Convocation Speaker Touches on the Future of Journalism
Tom Rosenstiel ’78 is one of the country’s most recognized thinkers on the intersection of media and politics and the future of journalism. He recently discussed President Donald Trump’s relationship with the media, the meaning of objectivity, and why and how we all may perceive “facts.”
“I believe that the principles of what [people] want from the news hasn’t changed,” Rosenstiel told audience members during his December Convocation lecture in Oberlin’s Dye Lecture Hall. “The way journalists do the job has to change drastically, and here are some modest proposals, which I hope are timely as Oberlin [moves into] a concentration in this area.”
Rosenstiel was press critic at the Los Angeles Times for a decade, a Washington correspondent for the Times, a commentator for MSNBC, and chief congressional correspondent for Newsweek. He is the author of seven nonfiction books and three novels. His newest novel, Oppo, looks at contemporary political campaigns, the explosive growth in opposition research, and the forces behind polarization.
According to Rosenstiel, we must recognize that journalists are no longer gatekeepers over what people know. “They are more often today, annotators of what the public has already heard. How do you annotate facts in a world of distrust and disbelief?” he asked.
“We must rediscover the lost meaning of objectivity to understand that the key to journalism is a discipline of evidence, inference, and verification. How do you get things right? How do you know if things are true? Just going and being a stenographer and sticking a microphone in front of someone is not journalism. The process, the discipline of knowing, how we check it out is what will distinguish good journalism from bad.”