Humanities Nebraska talks journalism and democracy

Journalism and democracy were the topics of discussion Thursday night when 180 people participated in a town-hall style meeting, Oct. 18 at the Midwest Theater in Scottsbluff, to discuss the current state of journalism in the United States.

“An Issue of Trust: Democracy and the Future of Journalism” is a series of six meetings, presented by Humanities Nebraska, held throughout the state to start a dialogue between the audience and a panel of journalists on journalism and its connection with democracy.

Thursday’s meeting was the second of six, and the panel featured Charlie Brogan, news anchor for KFOR FM103.3; Clark Kauffman, investigative reporter for The Des Moines Register; and Anna Staver, political reporter for The Denver Post. The meeting was moderated by former journalist Steve Chatelain.

For an hour and a half, the audience and panel exchanged their thoughts on the current state of journalism and navigating what is accurate journalism and what is not.

“There’s a variety of quality, and that’s just a fact of life,” Brogan said.

The conversation primarily focused on the job of journalists, with audience members asking questions on how to distinguish news from entertainment, editorials from news and how to ensure the news they are receiving is accurate.

The question that provided the most vocal response was from Wally Randall, of Scottsbluff. Randall asked why the press appears biased toward certain political groups. The reference Randall gave was the press’s apparent approval of President Barack Obama and disapproval of President Donald Trump.

Kauffman responded saying the role of the reporter isn’t to act as a stenographer. A journalist’s job is to report on what people say and do, rather than regurgitate what was said in a press conference.

Other audience members shared their stories of previously seeing inaccuracies regarding themselves published in a news publication. The panelists offered potential solutions, such as contacting the editor of the publication and notifying them of the false information.

Staver said she wasn’t surprised that the questions were mostly pertaining to trust between journalists and the public.

“Public trust in the media is at historic lows,” she said. “I hope by explaining how we use anonymous sources, think about our own biases and work through coverage decisions we helped foster a little more trust with the audience.”

The next meeting will be on Oct. 30 in Omaha at the UNO Milo Bail Student Center.

To learn more about news media and democracy, visit the Humanities Nebraska website at humanitiesnebraska.org.

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