tv Andie Tucher Not Exactly Lying CSPAN May 29, 2022 1:00am-2:01am EDT
hello everyone and welcome. my name is sally and on behalf of harvard bookstore. i am so pleased to introduce this virtual event with andy tucker presenting her new book not exactly lying fake news and journal fake journalism in american history. she'll be joined in conversation tonight by kathy ford. thank you so much for joining us virtually this evening harvard book stores virtual event series continues this spring bringing authors and their work to our community and our digital community finder event schedule at harvard.com slash events where you can also sign up for email newsletter and shop our shelves from home. this evening's discussion will conclude with some time for your questions if you have a question for our speakers at any time during the talk tonight.
click on the q&a button at the bottom of the screen and we'll get through as many as time allows. this event also has auto-generated closed captioning available depending on the version of zoom you're using you may need to enable captions yourself by clicking on the closed caption button on your screen. you can disable the captions there as well. in the chat. i'll be posting a link to purchase not exactly lying on harvard.com your purchases truly make events like tonight's possible and help ensure the future of a landmark independent bookstore. thank you all for tuning in and purchasing books from harvard bookstore. we sincerely appreciate your support now and always and finally as you have no doubt experienced in virtual gatherings technical issues may arise if they do we'll do our best to resolve them as quickly as possible. thank you for your patience and understanding and now i'm delighted to introduce tonight's speakers historian and journalist. andy tucker is the age gordon garbian professor and the director of the communications
phd program at the columbia journalism school. she is also the author of froth and scum truth beauty goodness and the ax murder in america's first mass medium happily sometimes after discovering stories from the twelve generations of an american family in other works on the evolution of the conventions of truth-telling and journalism photography personal narrative and other nonfiction forms. kathy ford is an american journalism historian with research interests in democracy and the public sphere the black freedom struggle in the press the first amendment literary journalism and the history of the book and print culture. she is the associate dean of equity and inclusion in the college of social and behavioral sciences at the university of massachusetts. will be discussing andy's newest book not exactly lying fake news and fake journalism in american history long before the current preoccupation with fake news american newspapers. routinely ran stories that were not quite strictly speaking
true. today a firm boundary between fact and fakery is a hallmark of journalistic practice yet for many readers and publishers across more than three centuries. this distinction has seemed slippery or even irrelevant. tucker explores how american audiences have argued over what's real and what's not and why that matters for democracy? we're so pleased to be hosting this event tonight. the digital podium is yours andy and kathy. thank you, sally. and sally andy i'm so happy to be here with you speaking about your new book. i know it you've been working on this for a while. yeah i have and i think he began working on it. you correct me if i'm wrong, but i think you began working on it before the era of social media fake news and then of course trump's use firm fake news.
and so, you know, i always love to hear the story of how authors become interested in particular subjects how they turn those subjects into books. and so i'm hoping you can share with me and everyone tuning in this evening what it like how you came to this subject and what about it seem to you to be appropriate for a book? thanks, kathy, and i'm so pleased to be here with you. thank you for being here. i think i've been writing this book all my life it began. i've always been interested in journalism and the conventions that developed that made journalism be true. how journalists persuaded the public that they were telling the truth what the rules and conventions were but you can't look at the rules and convention of truth telling without also noticing how many times there is so much. that is not true. and it really struck me and when i began my first research was looking in the era of the 1830s
and forties in the mass press in new york and it seemed that the press was full of stories that weren't true. but it also seen nobody cared because nobody expected them to be true and i began to wonder when did it become when did it become understood that if you opened a newspaper everything in it would be true and it didn't that wasn't that for the first. hundred years or so of american journalism. that was not the convention. so i i was i was intrigued to see the various ways that truth and fiction truth and tall tales truth and hoaxes and humbugs all mixed together tangled together and and how people responded to that. why was it they were perfectly willing to accept newspapers that had stuff in it that weren't true. we're going to come back to this humbug, but i wanted to talk a little bit about how you open the book. i found it to be intriguing so when i teach long form
narratives serious nonfiction writing with the journalistic bent. i spent a lot of time with my students looking closely at the openings of some of the great works of long-form narrative. so, you know, we think hiroshima in cold blood like early some of the early works, but you know more recently, for example, we spend a lot of time looking at nicole hannah jones opening and segregation now that really spectacular long-form piece. she wrote about segregation and america the resegregation of public education in america, and so always think that the first openings like really like the best opening you do this so brilliantly and all of your work and i do think i have read all of your work. you're the opening best openings really like vivid and in compelling and nuanced ways the topic and you open with this quotation from donald trump and we he takes a credit. you know, he's not only calls the media fake. he also takes credit for turk,
you know this term which you know, you make clear to all of us, you know, the fake news is not new term for with donald trump, but then you also you that you open with that quotation and then you move to the scene in the columbia journalism school where you teach and are the director of phd in communication everybody. so andy, i thought that must be really fun for you to tell a story about your own institution, but you open with the son of joseph pulitzer and the first year the school is open in 1912 talking to journalism students and talking to them about bakery in me. so just tell us about why you open there and how like how did you come to that opening? what kind of work are you expecting it to do for the book and for your own thinking about the history of fake news? all those are great questions. this is ralph pulitzer who really wanted to improve the reputation of his father's newspaper the new york world had
