tv Journalists Panel Examines Global Influence of the Press CSPAN July 24, 2017 11:16am-12:00pm EDT
midterms. it is called a better deal. chuck schumer and nancy pelosi along with top democrats are rolling it out this afternoon in suburban virginia. live coverage starts at 1:00 p.m. eastern on c-span 2. up next, the global influence of the press here and abroad in the way it is understood. >> good morning, everyone, and thank you for coming. i'm glad to see there's a large group of students in the room. want to raise your hands. that's great. wow. i'm deborah mccarthy, the executive director of a new program we have here at csis to
bring diverse voices and diverse perspectives to discussions of foreign affairs. it's the result of a partnership between the international career advancement program alumini association, icapaa for short, and csis, and we have some amazing donors committed to this effort we want to thank. the panel we have today is fantastic. it will challenge you, bring new thoughts and provoke new questions. our moderator, beverly kirk, is well known to many of you as the program manager of smart women smart power, plus four other incarnations here at csis. she's also a member of icapaa and was instrumental in getting this whole program going. please enjoy. >> thank you so much, deborah and thank you to everyone joining us here and online and to viewers on c-span. as deborah mentioned, i'm
beverly kirk, a volunteer at csis in the international security program and i manage the smart women, smart power initiative. full disclosure, i spent more than two decades as a journalist. most of that time was here in washington, and i've worked with three of the four people sitting on this stage. let me introduce them to you. jeff ballou is the president of the national press club and the first african american man and the first representative of an international media organization to hold that post. jeff is the news editor at al-jazeera news network and part of its global editorial leadership team. he helped to establish the english channel in 2006. he is a peabody, murrow, and emmy award winning journalist who's worked at c-span, npr and local d.c. stations. next to him is diana marrero.
the director of the hill latino. it is a new media platform she helped to launch that is focused on latino affairs. before shifting to the business side of the media, she was an award winning journalist beginning her career at the miami herald where she was part of the team that covered the elian gonzales international custody battle. and she also served as the acting washington bureau chief for the milwaukee sentinel. her work has appeared in the washington post. she's the founder and past president of the washington, d.c., chapter of the national association of hispanic journalists. welcome, diana. next to her is rosalind jordan. rosalind is the united nations correspondent for al-jazeera and has previously covered state department and pentagon for al-jazeera. she covered the white house for nbc news and tribune broadcasting. she was nominated for an emmy
for her work on nbc's 2004 presidential election night coverage and won a regional associated press award for her reporting on the u.s. immigration debate, and i worked with her at nbc. next to her is eric ham, a political analyst for the bbc, sirius xm, "the hill," and has also contributed to cnn. he's been a senior contributor to rise news and is a former hill staffer, was a key adviser to senator bill nelson and the senate armed services committee and is also the author of a book called "the g.o.p. civil war," inside the battle of the republican party. this is a homecoming for eric. he was previously director of congressional affairs here at csis so welcome home. >> thank you. >> we have a saying here that you never really leave, like the hotel california.
you go work other places. let's get started with the question at hand about the geopolitical impact of the fourth estate, and i want to start with the issue of trust because that is an issue that is ever-present, and i want to know what you think about what happens when people feel like the information that they are getting, they're questioning whether they can believe it, particularly as that concerns global issues, global hot spots. >> i think trust is paramount because once you lose the trust, you can't trust the information and as it relates to the fourth estate, a lot of -- as you can tell in the current arena, there's a lot of challenges to the profession, a lot of people engaging in twitter trolling and a whole range of interesting behavior, i'll nicely characterize it. >> it's pg-tv.
