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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Faculty of journalism department discusses failures of journalism during Trump era

Jong Man Kim/Collegian

Faculty of the University of Massachusetts journalism department gathered to speak about the failure of journalists during the 2016 presidential election and the first months of Donald Trump’s presidency in the Integrative Learning Center Wednesday night.

The panel was comprised of assistant professor Shaheen Pasha, department head Kathy Roberts Forde, and professors Razvan Sibii and Rodrigo Zamith and was moderated by faculty member Brian McDermott.

McDermott started the discussion by sharing the personal experience of where he was when FBI Director James Comey sent a letter alerting Congress that the bureau knew of additional emails that could revive the investigation of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information. He transitioned this experience into how the media is crucial in this day in age.

“I, and we, need journalism to stand up for our free society right now,” McDermott said.

Pasha spoke on a lack of diversity in newsrooms.

“If you do not have diversity where the leadership is, you cannot have that understanding of the issues that are affecting people of various communities, and that’s reflected in the reporting as well,” she said.

Forde discussed the relationship between the people and the press as well as the history of the press. Forde explained that the media circulated fake news over social media and journalists did not do a good job combatting this fake news as well as racist and xenophobic rhetoric. She went on to praise those that worked hard to work beyond these failures.

Forde explained the history of the press and how, “journalism has always been an integral part of American politics, since the founding of the country. It has also played a significant role in social and political change.” She highlighted examples such as the Hiroshima bombing, the McCarthy witch-hunt, the environmental movement and the Watergate scandal to prove the essential role journalists have in society.

Sibii, undergraduate program direction and chief undergraduate advisor, spoke about how Trump and his team have “used and abused” journalists and ways to address this issue. He told the audience five challenges that journalists may face with the new administration, which include Trump taking unprecedented advantage of the definition of newsworthiness, the “fire hose” technique [deciding what stories to cover], his deeply aggressive attitude toward journalists, the de-legitimizing of journalists and his lies.

“There used to be a time, especially with Obama since he was so calculated, everything he did end up saying was usually going to get coverage,” Sibii said. “[Trump] talks all the time. So you do have to stop going strictly by prominence. Just because the president says it, doesn’t make it newsworthy anymore.”

Zamith discussed data journalism and specifically the election models which indicated that Clinton had a high probability of winning the election based on the available data, therefore, most people assumed Clinton would win the election. Zamith claimed data journalism should not be used to predict the future.

“Journalists should let go of the idea that serious journalism needs to look a certain way,” Zamith said. “The misunderstanding of those forecasts coupled with the myth that data are more objective and closer to the truth led many to see evidence for a Trump victory, as outliers.”

After each panelist gave their presentations, they had a question and answer session with the audience.

Susan Kaplan, a senior reporter for New England Public Radio, said, “If you are truly interested in what Trump supporters are thinking, you might want to spend some time really trying to listen to what they say to you and take it a little bit beyond the normal defensiveness that tends to happen in these conversations.”

Abigail Charpentier can be reached at [email protected].

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  • D

    David Hunt 1990Feb 20, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    They’ve learned their lesson well from Orwell: Those who control the flow of information control what people believe.

  • D

    David FitzgeraldFeb 17, 2017 at 6:37 pm

    “Faculty of the University of Massachusetts journalism department gathered to speak about the failure of journalists during the 2016 presidential election and the first months of Donald Trump’s presidency in the Integrative Learning Center Wednesday night.”

    lately I have been seeing journalists frame their own narrative to make their 2016 “failure” seem to be hardly more than a failure to foresee that Trump could win.

    should Journalists be their own judge and jury?

    a majority of Americans have very negative attitudes towards journalists and especially those with national exposure

    is this because Americans perceive that Journalists merely didn’t take Trump seriously? NO

    as we know, emails brought into the light in 2016 show that some “famous journalists” actually colluded with the DNC and the Hillary campaign to try to help her win

    this outrageous breach of journalistic ethics is a fine example of why there is a widespread public mistrust of Journalists

    also, the fact is that most journalists are liberal, and therefore most fake news is generated by these liberal journalists

    I think most of the public knows this and is not fooled by the manufactured narrative of liberals

    will journalists now change?

    of course

    they will speak about upping their investigative journalism and standing up for our country against the new Republican administration

    after 8 years of giving the former administration a free pass

    what the public seems to want is for them to “do your job”


    giving equal effort to reporting about all sides of the political spectrum

    “do your job”

    is that too much to ask for?

  • E

    Ed CuttingFeb 17, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    How about POLITICAL diversity in the newsroom — or Journalism Department???

    Diversity is good, isn’t it?

  • D

    David FitzgeraldFeb 16, 2017 at 6:14 pm

    2016 in the news

    Obama administration after 8 years deported a total of about 2 million illegal aliens
    did anyone hear that from the MSM?
    where were the RESIST OBAMA protests?

    Trump said he was pro-LGBTQ at the RNC
    anyone hear that from the MSM?

    Trump was pictured in 2016 holding a rainbow flag that said LGBTQ for Trump
    anyone see that on MSM?

    Hillary had a small seizure on her plane in front of journalists after one of the debates
    anyone see that on the MSM?

    Hillary had other seizures on camera besides the big one on 9 11 2016
    anyone see those on the MSM?
    I bet those Hillary Seizure videos of her cross-eyed and bobble headed are still on YouTube
    and the clearly drunk Hillary video also
    anyone refer to them on the MSM?

    Trump signed an EO a couple weeks ago that affirmed Obama’s EO protecting LGBTQ government workers
    anyone see that on the MSM?

    the man who killed 50 LGBTQ Americans in Orlando was confirmed to be a radicalized Islamic terrorist
    anyone see that confirmation on the MSM?

    there is a problem with journalism and it’s not “failure”

    it’s propaganda

  • D

    David FitzgeraldFeb 16, 2017 at 5:53 pm

    wow, where to begin

    how about “data journalism”

    does this panel know that the HRC +12 and +14 polls were manufactured?

    these polls over sampled Democrats by about 10% to give the appearance of a large HRC lead

    was that a “failure” of journalism or was that intentional propaganda?

    hint: it was propaganda

    the MSM did not just “fail” in 2016

    almost all of the largest MSM organizations lean extremely left

    was this covered in this panel discussion? I don’t know since I wasn’t there

    but I question if this panel also failed

    did they address the lack of “investigative journalism” for the past 8 years?

    why all of a sudden is it back in style now?

    did they address that the MSM is itself responsible for creating lots of fake news?

    did they address the potential for much more MSM propaganda to take down Trump?

    CNN is widely acclaimed as the king of fake news on TV

    Washington Post is widely acclaimed as the king of fake news in print

    any discussion of that?