it was in many ways a spectacular paper. it was important. it was influential. it was it was dedicated to the common good his great rival william randolph hearst also had a sensational paper, but first never had the same kind of concern for public life that that pulitzer did but pulitzer made his name doing doing news that was kind of sensational that was kind of yellow sometimes stepped over lines, and i think it was in part his remorse over the excesses that he counted us during the coverage of the spanish-american war of 1898. that made him decide he had to found a journalism school. so ralph came along the sun came along and and really wanted to to make journalism something that was respectable and reputable which is of course something that anybody teaching at the journalism school is going to admire and and value so i went i found the the of a little pamphlet 12-page pamphlet
that that printed his opening statement his opening address to the to the class of 80 or in 1912. and he was so passionate about it. he was so gripping in his absolute insistence that if you are there is no such thing as harmless faking a faker is a liar and a faker a faker who commits who the point of a newspaper is to tell the truth and if you don't tell the truth you are committing a perverted and monster monstrosity and it was it was it was it was so it was so committed to to the the idea that journalism can be such a tool for wisdom and enlightenment and information and the public good and that's an idea that has become so. i don't know people are so dismissive of the whole possibility that journalism is something that is that is has honor and has no ability and has
has good aspirations. i was so taken by ralph's commitment to that that seemed to place where i really needed to push and it also gave me a good place to stand to push back against here. here's trump saying i made up fake and here and and a hundred years before that. there's it was it was very much a part of the dialogue. so it was a little bit of a poke at him, too. a little bit speaking of that. what i mean because this book has been you've been researching this history for quite a while. and so, you know then along comes trump. yes, and i mean, i'm just wondering what you're react like, you know you were deep. to writing this book and and then along comes, you know a presidential administration that is demonizing the press and is using fake news in a very particular kind of way. i mean even before trump there was you know, a lot of talk of fake news and social media right and learn about the circulation
of fake news through, you know, through social media sites through people. maybe bots maybe. yeah, and then your grandmother i think as you put in europe, right, but so what was it like for you as a historian as you're working on this project to go on my gosh. we are this product. i'm working on this project and now we are living in this moment where it's incredibly i mean, i think in journalism, it's always been your this topic incredibly important, but now it seems like top of mind for so many people. yeah. yeah. it was it was it was a little frightening and a little astonishing. i mean for all the reasons that many we're frightened in astonished by the trump administration, but also it seemed to take the whole idea of fakery and hackery in newspapers. it seemed to take the dismissiveness toward journalism to a place. i had i had not expected. it could go it seemed so excessive the animosity toward
the press the the demonization of the press and it's in some places the response by the press. the press itself was not covering itself with glory in some areas in in the during those years, too. i i feel like you know, i was i was at a beach and a great wave was about to wash over me and you know, smash me on the sand when when i began to think about how this was a culmination of of a long history in that had just pushed farther than could have expected. well, yeah toward the end of our conversation. maybe we can return to that and and talk about. how you end how you end work very powerful ending, but but maybe to a good next move is for us to talk a little bit about the definitional challenges, right you're writing about so first of all, fake news itself. is this really slippery protein term in our own moment and it but it's all and it's also not a
term that emerged de novo right during the trump era or during media era and so as you point, you know explain in the introduction, so beautifully, there's a history and us journalism from the colonial era from the very first newspaper experiences all the way up to the present moment of purposeful fakery of the spreading of untrues whether purposeful or not. and so there's just this fake news is you know, just as a hand here. it changes in news itself. what we what constitutes news what we take to be journalism and who we take to be a journalist and what we hate to be a news report all of these things change across across the us experience and so as you're dealing with this topic across different areas of press history just this definitely definitional issue. i thought how is she gonna do
there you do it really well, so i thought maybe you could explain to those who are tuning in tonight a little bit about how how you define fake news variously in ways that are that are really rooted in history and and our present moment too. yeah. sure the term faking became very much a part of the debate over what journals and should be the actual word the term faking in and around the 1880s and 90s, which is one of the things that surprised me when i began my research here. was it was? before that nobody really used the term, but before that journalism was a mess and a lot of it was bad and a lot of it didn't care that it was bad and some of it was very good, but it the purpose of journalism for from up until the 1880s from the beginning in 1690 was as a consumer good that gave people lots of stuff and there weren't a lot of other outlets of print
for much of that era for many people living in america in various places. so a newspaper had just lots of things in it some of them through some of them not around the 1880s 1890s you had two separate strands diverging on the one side where this sensational papers the entertainment papers the small town papers. that didn't have a lot of resources and they wanted to attract readers with whatever it took. on the other side. we're more serious newspapers who were starting to feel that they were being damaged by the reputation of these these other ones who were just you know, doing stuff and they they decided they they felt it was important to try to clean up journalism to make it fulfill the obligations and responsibilities that had been attached to it. this is where the term fake is comes into the dialogue and the the jolly papers the yellow papers. they talk about faking is something that's fun. i love to fake said some trade
journals. i really love to fake. it's fun. people won't care. it gives them a better story. it doesn't hurt anybody. they'll like it. i like it. it gives me a chance to to exercise my creativity. so there's on the one in in thae in that area where they said faking is a terrible thing. and we're going to stay stamp it out. we're going to not countenance it we are going to call out newspapers that do it. so in a way professionalized objective journalism with conventions and standards and rules was born out of the response to the newspapers that faked. objectivity was invented to stamp out faking if you want to put it in simple terms. yeah, and you have you have a really interesting argument about objectivity and the
