. – Yes but the reporter
has a deadline. – Well none the less, when you’re a reporter,
wherever you’re a reporter, especially if your sources
are picking up your newspaper and reading what you wrote you find out very
quickly what happens when you don’t get it
right and that feels bad. – So bad. – And you don’t want
it to happen again so you have to keep asking
all those questions. Now on the national level I
think, in terms of legislation, there are hundreds of
reporters covering Congress. It’s like a whole
herd of reporters that just do energy and foreign
policy and economic policy. I think that’s less the
case on the national level. – I have to thank you for
looking at the relationship between source and reporter
as just that, a relationship. Because it is. And I think the stronger
relationships are with sources, the better journalism comes
out on the other side. I also spent time covering
a state legislature. It was the first job I had at AP and I was really lucky to
have a mentor who helped me build those relationships
and also helped show me how you build out a
legislative story. Because when you’re
in that environment, you do go from topic
to topic very quickly– – Especially on the
last day of the session. – And you’ve got to learn–
– It’s flying. – How to research really well and you have to know who to
go to for what information and you have to know what
sources are available to you to be able to back it up
with context and fact. I think, you asked the
question about local newsrooms. And I’m glad that you
did because we know, and part of the reason many
of us are here tonight, is that there are fewer
journalists in America right now than there were 10 years ago. That’s just a fact. Newsrooms are smaller. And in communities like Casper that rely on local
sources of information to understand state government, to understand local government and to understand what’s
going on around them, that’s something that we
have to fight to save. And I think, you know
we mentioned before we’ve got reporters in
all 50 state houses. In a lot of places,
AP’s reporters work with the other
state house reporters. Not just to mentor
them, but to also see how we can all work
together, right? Not collusion. And that’s a really
important distinction, but how we can work
together to create more news that’s valuable to you. And I think you looking
at the relationship with the journalists that
are in a given legislature or in Congress as just that, a relationship will
help us get there. – I want to raise
one other point that I’ve seen locally and
would like you to comment on. I’m increasingly
seeing reporters, and somebody mentioned
it earlier, who they’ll report,
the bias comes from how they select what they report and the angle they take
on covering a story and they’ll report on the
particular aspects of it that are interesting to them or that further their
particular causes and ignore the other things. I’m getting a feel
with a number of them like I do with a lobbyist. That I’m likely
to hear the truth, but not the whole truth. (laughing) The bias in coverage,
in particular, can be quite a problem. They just don’t cover the
key elements of the story. They cover what happens
to interest them. And that is, what is
your perception of that at the national level? I’ve seen it come and
go at the local level with particular reporters
and then your coverage is biased for a year or two. ‘Til they move on to
a different market. – I–
– I– – No, go ahead.
– I’m sorry. I was just gonna
say I think that we’re all editors up here and I think it’s the
role of the editor at a news organization. And again, what you said earlier and what some of the folks
up here said is important. A lot of this does start
with having enough resources. Having enough people to go
cover important stories. Do it in a fair and whole way, but also having enough
supervision of those reporters of experienced editors
who, on their own, understand the story
that they’re supervising and therefore will know
if the reporter comes back with only the part of the story or frankly perhaps not the most
important part of the story. And that editor’s
responsibility is to ask that reporter to go
out and do more reporting. Talk to more people and get the 360 degree view
of whatever the subject is. So I think editing,
strong editors, and again, this requires
news organizations with greater resources. I think, generally
speaking, some of the national news organizations
have more of those resources. The phrase unfortunately
goes back to one of earlier commenters. The phrase in journalism now is about local news deserts. Swaths of the country,
except for perhaps the AP, where there’s just
no local coverage and much less expert editors, much less editors who have lived in the
community for 30 years and that’s a problem. I don’t know the solution
to that problem frankly. – Could I take a moment
for a commercial? (laughing) – [Man] I’m not sure if
PBS will allow for that. – I promise you, it’s
not really a commercial. I wanna thank Rob Hicks who
has put all of this together. And weeks after week after week, we had an opportunity to learn about the difference
between opinion and fact and there were
a number of people that came to us week after week. I wish everybody could
have participated in the full project,
but Rob, thanks. (audience clapping) (dramatic instrumental music) – [Announcer] Funding
for this program is made possible in part by
the Wyoming Humanities Council, helping Wyoming
take a closer look at life through the humanities. Thinkwy.org. And by the members of the
WyomingPBS Foundation. Thank you for your support.

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