Poynter Institute Archives - SaintPetersBlog

In St. Petersburg, Dan Rather says it’s ‘gut-check time’ for the press in the Trump era

Count Dan Rather as among those political commentators who describe the rise of Donald Trump as being part of the “post-truth” political era.

“What I mean by that is that heretofore it’s been taken as a given and was a fact that truth counted for something,” the iconic reporter/news anchor told a packed audience last Friday night at the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront Hotel. “Which is to say that if the candidate told an untruth, he or she would be held accountable.”

Several hundred people paid $100 to hear Rather speak Friday at an event sponsored by the Poynter Institute as part of a program hosting the Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists.

“We never had a campaign as low as this campaign,” Rather told WTSP News Anchor Dion Lim. “We’ve had some nasty campaigns in the past, we’ve had some very rugged customers, but we’ve never had a consistent level of a campaign as uncivil, as really nasty as this campaign, so for that reason alone, I think the campaign will be studied for quite along while.”

Now 85, Rather had to have Lim sometimes repeat questions from the audience because of what he said was his poor hearing, which he repeatedly apologized for. He frequently invoked Murrow, one of his journalism heroes, saying that he would have been “astonished and repulsed by the low nature of the campaign.”

Rather currently hosts, “The Big Interview” on AXS-TV, where he’s more likely to interview musicians than lawmakers. It’s owned by Mark Cuban, who hired him in 2006 to work at HDNet, the network Cuban created in 2001. Initially called “Dan Rather Reports,” the show switched focus when the network was rebranded in 2012.

Cuban took in Rather after his ignominious departure from CBS News after 44 years with the network, 24 of them as the lead anchor of the CBS Evening News. His departure came a year and a half after he became embroiled in a raging controversy that sullied his reputation when the network questioned his report on then-president George W. Bush’s military service.  After the Bush administration questioned the accuracy of the story — and questioned the authenticity of the documents at the heart of the report — an independent investigation concluded the piece disregarded “fundamental journalistic principles” even as it stopped short of deeming the documents relating to his military service as forgeries. Rather was removed from the anchor’s desk and ultimately left the network in 2006.

“This is going to be gut-check time for the American press,” Rather said in criticizing the performance of the media during the past campaign.

He told Lim about how the media should now cover President Trump. “The president-elect has made it clear that he believes that his stated hostility to the press … was one of the components of his winning. And the early indications are that believing that, he will carry that over into his new administration. Now, I quite agree that there needs to be a period in which we American citizens watch, listen, and give the president-elect every opportunity to indicate that some of the things that he said and did during the campaign will not be repeated now that he’s president.”

As he has frequently said in other public appearances, Rather emphasized that U.S. media organizations need to re-engage with investigative reporting. “Does the press ask the tough questions, and more importantly, ask the follow-up tough question?” he asked.

In many ways, the hour-long appearance was a master class for journalism students. Although he didn’t offer an opinion per se of the changing landscape for reporters, it appeared as though he was a little nostalgic for the way the press used to be able to do their job.

“There’s a deadline every nanosecond,” he said. “It hasn’t been that long ago when most reporters had a deadline once a day if you were in the newspaper business, or maybe you had one every other day if you were a distinguished byline correspondent, and in television, maybe once a day. With the advent of first cable television and then the internet itself, now your average reporter is responsible not only for doing actually reporting, but he’s responsible for doing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, going down the list and is expected to do a blog, and is expected to answer rockets from the home office, from the headquarters asking, ‘can you match our competition on this story?’ I can smile about this, because that’s the reality for most reporters now. But what that does is, it shrinks the time for actual reporting. It shrinks it dramatically, and the consequence of that, is because of the economics of journalism has changed so dramatically in a negative way, you have fewer reporters asking tremendously more things so the ideal of what doing what Ed Murrow was such a great believer in doing, go to the heart of the story … knock on doors. Make telephone calls. Do the travel. Do the excellent reporting. There’s precious little opportunity to do that anymore. And where that goes from here, I’m not quite sure.”

Rather emphasized that “the fundamentals don’t change,” quoting from the Poynter Institute that “journalism is responsible and discerning. Quality journalism of integrity becomes more important, partly because there’s so little of it, partly because the times demand it.”