present as well and we'll return to that for conversation as well. you tell some some stories in this book from the early colonial experience about benjamin harris and public occurrences and john campbell and the boston newsletter about you call it fake news, but this is you know, spreading of untruths and it's unclear and benjamin harris whether he was spreading and untruth purposefully or not, but the thing about these stories is they are they are there. these are legendary stories that anyone who teaches journalism history knows and that anyone who takes a journalism history course knows and you know those of you tuning in tonight you may or may not know about the very first newspaper benjamin harris and public occurrences, but andy story to tell about those news to me. and it's gonna forever change the way i teach the for the story of the first newspaper. so maybe you could tell us a
little bit about it and and why it's you it was such a vivid way to start the once you get past the introduction in your book into you know, really laying out across a long period of time the history of fake news. this was a great story. i found too and as you say it was something i had known for years. it begins in 1690 when benjamin harris comes over from london where he has been in trouble with the religious wars in england, and he is kind of has to flee he comes to boston there have been newspapers that come on a board ship, you know people in boston have seen newspapers before but there's never been a domestically produced newspaper at home in boston the most important city of the colonies at the time and benjamin harris comes and he says i'm going to set up a newspaper. so how is he going to make people believe him. here's somebody a stranger coming to town saying i'm going to tell you the truth. well, he prints his first newspaper and he has a kind of a mission statement at the top. he says i'm going to do the following things. i'm going to give you all the
news about god's providence providence, which is a very important way to think about how you look at what's newsworthy in an in a society that is deeply religiously based. i'm going to give you. nation you need so you can prosper in your businesses and that's always smart too because newspapers never flourish without the support of people with money. i'm going to find false reports. i'm going to go only to the to the sources for the best sources for my information and if i find out anything is false. i'm going to tell i'm gonna expose the tellers of the false reports and this all sounds kind of wonderfully modern and very responsible. i'm going to do these right things. i'm going to get the right news. you can trust me. he says look at look me in the eyes. you can trust me and then the first newspaper comes out and it has a bunch of stuff in it. it's got things about fires and epidemics and then you know the suicide of a melancholy widower and a piece about the king of
france king louie of 14th of france. he's in trouble with his son says the newspaper because he's sleeping with his daughter at all. and this is always been seen as oh my god, it's too scandalous. this is why the newspaper was that well. no because it occurred to me to look up and see what i could find out about the king of france's daughter-in-law and much to my surprise. you didn't have one. so that was pretty clear to me that this was a piece of it was deceptive news how fake it is. i think what happened there had been a daughter-in-law who had died long ago. i think what was going on there. this is my guess because you know, i can't look into benjamin harris's head. but harris was a committed protestant louis the 14th of france was it was a papist who was had returned to the prostate the persecution of protestants. they had been on hold for a while and he was persecuting them again. i think harris found this very troubling i think harris used what is become a classic
maneuver a fake news by choosing a story that sounded just plausible enough because everyone new king louie of france had been a libertine. he wasn't anymore he had married again. he was being nice, but they knew that about him they knew he was a papist they a foreign king so they were perfectly willing to believe a story that undermined his authority and made him look bad. and i think that's what benjamin harris calculated so it by looking into what was behind the story i was able to figure out that even the very first newspaper in what became america was was using this tactic. and it only made it for one issue one issue. he got stamped out and in part because it was saying rude things about a king even though he was an enemy king. he was rude he was he was a king who was appointed by divine right? he also didn't hadn't gotten permission from the authorities which was required. yeah, so everyone, you know newspaper at the very first newspapers in this country were licensed which of course, you know today is anathema can't even imagine such a thing
because of the first amendment and what we understand to be a kind of you know, the prohibition against prior restraint or any kind of government interference with press. but yeah, that's not how the colonial experience and that's for sure. so i'm gonna kind of skip forward over the revolutionary period and and talk about the early republic how your book how you explore that this period of intense partisan chef in our country and which also at the same time we had deeply deeply partisan press and students always find this really interesting because so many of them certainly today. i think oh my gosh, you know, we are living it in our own period of deep polarization of deep partisan divots and a press that seems partisan as well and they're surprised to learn many of them are surprised to learn
that the early republican era. we had very kind of viciously part of it, very actively partisan. and so can you tell us how this period and which is often? credibly vicious political rhetoric and and some untruths and this information being actively spread for political purposes in the press how that's important in this history that you tell about fake news and maybe i don't know whether it helps us think in new ways about our own moment if you have to stay there too, so my students have the same problem with it. they they are stunned when they read for instance the dog oral poem that was published in a boston newspaper about the secretary of the treasury alexander hamilton in in days when he was very powerful. he was an enormously powerful person in the new government. he was not yet the hero of a rap musical and here is a poem published in a boston newspaper
that that talks uses words like lewd slave of lust monsters besotted by --. it's really incredibly ugly. but what's going on here is that this is a new country that is found. it's a democratic republic and there's no there is no precedent for it that people can see surviving at the same time. nobody knows how it's going to work. nobody knows how to make it happen. the constitution has laid out a form of government, which does not allow for political parties because no one thought the political parties were necessary or even desirable the idea was that newspapers would give people the information they needed to make decisions that were good for the democracy and newspapers were there for essential part of the of the the work of democracy, but they would simply provide the information people would read them. they would discuss it. they would come to conclusions. they would agree. everything would be fine.
