In a time when information is shared more frequently, and with more people than ever before, how is media coverage changing along with our policies. The Paly Voice spoke with Stanford communications lecturer, Janine Zacharia, to discuss the role of journalism, the future of free speech, first amendment rights, and how citizens can navigate the politically charged waters of the projected future.
Zacharia has reported on Israel, the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy for close to two decades, including stints as Jerusalem Bureau Chief for the Washington Post, chief diplomatic correspondent for Bloomberg News, Washington bureau chief for the Jerusalem Post, and the Jerusalem correspondent for Reuters. She appears regularly on cable news shows and radio programs as a Middle East analyst and is currently a visiting lecturer in the Department of Communication at Stanford University, according to her Stanford profile.
Zacharia and three of her colleagues led a Stanford panel discussion on media ethics following the election, and how journalism will be developing with changes in technology and political discussion.
Zacharia links President Trumps’ aggressive but rhetorical attacks on the press to the discrediting of our strongest journalistic institutions in the eyes of his followers. This proves problematic to the future of journalism, and creates a “broad distrust in what are our most trusted, highest quality news sources like the New York Times and the Washington Post,” Zacharia said. “He [Trump] has co-opted the term fake news — which refers to stories that are invented by non-journalists — and unleashed it on any story that does not portray him the way he wants to be portrayed.This is all very dangerous for our democracy.”
With information sharing at its historical height, the space for manipulative content proves to be a defining challenge to our societal ability to develop education opinions and to differentiate fact from trolling. Zacharia believes communications education should begin early in high school.
“One thing I’ve been thinking about is how do we educate high school students about journalism fundamentals — what is news, how do journalists find it, how do they work with sources, what goes into reporting a Washington Post or New York Times story. We need to teach the basics so that high school students can be educated consumers of news and also be able to sort through what is good fact-based reporting and what is noise.”
On a macro scale, Zacharia believes that major journalistic institutions should collaborate and develop new coverage guidelines
“Major news organizations need to have an emergency summit, “ Zacharia said. “They need to come up with some guidelines that they all agree to, especially when it comes to covering press briefings. When the President or the press secretary starts yelling at a reporter that [they are] “dishonest” or “fake” or an enemy of the people, there needs to be some kind of collective response.”
Journalism has evolved from print to online, from local to international, and will continue to evolve in ways people may not be prepared for. However, Zacharia believes that journalism at it’s core should stand for what it must do – report doggedly.”
“Go after what is newsworthy and the public needs to know to be an informed citizenry,” Zacharia said. “It is not the press’s job to ask “nice” questions. It is the press’s job to hold people in power accountable.”