And channeling Murrow, he told those in attendance who may have been disappointed by the results of the election to get over it.

“Going forward, we need to have some version of clear eyes, full heart, open mind, and be skeptical,” he said. “Murrow was never cynical. There’s a difference of course between cynicism and skepticism. One mark of a good reporter in my opinion is that he keeps his or her skepticism right in front of you at all times, but never descends into cynicism. “

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First Amendment Foundation, Poynter Institute may team up

The Tallahassee-based First Amendment Foundation, the state’s public records and open meetings watchdog, is considering a partnership with The Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg.

Foundation President Barbara Petersen told FloridaPolitics.com the two groups are working on an agreement in which Poynter, a nonprofit journalism education organization, “will assume all of the Foundation’s administrative responsibilities.”

That will include handling future production of the organization’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Manual, updated yearly, and hosting its website.

If the deal goes through, the foundation will shed two office positions, leaving Petersen and a legal fellow to remain in the capital.

Petersen said she will move into smaller offices in Tallahassee when the Foundation’s lease in the Florida Press Center expires at the end of March.

Both Poynter and her office, however, will remain separate and independent and continue to pursue their individual missions, Petersen said.

“The Foundation … will continue its work in support of Florida’s open government laws,” she said.

The nonprofit was founded in 1984 by the Florida Press Association, the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors and the Florida Association of Broadcasters “to ensure that public commitment and progress in the areas of free speech, free press, and open government do not become checked and diluted during Florida’s changing times,” its website says.

Petersen also handles most of the 200 monthly calls that come in through the foundation’s toll-free Freedom of Information Hotline from news reporters, citizen activists and others.

Poynter spokeswoman Vicki Krueger, who responded on behalf of President Tim Franklin, said she couldn’t discuss the plan because both sides were having “ongoing discussions” and nothing has been finalized.

More information on the First Amendment Foundation can be found here, including how to join or support the organization.

Information about Poynter can be viewed here.

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St. Pete nonprofit to host major global journalism convention

A local nonprofit that frequently hosts journalists from all over the world has been selected to lead this year’s Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists. The seven-day event will host 100 journalists from more than 80 countries.

World Partnerships, Inc. is a St. Pete-based nonprofit that partners with the U.S. Department of State to facilitate meetings between professionals abroad and those in the United States. Its International Visitor Leadership Program has been considered the United States’ most prestigious professional exchange program since 2000.

Visiting journalists will examine the essential role of independent media in order to protect freedom of expression and democracy. Globally.

Many of the working journalists come from countries that don’t enjoy the same freedom of press and open-government laws on which the United States was founded.

They come from places where free-thinking reporting or digging too deep into government corruption could very well get reporters jailed or, worse, killed.

Countries represented include several in the Middle East, South America, Asia, Europe, Central America and Australia.

The program is geared toward bringing journalists together to share journalistic practices, examine foreign affairs reporting and to network with other professionals.

The program has been found to increase global understanding of U.S. policy, government and society, knowledge of human rights, diversity, corruption and women in society as well as current trends in the media and a desire to consult a wider variety of sources.

The seminar will include a two-day advanced journalism-training symposium at the Poynter Institute. Journalists will also meet with media professionals throughout the Tampa Bay area during their stay. The group will also meet with the U.S. Central Command and participate in a community service project at a local beach.

The Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists is named after famed radio reporter Edward R. Murrow. During his career, Murrow famously reported on World War II and U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy, whose name yielded the term “McCarthyism.”

Murrow later served as the appointed director of then U.S. Information Agency, a part of the U.S. State Department.

The seminar is November 4-10.