it was shocking shocking for the the american public to realize that they didn't agree and that there were things that they were arguing about being government versus small government what taxate and who should write taxation the same kind of issues that are that are at the core of a lot of disagreements now and so newspapers became not the place where you got calm recent enlightened information about what's going on newspapers became the cockpit of the fight where they were they were they were providing acrimony and attack rather than information and they just as so often happened they ratcheted it up. they just you know, they in a spiral as an ascending spiral of ugliness and partisan partisan vituperation until the the just just a decade after the constitution said congress shall make no law regarding freedom of the press congress made a law regarding a freedom of the press
this alien and sedition and sedition act which made it a crime to say things that cast the government in disrepute, but what they were trying to do they were learning how to make a democratic republic work they were figuring out how to how to carry out public debate in a place that would be responsive to to people's needs. that's a hard thing to do. we haven't solved that yet, and they didn't know that it was hard to hard thing to do. that wasn't going to be solved but it did it was a it was not a period that reflects well on the press or the public either. did when you were writing that section and i mean we all teach it but also when you're writing about it the way that you were and thinking about the messiness of democracy and the role of of the news in democracy and the public and as you're thinking as you were kind of revisiting that moment did you we thinking at all about our own moment and
divide in our own moment and did you take was there any takeaway for you? do you find any solace in the fact that well? we've got through that. maybe we'll get through this as well. i try i you know, it's inevitable that that for orion to be reading to looking into the past exploring the past there are always going to be echoes and resonances and and and and familiar familiarities. so yeah, it's inevitable and sometimes i think well good thing. i'm a historian because then all i have to do is is like study it i don't have to solve it. i don't have to figure out what to do with it. there are lots of moments like that where things get really bad and one of my comforts is that things get really bad and then they turn around big they come to a point where people realize we got to stop this. you know, this is a this is this is too much. this is a bridge too far we have with is not working. waiting for us to get to that place now.
it's taking longer than than anybody could have expected or hoped but there are cycles and things do change so we'll try to be helpful. yeah, so during the eight the penny press era you write about james gordon bennett you write it out his incredibly colorful and and inventive coverage of the murder and subsequent criminal trial for the murderers of ellen jewett. who was a a prostitute at the time and he used this his story this this was incredibly competitive. he launched a real competitive news story in which a lot of the penny papers were going after this story and you know, it's a media circus of one of the first i guess media circuses we have yeah. and can you talk a little bit
about that story because it's so formative it seems to me. and and we think about the history of fake news also at a moment where we're shifting from, you know, you've got the first commercial press really emerge and newspapers are trying out new things. it's a period of great invention and innovation and james gordon bennett's one of the great innovators right of that period this is where we get. the emergence of the reporter the emergence of the interview. so in news practice, you know, my students are always like what interview was the interview had to be invented why and it was called contemptible. it was a contemptible practice yeah that and the europeans hated it. they thought it was we were just yeah arians. can you talk about that moment a little bit? yeah. this was one of the moments where the partisan the bitter partisanship of the press starts to subside in a way in part because the penny press comes along with a new business model. it is not interested in doing political argumentation. it is not interested in being beholden to the fortunes of a
political party newspapers before that in the part as an era. we're funded by political parties. they were edited by political partisans, which also meant that if your party lost if you're if your party disappeared which sometimes happened in that area you could be out of work and also was an a more elite audience it was not it was never going to be a large audience. it was never going to be profitable so in the 1830s and era of more opportunity greater opportunities somewhat more democratization in egalitarianism in society. although clearly still many people were left out, but it was opening up more for ordinary white men who could who could take part in in society. edit it. penny editors began to look for a different model and they came to the conclusion that if they just sold a newspaper that was really popular and people liked and sold it cheap enough that everybody could afford it and had advertisers who would be willing to advertise in the paper to all of the people who were who could afford to buy it
that might work. and in fact it did he was a commercial press based on pleasing the consumer. but immediately there was there was enormous competition james gordon bennett at the herald was was perhaps the loudest and best known of them, but they were a number of others as well. and one of the ways they they distinguished themselves was seizing on the same story and covering it in different ways and and taking different view points of view. so james gordon bennett looked at the murder of the prostitute and and the accused young man. richard robinson was accused of having having killed her during a visit and he said richard robinson is being he's a poor young friendless man. who has no you know, no no powerful. no power at all. and he's being framed by this vicious madam and corrupt police and he said he's a good kid and on the other side you had the new york sun which was saying on and no it's a completely different thing. this is a rich kid who has
