LaGuardia Community College has a club for just about every interest and skill. Photography, chess, creative writing, women in stem, tabletop board games, psychology, cooking, anime, economics, are all clubs organized by students for students. Despite the presence of these clubs at LaGuardia, each offering leadership and community-building opportunities, a growing number of LaGuardia students […]
That single question echoed in New York University’s Rosenthal Pavilion room to welcomed “The Media’s Responsibility in Election 2020” plenary during the 27th New York Press Club Foundation Conference on Journalism.
NYU Kimmel Center hosted this annual event on Saturday, September 7th, and gathered outstanding journalists and students to talk about the upcoming presidential elections, the process and hard work that it presents for journalists.
Four panelists were interviewed by the moderator, Ethan Harp, senior writer for CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time.” The audience was also allowed to pose questions to the panelists.
“I hope we’re ready and I hope that we’re going to report and let the rest of it fall where it will,” said Harry Siegel, a senior editor at The Daily Beast and New York Daily News columnist. “Reporting is to put the information out there in a clear way and the public determines what to do with it.”
This precise, informative role of journalists is still alive. Michael Calderone, senior media reporter at Politico, considers that commitment of journalism has not changed since the last elections. However, since the 2016 elections, the media attention is continuously diverted to every word and action of President Donald Trump. And for him, it means a curveball in the reporting process that could affect the journalistic approach.
“I think there is a possible pitfall of being constantly distracted. That doesn’t mean ignoring the president. He should be covered all the time, but maybe trying to be mindful of some of these pitfalls all way on,” said Calderone.
Calderone’s panelist colleagues agreed with him, remarking that everyone reacts towards President Trump’s actions, all the while putting journalists in a “spotlight place.”
“Trump has successfully pulled the onus on reporters and made them desperately run against the press, the enemy of the people. They [reporters] are not comfortable being part of the people he’s fighting against,” said Zack Fink, a reporter at NY1.
“Reporters, like anybody, would get distracted by that. I just hope that the lessons are learned to keep their eyeball focus,” he added.
Ruby Cramer, a political reporter at BuzzFeed News, recalled her experience covering Hillary Clinton during 2016. She remembered how the public attention shifted from Clinton to President Trump at an unexpected point, leaving a sense that again, anything could happen.
“We have no idea what that’s going to look like. There is no way we can be ready for that,” she said.
But, currently, the attention is partly divided. The electoral environment is also focused on who will be the Democratic nominee to face President Trump.
Cramer brought up that reporting about all the candidates at the same time can be rather overwhelming. She explained that the key is teamwork, so that each reporter in the newsroom can cover a specific candidate or popular issue, resulting in managing to communicate the information in a balanced way.
“We’re all just trying to figure it out. As we go and do the best job, we can write the best stories that can cover this crazy primary,” she said.
Calderone recalled that it is the first time that many candidates are facing each other in a primary. And considers that the best option is to follow the metrics and polls and give each candidate the attention he or she deserves.
But so far, journalists and citizens must deal with another problem every day: fake news. And more than that, sensational news. Headlines in yellow journalism often call the attention of readers and are what sometimes leads to the spread of inaccurate facts.
“Media companies want to build audience and readers. Unfortunately, it is part of what comes with journalism,” said Fink. “Good journalism will sometimes be attached to sensational headlines.”
On the other hand, Siegel talked about fake news. He referred to it as a disaster and thinks that “underlying facts” are more difficult to be verified when the information becomes repetitive.
Calderone described it as “an information or misinformation ecosystem that is churning constantly,” and proposes transparency as a viable solution.
“The best thing you can do is record information. I think the news media can do more in terms of transparency and talking about their process,” he said.
Whether the media is completely or partially ready is still a question that was left unanswered. Yet, until November 2020, media has once more opportunity to implement its strengths and overcome any mistake in reporting the upcoming election process.