>> yeah. what it gets down to is this. if you have the leader of the free world spending days, weeks, months, for 18 months leading into a presidency denouncing the press, which is an intricate part of the constitution itself, you're not only undermining trust in the fourth estate, you're undermining trust in the constitution itself, and when you do that, that undermines trust in the other institutions in a country. and if the united states is supposed to be a beacon for democracy and freedom of expression and freedom of the press, other despots in the world say, see, the president of the united states can do it, we can do it, too, and they do.
therefore, it's a scary situation in the sense that it not only puts journalists in danger, it puts your information in a place where it can be created by people who don't have their people's best interests in hand in countries that aren't up to snuff in terms of having stable environments, having safe streets, having anything that resembles a sense of safety and security to move about and even feel they can question their representatives, and if they can't do it here, then you're left -- you're left to your own devices, and that's chaos. that could lead to chaos. >> i come at this from a political standpoint. i work for a political newspaper. and it's interesting to see how that divides around partisan lines, as well.
there's been surveys that show that democrats versus republicans, republicans are actually less likely to trust news sources than they are -- than democrats are. so it's a really interesting dynamic that's happening. the columbia journalism review put out a study around the time of the election looking at the folks who were retweeting tweets from clinton versus trump and what media sources they were using and retweeting themselves and they put out a fantastic bubble chart that was a proxy for democrats and republicans and how much do they trust certain media institutions and you'll see places like "the washington post," "new york times," cnn, all organizations that should be trusted, that are mainstream, that are credible, really discarded by half the
population. and it was really striking to see that, and then on the other end looking at places like breitbart news being trusted and retweeted by the right, but not, obviously not by the left. what i feel good about is being at "the hill," i work at a place that's very nonpartisan and comes at it from a very straightforward perspective so we were right in the middle. in the middle, we were the most trusted news source by both democrats and republicans. but one other thing i'll say about trust is that this is across the board, it's not just a news phenomenon. if you look at surveys, there's a lack of trust in institutions globally. the church, government, you could go down the line, companies. people are just not trusting
major institutions that for many, many years have held that trust of consumers and the public. >> rosalind, you're in the field reporting on issues. how do you -- how do you make sure that people trust what you're telling them? >> i keep in mind that from the very beginning of the united states, there's always been suspicion of a free press. let's not forget we once had the in which sedition act criticizing political people for their behavior could land you in prison, and it was bipartisan. politicians don't like to be held to account. i keep that in mind when i do my work. what i say to people who try to challenge my work is, look at my sourcing, look at how i
characterize the information. was i accurate, was i fair? did i give all sides credence? did i present a skeptical view where it was necessary? one of the things we have to remember about working in the media is it's a two-way street. we collect the information, present the information, analyze the information, but it is incumbent upon the public, the readers, the listeners, the viewers, the people who engage with us on social media, to actually think about what they're hearing and seeing and reading. use your critical faculties. be skeptical. ask your own questions, don't just take what al-jazeera puts out or what the bbc puts out or what cnn puts out or what any number of newspapers -- because newspapers are still very much a vibrant part of our political culture. don't just take what is being
published as the gospel truth. ask your own questions. ask whether the people presenting the information have a track record of actually showing you what's happening or if they have a record of trying to pull a fast one on you. you can't be a passive consumer. and i hate that word because it's such a business word. but you can't be a passive consumer of the news. this is my personal view. being an informed person is being a good citizen, particularly in the united states which has the first amendment. and so when people say, well, what about this? i will say, take a look at these stories. i will say, take a look at what i actually said. tell me what you're really objecting to. then we can have a conversation. that's usually how i defuse it. i end up taking it back to the person and saying, you took the
time to reach out to me and say, i have an issue with what you reported. let's talk about it. do you have insight that maybe i overlooked? inform me. that's my job. i get paid to learn something every day and then to share it with everyone else. but you have to do it every single day. there's a story or there's a line, you're only as good as your last story. in this climate, you're only as good as your body of work and if you make a mistake, people will hold you accountable but i challenge journalists to hold our readers and listeners and viewers accountable, as well. are you engaging with us in good faith, or are you simply looking for someone to reflect your personal opinion? i'm not here for that. you can call your mom. [laughter] >> eric, you come at this from a different spin. you do analysis. do you make sure people trust your analysis? >> that's an interesting point because i try to stay away from