influential friends and they are buying his they're buying the justice that they prefer because he's guilty is sin. so they fought and fought and fought and ratcheted it up again, and there was lots of fake stuff fake letters allegedly written by the murdered woman fake diaries allegedly written by the young man. i think what was going on here again, they're inventing how you report and tell news stories. real actual news stories rather than political argumentation. nobody had covered a crime with that kind of passion before but they also were we're trying to to gain their audiences to invego audiences people who had never before considered newspapers important to their daily life and their well-being and they wanted to make them read them so they told stories that were sensational that word that were interesting but also that were inviting these new readers to to make their own choices about what they believed you could choose to buy the newspaper that said that the young man was being framed you
could choose to buy the newspaper that said that the young woman had been, you know had been had me an outcast of society who was being exploited. it didn't really matter you could you could actually believe or not what the how true the story was but you could support with your pennies the newspaper that told you what you wanted to believe was true. and i think everybody had an idea that you know, yeah. well, it's a little exaggerated. it's a little bold as maybe but they also understood that this was a new kind of newspaper that was going to tell stories that were interesting to people yeah, you know that makes me think that you know there they were selling, you know, busily selling their papers building profits based on you know, and building their readerships based on the stories that they you know, you could then choose upsides right conversation bias. and of course that's part of our landscape today right where it's not about entertainment. this is about today when we're making choices between msnbc or fox news.
its often. yeah political commitments and social identities that are deeply deeply rooted in these political identities and a little bit later. i'd love to get to some some of what you have to say about deep story. the deep story that some of the that fox news in particular has created for some of his viewers and why that matters in the history that you tell before we do, let's shift a little bit to like the late 19th early 20th century. so during this moment you've got the rise of human mass newspapers right with pulitzer and hurst. we've talked about that a little bit. you've got yellow journalism you and big urban papers experimenting and building out new new forms of news news work and new formats for doing journalism, but you also in the south you have certain white urban newspapers that are
trucking in disinformation in order to serve the goals of white supremacy, and you tell the story of the north carolina election of 1898 and massacre and the role of the rolling news and observer and white newspaper publisher. jc is daniels in in about crime or supposed black all crime against white women. can you talk just a little bit about that? because that's a very different kind of misinformation or fake news or spreading of untruths for very particular kinds of purposes. yeah. no, this is an area you've done a lot of work into i know that yeah, the the wilmington coup. it was some historians have called it the first successful coup in american history. it was took place in wilmington in north carolina, which was at the time had a multi-racial count administration and democrats white supremacists
local people were horrified at this at the interracial nature of this and foam into rebellion in effect that overturned an election drove the elected officials out but the newspaper josephus daniels had had a comment in his autobiography. that was just stunning where his newspaper was one of the ones as you said that just upheld white supremacy in all possible way. with false stories many of them telling telling false stories about crimes committed by black men and what josephus daniel said in his stud in his journal years later was we never really people would come to us with these stories and we would play them up in big type. we never really looked into them at all. and you could see he thought this was just fine. it was very breezy. it was not it was not a mayopa. it was this how it worked. so that i found really shocking the atlantic constitution. the took was very scathing about
the work of ida b. wells barnett the pioneering investigative reporter. who did it did did elaborate work proving that most of the crimes against black men which were laid to their their, you know, attacking white women were it was in it was they were completely untrue and the atlantic constitution used the word fake journalism about ida b wells and what she's in in this investigation that she found the truth. so yeah, there was a lot going on there where sometimes faking you can read about, you know, and it doesn't sound terribly harmful, but in this case, yeah, the the concerted effort by these newspapers to present a vision of the society that had that was completely false is really is really stunning. and and you know the black press pushing against it the whole time. yeah. trying to get you know and documenting. i mean, i'd be wells did document. yeah. yeah. well justice initiative today is has relied so much on her work in the work of other, you know,
really important black journalists and and leaders of that period so some it so if there's a shift you note that this shift in the early 20th century you talked about, you know, the emergency the emergence of the objectivity standard, you know post world war one in reaction to you know us propagandaizing in reaction to the professionalization project of journalism, which is all part of you know, not only the broader professionalization of a lot of different areas of works fears of work in american public life, but also a way to push to discipline journalism, you know standard. it's the yellow journalism to make journalism central to democratic project. and so there's this shirt this shift as you point out in the early 20th century from placing the burden on the reader to determine what's true and all this stuff that i'm reading and now that burden is on the newspaper. it's on the institutions of
