Four notable journalists talked about the positives and negatives of covering the current White House during a wide-ranging panel discussion at SVA Theater during the annual New Yorker Festival.
Titled “All the President’s Reporters,” New York Times’ Jo Becker, CNN’s Carl Bernstein, The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer and Washington Post’s Greg Miller talked about the unique aspects covering Donald Trump’s presidency.
His habit of engaging in tweet-storms several times a week was noted as an important pathway to understand the president’s thoughts on issues of the day.
“Thank God we have his tweets,” said Carl Bernstein. “It’s like a road map to the mind of Donald Trump.”
Greg Miller agreed, calling the president’s tweets “footage” recording the turbulent first period of the administration.
Jo Becker brought up the divisions across different media organizations, with the landscape starkly different from outlet to outlet that things can play out as dramatically and surprisingly as the 2016 campaign coverage showed. She pointed out much of today’s discourse happens within media outlets, in stark difference to Bernstein’s coverage of Watergate, where CBS News’ Walter Cronkite would laud the reporting of the Washington Post in its coverage, putting the issue on the national agenda.
“It would be [MSNBC’s] Rachel Maddow preaching to the converted, and then Fox News would go after you and Bob [Woodward],” Becker made the point to Bernstein.
Jane Mayer emphasized her belief that regardless of stonewalling and “fake news,” the truth always comes out eventually.
“The truth comes out. It sometimes takes a while, but it comes out. There’s a strong public-service streak that people in public office have when they see power being abused.”
Following the panel discussion, questions turned to the division between media outlets and the hyper-partisan viewpoint of readers. “I have my friends from school and I have my friends from Washington,” Miller said while describing growing up in a remote California town of 500 residents. “My school friends all think I’m fake news. They didn’t think I was fake in 5th grade but now I do.”
Bernstein wrapped up the panel noting that individuals no longer tune into national news broadcasts nightly, but rely on outlets portraying a specific political viewpoint with which they agree. “We’re losing a large part of the country [which ignores mainstream media]. And I don’t think they’re coming back.”