the partisanship because so many people are looking for that. a lot of people want to know who's up, who's down, and i'm always asked, you know, are you a republican? are you a democrat? i tried to tell them that we try to stay away from that and we're just looking at what the impact is of the action, the policy we're addressing right now and what that will mean for multiple audiences and different groups. and also when we look at the fourth estate, if i could go into this, coming from the standpoint of having worked in one of the three branches of government, in congress, when i was there, we saw the fourth estate as sacrosanct. it was an independent body, it was a free press but something we felt was important to how democracy works and it was also a tool that we could use, not in
terms of actual propaganda or anything like that but getting out the message in terms of what the work is we're doing, what issues we're focusing on, what legislation we're trying to pass, what we're trying to do particularly in terms of funding for at the time i was in congress, the iraq war was at an all-time high and we were really engaged in that so we were focusing on trying to make sure people knew about how we were trying to provide for our troops and engage in the war and so we want to try to get that message out and also, too, one thing i can say, as a contributor for "the hill" in terms of actually writing, what i have found is when i write about stories of international interest, unfortunately, i don't get as many eyeballs, i don't get as many comments or much feedback on those types of stories and it just seems that, i don't know, i guess maybe it's because we're living in such a heightened political environment right now,
but when you write about the who's up, who's down, you know, in terms of the politics, that's when people really seem to get ,and so i think it's incumbent on all of us in the media to really try to break through that and really focus on trying to educate and try to bring our audience along because what we want to do is we want to try to, i think, take them to higher ground and not reach for the lowest common denominator. >> you raise an interesting point about international news and our attention and appetite for it, and we were talking back in the green room about how things are covered here in the u.s. versus how international media organizations, which all of you have experience with, cover that. so we'll jump to that topic. how are international news outlets impacting coverage here in the u.s.?
i ask this not necessarily from a political perspective, but i know that when i watch the bbc or when i watch al-jazeera or when i watch -- the story lineup and issues that are covered are often very different than what i see when i watch cnn, msnbc, fox news, abc, nbc, cbs. so if you guys could talk about the difference there. >> i would say probably not nearly as much of an impact as we would hope. we were talking before about the political crisis in venezuela. when one of our senior correspondents, our latin american editor can get in and get a visa, she will go in to report, but if the venezuelan government doesn't give our crews visas, they have to sit on the border in colombia and watch people come across and scavenge to keep themselves and their
families alive while the political crisis plays itself out, and you would think u.s. networks would want to be there. this is human suffering and political crisis, all of the elements of drama, tension, and a political figure who for better or worse is considered a boogie man here in washington. can't break through. the story can't break through. and cynically, i think, it would take some mass casualty, people losing their lives, before the u.s. media would actually invest time and people. and people are expensive, to actually cover the political crisis in venezuela. yemen, no one can get in. it's an active war zone. the saudis really control the access. the u.n. does not have the ability to take reporters in with it right now. we've already asked. because of the ongoing cholera epidemic.
so we have to cover around the edges. but again, because the u.s. is not actively directly involved in the conflict, it is supporting the saudis, but because the u.s. is not leading this war, very little, very little presence, certainly on the airwaves. you'll see stories in "the times" and in "the post," but if you want better reporting, you're going to have to start reading "the guardian," "the independent." but you're not going to find it whole scale in a typical u.s. newspaper. >> also, just with the qatar crisis. i'm actually speaking on that issue on air practically every day, either for bbc or for sky news. and i don't see any u.s. media companies actually really engaging in speaking about it but it's something that is -- it's an ongoing issue and it's
something that many audiences outside of the u.s. are deeply engaged and concerned about and there's such a huge demand with bbc and sky news to really not only address it and talk about it but they want to know what is the u.s. role in the crisis, and what's the u.s. policy, what's the u.s. position, what is donald trump, what is the president going to do to try to address this issue and so it's something that they're covering en masse but it's also something that they're desperately looking for the united states and the united states engagement and what is the u.s. position on these issues. any international issue that's ongoing, you have -- and i think maybe one of the advantages to being an american, i shouldn't say that. that sounds pretty bad, right? there's so many advantages.