journalism to deliver the truth. the reader then becomes are the consumer is someone who you expect. truth. yeah pages of the newspaper or magazines and then later, you know the other forms. there's all this boundary work being done too by journalists like your job. i'm a journalist. you're not a journalist. this is what journalism is. this is what journalism isn't and this policing of the boundaries and why is that important in history of fake news? that moment. yeah, i think this is the be the invention of what i call fake journalism, which is a very different thing than fake news fake news can come from all sorts of other places fake news can come through social media through pop culture fake journalism takes the tenants and conventions and boundaries and strictures of real journalism, which we're invented in order to push back against fake and it exploits them. it uses them in a you know, you
know in a false way by by pretending to follow the conventions in the ethics it it steals the credibility of real journalism while presenting stories that are either highly opinionated or untrue and are presented as if they were they were objective and and verified. and i think that i think fake journalism is is more concerned now than fake news. i think fake journalism is much more dangerous to public life. maybe i'm not sure but maybe this is a good segue to talk about fox news and okay about fox news. so you write in your book that fox news practices fake journalism as a cover for its real work of partisan journalism or partisan activism and when you make that claim you then instead of i was like, oh my god, she's gonna talk about the 2020 election you talk about the 2000 election.
yeah president bush and and then you i mean you you give a really robust history of what fox news is is doing and it's really cozy relationship with the bush administration starting. well, maybe the very beginning of the bush administration on and then you discuss how fox news insisted. it's the whole time that it's straight news that it is fair and balanced and but in reality, it's operating as this covert wing of the republican party building. what sociologists are early hawkshop. how do we say her last name? i would say. shield has called a deep story. you know the story that feels as if it were true and that this deep story does certain kind of work for fox news. can you just talk? i mean that argument is fascinating? yeah, i would i think readers are readers of your book and listeners here today are gonna be really interested to hear. yeah, well are the hawkshell did is some really interesting work on that and i draw on on her
work fox news is roger ailes founded fox news in a really clever way. he he said he didn't say we are going to fight against liberal journalists by becoming conservative journalists. he said we're gonna fight against all of those who are untrue by being the only ones who are true. we are fair. we are balanced. we are objective. they're not and and what that means is it's weird true and fair and balanced. they're not normal. they're you know, there they do they they're they're worthy of being dismissed. we are doing the real journalism, but what it does you mentioned the 2000 election that was an election in which george w bush ends up as as many of you will remember the supreme court ends up deciding the decision because the count in florida is is very upsetting and erratic and difficult to organize and there's lots of contention over what ballots are valid and what ballots or not and then back and forth. it went back and forth for for a number the person who fox news
hired to run their decision desk was the first cousin of george w bush. and there's no reputable news organization that would hire a close relative of a presidential candidate to run the news desk where numbers are crunched and projections are being fielded. but but this was is perfectly normal for fox news because even though it was calling itself allowing people to to to perpetuate the illusion that it was it was they're getting the truth. they're they're allowed to believe that it's the truth because it's using the language of journalism to say we are telling you the truth and we're making fair and objective and balanced and it was not so it's it's a story that that resonates with people hawk shields book talks about how fox news is seen as family fox news tells you what to think and what not to think and and it's it's it operates almost like in almost
like not her words, but mine a church where people can feel that, you know, here's here. i'm getting the truth. i'm getting you know, there's biblical inerrancy here and and what i'm getting is is making me happy and satisfied and fulfilled because they understand who i am, but it's a small it's a swath of the population a very small, you know, relatively small swath, but but it is so so coherent cohesive in in it's in it's it's attitude toward. news. yeah, and it's somehow fox news is created this deep story about. yeah unity that who who -- viewers are. mm-hmm fox news. so you also write and your conclusion that we should recognize value and straightforward objective journalists, maybe objective journalism has been it's been critiqued robustly or 50 years now, maybe yeah, as long as there's been it. yeah. yeah, it still feels kind of
like new to different generations and that the critique is somehow new. i mean the critique changes the critique does change shape and change form across time and but you write that the reason we should recognize the value and strict and straightforward objective journalism. today is because objective journalism is what the fake journalists the vigorously pretend to be doing. i hope everyone heard that that that's just it matters because it's objective journalism is what fake journalists so vigorously be doing um, can you explain i mean dig into that a little bit yeah, there's as you say there's a lot of pushback against objectivity and many mainstream news organizations that for a long time base their identity in professionalized objective values are moving away from them a little bit. there is there's a strong critique that says that
