Journalism panel debates media’s role after election

DSCF5507 (2)Photo by Lucy Wimmer

By Jillian Miller

Contributing Writer

On Wednesday, March 29 in Convocation Hall, a panel of journalists discussed the future of the industry in “Speaking Truth to Power: The Future of Journalism in a Post-Truth, Fake News World.” The panel included esteemed journalists Michael Cass (C’93), a speech writer formerly with The Tennessean, Allan Holmes from the Center for Public Integrity, Paul Reyes of the Virginia Quarterly Review, Neil Shea from National Geographic, and Emily Singer, a reporter for WPLN/NPR Nashville.

The panel flowed between Professor Melody Crowder-Meyer of the Politics Department, who moderated and posed questions gathered from students, faculty, and community members, to the five journalists. The panel was sponsored by several departments, offices, and organizations across campus, including The Sewanee Purple.

To start things off, Siner explained how bias is not the enemy of journalism as so many believe. “Objectivity is not obtainable. We all sort of know that,” she commented. She urged the importance of diversity in the journalistic workplace, as each person brings a different set of experiences or “biases” that can bring out better and truer work.

The panelists also discussed the media’s influence on the previous election. They disagreed with the current societal opinion that the media is to blame for Trump’s win.  One panelist pointed out, “When you have a presidential candidate saying the type of things he was saying, it’s unusual. You report on it. That’s news.”

Many who submitted questions felt concerned about how they could support good and reliable forms of new and journalism. The panelists advised the audience to subscribe to their favorite organizations from the national to local level, joking that they should skip going out to eat at a restaurant in favor of supporting their chosen publications.

The topic of helping upstanding journalism sparked passion in the speakers. This prompted one of the journalist to urge the audience to “give. Give. Give to the organizations that you subscribe… Give it as a Christmas gift… Speak with your wallet!”

Clay Kirby (C’20) attended the panel with no reason other than interest in the state of our country at this time. He commented, “It was very informative, and it made me think of new questions and think of old questions in new ways regarding the media.”

Near the end, the panelists called to question the duty of citizenship. They urged the audience to be aware, criticize the government when need be, and double-check stories before reposting them.

At a special lunch between students and the visitors, one panelist commented that it was the first time in many years a parent might be excited about their child going into journalism. Whether they are blaming it or praising it, journalism is certainly on the minds and lips of American citizens.