>> passport is a good thing. >> there's a huge demand, huge thirst and appetite for international media outlets looking for that u.s. voice and looking for someone who can speak coherently to what the u.s. role is and explain it and break it down to those audiences, those particular audiences, and i think that's so key right now, and we don't see, i think, american media outlets addressing the issues and speaking to traditional american audiences about what's going on with the rest of the world. >> diana -- >> to your point, i just wanted to add, to your point, i just came back from two weeks in the middle east covering the diplomatic crisis. i didn't see any of my fellow american reporters until rex
tillerson left the president's trip in europe and flew to kuwait city for a week of shuttle diplomacy, and then because the secretary of state isn't carrying a big media contingent, as previous secretaries have done, people had to fly in domestically and were holed up in random hotels around the city and couldn't really get access to meetings because they were all closed-door, but that was the one moment that you saw "the washington post" and "the new york times" and the tv networks paying more than three seconds' attention to something that directly affects the u.s.' national security interests. every war that the u.s. is running is out of its operating base in doha and yet we can't get coverage of what 11,000 u.s. forces are doing in doha in the u.s. media otherwise. so you have to consider also what's the trigger.
when the secretary of state goes, it becomes automatically an important story. >> diana, you noted that both -- most latino americans get their news in english language from english language media outlets, and yet on any given night you watch english language media outlets and you don't hear anything about venezuela, as rosalind noted, and you don't hear about what's happening in their countries of origin or what's going on in the latino community in the u.s. unless it has to do with immigration. that's all you ever hear about, but that's not the whole story. if you could speak to that. >> absolutely. coming at it from a u.s.-based newspaper perspective, that is national in nature, that covers politics, last year, i launched is anll latino, which
online portal for u.s. latinos who live here and are primarily english speakers, the vast majority of hispanics in the u.s. speak english, consume their news in english, but there's very little attention devoted to news that speaks to them and that covers the issues they care about. as you noted, many of them either are immigrants themselves, children of immigrants and have a vested interest in stories on mexico, venezuela, cuba, puerto rico -- aren't immigrants but they care about what's happening on the island, as well. there is a dearth of attention paid by u.s. space news outlets to these issues. our core audience are the decision makers in washington. it's the president, members of congress and staffers who are reading "the hill" to do their job.
i'm proud of the fact that we've brought more international attention or more issues of international importance to that audience through the latino lens. so we've written quite a bit, obviously, about immigration, because you can't get away from that. but we've written a lot about trade and the crisis in puerto rico. in fact, we had a report, special report we were -- i think the only u.s.-based newspaper that had an entire section devoted to the crisis in puerto rico and what was happening there. >> for those who aren't familiar with the crisis in puerto rico, could you -- >> it's going into a complete economic tailspin. people are leaving in droves because they don't have jobs. it is a u.s. territory so all puerto ricans are u.s. citizens who can easily come to the u.s. and they have to find better economic opportunities and it's a huge story that very few people are covering and we devoted an entire section to it. we've covered it throughout but
we devoted one day and spent a lot of time writing about this issue. it was interesting because talking about all news is global, and a leading newspaper in puerto rico reported on the fact that a u.s. newspaper had reported on puerto rico because it was such a unique thing that no one was paying attention to. so it's just an interesting perspective. >> to tie those last two points, what eric and you were raising, what you have in u.s. newsrooms is if it doesn't matter to me, if it doesn't -- if it's not landing on my front door step, i don't care. or i may care but i don't have the resources because there are definitely economic factors to this, as rosalind alluded to. but what is missing is those valuable perspectives.
at the press club, for more than a century, we've hosted people from all manner of political perspectives and walks of life. we had one of the leading contenders running for the mexican presidency and there was media from all over latin america packed in the press room but you can't find a u.s.-based camera to save your life in the room but when general dunford shows up, everybody's in the room. you wonder what's going on here because this is your neighbor to the south. there's a vigorous campaign for the presidency and yet you're not in the room to hear about this leading contender may deal with nafta and all those critical issues and we lose when you don't have when you don't
have a seat at the table and a window into what's going on, then you're not informed, and that's bad. >> is it because americans aren't interested? or is it perhaps that at least in some parts of america access to news outlets like al-jazeera or "the hill latino," or the bbc is limited or nonexistent? >> you have to make the decision of what is important to cover and bring into people's living rooms in the 24-hour news cycle. if you decide that covering the crisis in venezuela's important, then they'll pay attention to it. but if they don't have the foresight to connect the dots, to say, like rosalind was
talking about, if you've got one of the largest forward operating bases full of american troops and you don't care until the secretary of state shows up and what complicates that is rosalind -- i was digging into the notion that the secretary of state has a very low opinion of journalists where he barely keeps a handful of us in the plane, and has been known for leaving us behind and those other things. you have to -- you have to care about the issue and you have to -- you have to -- you have to push harder, dare to be in the room so that people can be informed, but if you don't -- if you can't connect a to z, and, of course, the economic factor in commercial television is that people want to have -- it's sponsored. >> you read my mind.