objective journalism simply validates the what is seen to be the neutral of point is actually white male dominance and and it's it's not diverse. it doesn't recognize diversity it simply parrots dominant values and reinforces them, you know an important critique the idea that subjectivity is inevitable. therefore you should embrace it. you should you know, simply be transparent about being subjective rather than than saying that my my anxiety there is that even as the mainstream journalists are saying yeah, we we can't really know what the truth is. everything is subjective even as mainstream journalists are saying that the fox news of the world are saying we got it down. we know what we're talking about. we're telling you the truth. we are objective. we are fair and balanced and here's here's the mainstream saying oh, i'm not i i'm going to acknowledge my own subjectivity. it's a rigged debate. it's not going to work that way. it gives the opinion a the opinionated empire that presents
itself as objective. it gives them. the the way that they can say we're the ones who have the truth and and the others are are simply giving their own opinion and it's hard to argue against that when the mainstream press is saying yeah truth is contingent and and it's all subjective. it's it's a it's a a real. tension there. yeah really is so we've got questions coming in. okay. i've got plenty more questions i could ask you but i think it's only fair that everyone who's viewing is here to see you and they want to ask questions too. so let me we've got a question from megan marshall wonderful program can andy say something about how the press can or should handle false information put out by government leaders. oh, he lies representative. lisa mccain's recent claim that trump had caught osama bin laden. is there a history that we can learn from or is this uncharted
territory? oh megan. thank you for the question. false information put out by the government. there has been so much of that. there's been so much of that in in the guise of fake journalism. the famous example is the cia that was setting up a fake news organization a fake news agency to plant news in in international newspapers that were favorable to the united states and there was a congressional hearing into that newspaper editors came and said you cannot do this. you cannot cast doubt on you cannot exploit the the trust of journalists for your purposes. the cia was completely uninterestedn hearing this and said, well, you know the journalist always lie. anyway, it doesn't matter, you know, the sinism was breathtaking there is very little to do i mean that i know of that but but you can't stop doing it. i mean newspapers and and the
congressional hearing challenge the cia publicized it tried to make make an effort. to explain why this is so damaging but institutions of power have their own momentum. well, sad, so we've got another question first with a comment. thank you so much for being here was there and this is from someone anonymously asking was there anything you wanted to include in the book that you ultimately had to leave out? oh my i have any more miss file of documents that i've kind of think now. there were one of the things i wanted to do more of was to figure out how to say how to give journalism credit for when it did do good work because one of my fears in this book is it's going to catastrophize journalism and make it easy to dismiss it because look all of these all of this fake stuff. that that's not my intention and
i would be really sorry if that happened and i would have liked to have had more opportunity to have more to say more about what journalism has done that has worked and that has been public, you know good for the public and and and ideal and based on ideals. there are so many books about that too though. and yeah just as a little bit of solace, perhaps. okay, i'll take that that has been that has been the mythology. i mean and i don't mean mythology as in a false story and awesome, but we know quite a bit about that those histories and thank goodness for them. and you know it. yeah, and we do those are it's an important tradition in american journalism. so we have another question from someone. that's it's an anonymous question. i've been hearing and reading a lot about disinformation especially over the last few years like kathy just mentioned.
what kinds of people do you think do you find to be most susceptible to disinformation and why i don't know if you if you did any kind of reader studies in your i didn't work. i didn't do readers studies. i read a lot of of scholarly studies exploring that question. so i can only speak on second hand. there are a lot of there's a cluster of qualities that many people who fall for disinformation share but a lot of it depends on what what the dictionary disinformation is and what it what it, you know deals with in the current climate we can see a lot of disinformation about vaccines a lot of disinformation about who won the election where the election was stolen and in those cases they there are there are statistical portraits of the kind of people who believe that they are often people who feel not part of
mainstream life who feel that their opinions and their goals and their values are are dismissed by elites or people in power and this is one way to to push back against that by resisting the information that comes from elites and people in power. yeah, i think that might get to the book you were talking about earlier the i yeah strangers in their own land. yes anger and mourning on the american right? i think that's yeah, that would be one additional place to look for some information about that and another question. hello. this is anonymous as well. hello. thanks harvard books and andy and kathy for putting on this talk. do you believe as though journalism has more power in the us than it does elsewhere. if you prefer what role does power play in the fake journalism fake news conversation, what rule does power play in the hmm? i don't a lot about sake what i would call fake news or fake
journalism in other countries. that's that's a that's a tough question whether journalism has more power in the us us journalism has lots of power in the world because it is so it it's so widely distributed it is it's it's you can find it in so many places and so many parts of the world people know about it, even if they don't if they don't follow it, so it's more influential i think on a wider swath of the population. it's also in english and english is is so widely read so there's there's simply technical and logistical. advantage that us journalism has it's also there is a lot though media companies in the us can be very powerful media companies as parts of large corporations share the corporate power and that's something that that often concerns people who are who