that was my next question. >> you're talking about a sponsored enterprise and if sponsors don't care about these issues and the eyeballs, then you're not going to have to the resources to deploy the people to cover the issues that people should be caring about. >> then there's also the infrastructure issue. if you don't have broadband for television, for internet access, you can't watch al-jazeera on basic cable in the u.s. right now we're only online so if you don't have broadband, you're not going to see this beautiful h.d. video and luscious graphics and the photography that my colleagues carry out because if you have regular dial-up, you'll never get the signal. you'll never be able to access what diana and her colleagues are doing on her website. all of the added extra material, the conversations, the extra content, animation if you put it
on, because dial-up can't accommodate it. and there's so many parts in this country that are rural, that are in the back country, that don't have broadband access. the irony is that cable was invented for people who live outside of big cities. if you can't access the work that people are doing, you just won't know. it's not a question of whether or not you're interested, you can't even get the basic information and that's a problem. >> it's a tough question because you look at google internet searches and what americans are searching for in terms of countries and it's primarily domestic. it's western europe, when it is outside of the country. they're googling mexico but i don't know that there is an interest and i don't know what comes first. is it the fact that domestic media's not covering these international issues makes it
that the news consumers care less because they're getting less of that information, or is it the other way around, that these news industries are catering to the needs and wants of consumers who don't care about international news for the most part? >> but many people in smaller towns, their eye on the world comes to them through their local television stations and if you factor in the economics of having the economics of having reporters who cover local issues and pay for access to other news organizations to get information from around the world but most local news stations have limited budgets in order to bring in the world writ large. >> i want to question that because even if you -- and rosalind, you travel extensively. i think oftentimes when you go to different places, you may meet people and it's amazing how
internationally savvy they are. so many people know so much, especially about what's going on here or about many of the issues that are driving, i think, the geopolitical landscape and so we don't often see that here but also i think given that you do -- we now have a 24-hour news cycle and that's something that i think is global and so that's a lot of ground to cover and trust me, wearing so many different media hats, you know, my day oftentimes feels like a 24-hour news cycle. >> just to push back on that a little bit, i'm from rural america, full disclosure, and where i grew up, broadband right now in 2017, if i want full access to it, i have to drive 10 miles from where my family home is into the little town to have broadband access so that my
smartphone works and can download al-jazeera and "the hill latino." the economics, bringing that back up, it's not that people there aren't interested. they're interested. but if it requires a 10-mile drive from your house to go to the local library where broadband is free for you to make your smartphone work, that's a lot of effort and not everybody is going to do that to make themselves globally informed. >> what i was getting at is you have this enormous amount of space and i just oftentimes i think maybe in the world that we're in right now, we're not necessarily utilizing that space in the most effective way possible and by that i mean we're not actually pushing the stories that i think could i think be drivers to actually bring an audience along. and sometimes i think we really get caught up on the low-hanging fruit.
it's easy to focus on what's the latest tweet storm. but, for example, if you look at the g-20 and this massive trade deal with japan and the e.u., i thought that was a really, really big deal. and it was -- what it spoke to was, i think, the opportunities that are being missed particularly by the united states and how globally other countries are taking advantage of that space and that was something that we were addressing and covering on the bbc, but i think many american media outlets weren't focusing on that, but i think was crucial and needed to be addressed. but when you look at this 24-hour news cycle, i think that's a story that could be taking up quite a bit of that but we're just not seeing it. we've got this much space and i think only this much bandwidth is being accessed and utilized. >> there are three issues that come up.
one, the one that beverly raised and that is if i'm in a town in kentucky where beverly's from or if i'm from a part of montana or whatever, i have to prioritize what are my key issues. do i care more about broadband? or if i'm in a farming community, do i care more about subsidies that deal with farming or coal mining, things of that nature. that's one issue. two, if you're talking about an issue like the g-20, that's where the affiliate news services -- i used to work for one -- those sorts of things are incredibly important that a news service, wherever it's based, can go to the g-20 and distill that issue down to the local communities where they do make
the connection of why is the g-20 important to me. what does it boil down to the critical goods and services that may be unique to my part of the world. the third part is who's in the newsroom making decisions and that gets to diversity. it's not just racial diversity. it's geographic diversity. if you don't have people from rural communities, if you don't have people of color in the room, if you don't have all those other factors in the room that have decision making power, then those stories aren't going to be covered. venezuela's not going to be covered. g-20's not going to be covered. yemen's not going to be covered. the gcc qatar dispute won't be covered and definitely not covered properly without those folks in the room. >> i want to piggyback on that. this country's becoming more diverse than ever.
the white population in this country is just over 60% at the moment, but if you look at newsrooms across -- domestically, across the country, only 13% of newsrooms are actually diverse. it's a huge gulf and i agree you miss stories when you're not reflecting the communities you're covering and serving. >> i'm sure the audience have plenty of questions. let me state for the record, if you do have a question, please raise your hand. we have a couple of people in the back with microphones, and they will come to you and there's the stipulation. you must ask a question. no filibustering allowed here. it's not congress. [laughter] >> the first is this young lady up front. wait for the microphone. tell us your name. >> my name is helena.
after -- i had a question about sources and trust. there was a huge discussion on twitter going on from reporters at npr and such when the baseball shooting happened with congressional baseball and reporters were saying that sources weren't willing to talk to them because they were part of the media. has that been a struggle you've been seeing throughout in terms of people wanting to talk to reporters? that's a huge issue because you don't have sources or people who aren't trusting and talking to you, you're missing stories. >> excellent question. >> it's not a new problem. when i was a local news reporter in milwaukee in the mid 1990's, i was assigned a story in which someone was killed and my job was to go to the neighborhood where this person was murdered to try to talk to neighbors about this person, if they knew the person, about the incident.
i walked up and down the street, knocked on every door, not a single person wanted to speak to me. not even off camera, record the voice, record the feet, the house -- they didn't want to talk. they were scared. they were very much afraid about being punished, being attacked, being the target of retaliation if they spoke to the media. this was our lead story. i went back to the newsroom and told the assignment editor, i don't know what to do. i've knocked on every single door. the photographer waited in the car so we didn't scare people but no one wanted to talk and the assignment editor said that's your story. this is what crime does to a community, it steals people's voices. you can go back and stand on the street and say, this is what happened when we came to ask about the murder of this person. people are afraid for their own
safety, and they don't want to speak out. and that was the story. that was 20 years ago. that's always going to be an issue, that people don't want to talk, that they feel their words will be taken out of context, that their views won't be respected, that you, in the media, have an agenda. so it's an age-old problem. if people want to talk, they will talk. i am asking people to open up themselves, to open up their lives to me. i'm not doing them a favor by putting them on my tv channel and i think this is an attitude among many reporters, particularly in tv, that people should want to be on tv because i'm on tv. and that's the wrong way to approach doing your job. so when you have a lot of people
out there with that attitude, it's very understandable why people who witness something horrible, such as what happened to representative scalise, don't want to say anything, because they're afraid that their words will be taken out of context so what you have to do is sometimes if you work with a camera, sometimes you have to put the camera down -- sorry -- and you just have to just talk with the person. see if the person will say anything. you can then turn around and say it. obviously, the gold standard is having the person who saw something happen say on camera, i saw this happen. because that person now has skin in the game. but it doesn't always happen. it doesn't always work that way and your job, as a journalist, is to find a way to tell the story as it is, not tell the story as you think it should be told. you shouldn't be ticking off boxes and saying i got these
three soundbites, i spoke to this public official, i got this video of the scene, here's my stand-up piece to camera and i'm done. that's -- you're chronicling what actually is, not filling out the boxes in a formula. >> but it has gotten much, much worse, especially in the political atmosphere. i was a political reporter 10 years ago, and experienced it. but the level of vitriol and the level of hatred by some for the news media has completely intensified. if you look at the way that the campaigns are covered and you heard reporters being heckled in campaign rallies and in press conferences, jorge ramos kicked out of a press conference by the president to be. >> he was dragged out.