believe that journalism want to be as independent as possible. so the power there is is something to be concerned about maybe, you know not i they're specific examples that we can we could bring up. it's not always an issue, but it's something to keep in your mind. well, certainly the role of the raleigh news and observer in 1898 in. the quashing of black political participation and then ultimately disenfranchising black voters. that's one who's just one newspaper's power. yeah and in a historical moment, here's a an interesting question, and i didn't this question brings up msnbc, which you do write about this is from someone anonymously you talked about fox news and what they are doing. can you give us your impression of msnbc? yeah admission bc a fox was founded just three months after msnbc was and they were all they've always been head to head msnbc struggled in its early years to figure out what its identity was going to be and in
fact, it had hired people like ann coulter and oliver north in its earliest years it eventually settled on generally being presenting itself and embracing the identity of more liberal liberal left-wing opinion network, but it it also it's been a little bit schizophrenic because as a it's it's corporate parent being nbc it follows it tries to or it is eat understands. it needs to acknowledge the values of a professional news organization. there is sometimes clashes between the opinion side and the news side on msnbc fox doesn't have the same sensitivity about the division between between opinion and news there they blend and they bleed a little bit more and they they don't follow for instance. msnbc keith olberman had got into trouble for donating money to political campaign fox
doesn't have that kind of or didn't at the time have that kind of of prohibition. so there are i think msnbc owns its advocacy and it's and it's opinion a little more openly which can get it into tangles with the news division fox kind of denies those those boundaries. thank you for that. that's that was a it's a great part of the booktube. by the way everyone. it's and by the way, everyone needs to know andy is a beautiful writer. you everyone should know this book is imminently readable. it's a joy to read so we've got another comment from a question from joseph and simon. i hope i've pronounced her name correctly joseph your comments on objectivity are stimulating. i'm wondering if you could please expand on them specifically. do you have a first principles argument for how objective journalism is possible or is it more an argument using game theory that if journalists admit
objectivity is a fraught proposition. we're sources will rush in to fill the space of truth. that's an interesting question. no, i believe that the the art the original idea of objectivity. it has become warped. the idea is now seems to be that objectivity means, you know on the one hand on the other hand stupid mindless balance, which is not right, you know, which is not a way to do good journalism, but also was not what the idea was the point that that walter lipman and other other journalists were making in the beginning of the 20th century when they were arguing for objectivity was not that people should can or should be completely neutral. they acknowledge that people had presumptions and assumptions that would might inform their work. the point was to carry out scientifically rigorous investigation and observation challenge rigorously challenging your own assumptions recognizing your own assumptions and and
reporting against your assumptions so that your readers would feel comfortable at the end that you had given them all the information. that you had found whether or not it was information that that conformed to your own ideas and beliefs. so it was it was a method. it was not a stance. it was a method of doing good serious journalism with empirical verification at the heart of that project that still is valid the question of we've all become much more conscious of the idea of what subjectivity means and how that fits in and how that that can change how people approach different stories. i'm not denying that that's a part of it. but what i want to emphasize, is that the work of verification the work of empirical observation is still valid and that that and to think of it in those terms. so andy, i'm going to take the last question as my prerogative and someone who's a great
admirer of this book. what do you hope this book does in the world? do you journalists read it do you? what do you want for this book? oh, that's an interesting question. um, yes, i want journalists to read it. i want journalists in part as a, you know to them to think. carefully about how fake journalism fits into the media ecosphere to watch out for it to to think carefully about the role of objectivity and possibly rethink that i would also love news consumers to read it and to have an idea of how to approach journalism a lot of people have ideas about how journalism works that aren't really what goes on in a newsroom. and sometimes they're very surprised when they discover how journalists actually work. sometimes it's you know, it's scary. it's like making sausage, but sometimes it's it's it can be it
can be enlightening to know the the decisions and the standards and the conventions that go into how to write a story and i would like i would like people who are not familiar with journalism to have a sense how it works. it's been great talking to you andy. i've enjoyed every minute. thank you. kathy. you questions were wonderful. i really appreciate the care that you took and in reading and preparing. so thank you. this was fun. this was such a wonderful event tonight. thank you both so much if you'd like to purchase not what is the title of the book not exactly why there we go, if you'd like to purchase not exactly lying. i put the link in the chat. thank you both so much for joining us tonight, and thank you to our audience for spending your evening with us and on behalf of harvard bookstore here in cambridge, massachusetts keep reading and good morning, and tu
for joining us at general grand national memorial for celebration in leases as grand bicentennial birthday. in 1959 the management of the national park service. was transferred to the national park service and rename it general grant national memorial since then we dedicated on preservative the final rest in place of elise's s grant and his wife julia.
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