Here is a complete list of participating countries

  • Afghanistan
  • Australia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bangladesh
  • Belize
  • Benin
  • Botswana
  • Burkina Faso
  • Cameroon
  • Chad
  • Chile
  • Columbia
  • Comoros
  • Congo
  • Costa Rica
  • Cote d’Ivoire
  • Czech Republic
  • Dominican Republic of the Congo
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • El Salvador
  • Ethiopia
  • France
  • Georgia
  • Germany
  • Ghana
  • Guatemala
  • Guinea
  • Hong Kong
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Iraq
  • Jordan
  • Kenya
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Lesotho
  • Liberia
  • Macedonia
  • Malawi
  • Malaysia
  • Mali
  • Malta
  • Mexico
  • Moldova
  • Morocco
  • Nepal
  • Nicaragua
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Oman
  • Pakistan
  • Palestinian Territories
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Poland
  • Qatar
  • Republic of Korea
  • Republic of South Sudan
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Rwanda
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Senegal
  • Sierra Leone
  • Slovakia
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Sri Lanka
  • Switzerland
  • Thailand
  • Togo
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Uganda
  • United Kingdom
  • Venezuela
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe
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Tampa Bay Times CFO arrested for DUI

Jana Linn Jones, chief financial officer of Times Publishing Co. and treasurer of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, was arrested last week for driving under the influence.

Times Publishing is the parent company of the Tampa Bay Times.

On Friday, Sept. 18, a 2014 Lexus driven by Jones struck the back of another car on 49th Street N near Ulmerton Road, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff arrest report.

As reported in the Times, Jones had the smell of alcohol on her breath and refused a breath test. She also failed field sobriety tests and was taken to the Pinellas County Jail, where she was later released on $500 bail.

Jones, 55, has been with the Times since 2004, after two decades in the banking and newspaper industries. She became vice president and a member of the Times’ Board of Directors in 2007.

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Poynter to host Pulitzer Prize centennial celebration

The Poynter Institute has been selected to host a two-day event honoring 100 years of Pulitzer Prizes. The downtown St. Pete continuing education resource for journalists and other writers was chosen by the Pulitzer Prize Board to host the events on Thursday, March 31, 2016, and April 1, 2016.

The seminar is aimed at highlighting the historical achievement of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists covering topics like civil rights, social equality and democracy.

“Like the Pulitzer Prizes, the Poynter Institute is dedicated to the highest standards of journalism, and we welcome this partnership,” said Paul Tash, chairman of the Poynter Institute and former chairman of the Pulitzer Prizes, according to a post on the group’s website. “During the struggle for civil rights, brave writers and photographers revealed the ugly brutality of racial discrimination, earning journalism’s greatest honor. But more important, their work nudged public officials and sentiment toward the American promise of equal opportunity. The program at Poynter next year will celebrate not only the centennial of the Pulitzers, but the power of great journalism to make a difference in democracy.”

Dr. Roy Peter Clark, Poynter’s vice president and senior scholar, will lead the first part of the celebration entitled, “The Voices of Social Justice and Equality.”

“The Pulitzer Prizes and The Poynter Institute share the mission of fostering journalistic excellence that improves our democracy. Poynter is honored to celebrate the Centennial of the Pulitzer Prizes and the seminal work of its recipients, who courageously used the power of their words and images to make America a more just society,” said Poynter president Tim Franklin. “As we’ve learned from recent events, the struggle for civil rights and equality is not over. So at the same time we honor the path-breaking work of the last century, we will seize this opportunity to explore a discussion about journalism’s role in addressing inequality in the next century.”

The first and main event will be at the Palladium Theater, where the work of civil rights-era Pulitzer Prize winners will be showcased using music, dance, photography and fine arts.

Prominent writers, entertainers and elected officials are expected to travel to St. Pete for the event.

“This is a momentous occasion for journalism and for the Sunshine City,” said Mayor Rick Kriseman. “This event provides us with an opportunity to hear remarkable stories from an era that still shapes our policy and culture today. I think it is fitting that the Poynter Institute is serving as host. On behalf of our citizens, I welcome all participants to the City of St. Petersburg.”

The second event will take place at the Poynter Institute across the street from USF St. Pete. Poynter teachers and some invited experts will lead a series of workshops.

According to the Poynter Institute, those classes are aimed at enlightening and inspiring “the next generation of Pulitzer winners.”

The mayor’s office says the event will “enrich culture and foster a deeper understanding of social justice issues for residents.

“I look forward to hearing from award-winning journalists who recorded and reported those voices during a critical time in our nation’s history,” said St. Pete Deputy Mayor Dr. Kanika Tomalin. “Their work is marked by journalistic, moral, spiritual and even physical courage, and the stories they tell are worth remembering as the struggle for civil rights and equality continues. I thank the Poynter Institute for their role in ensuring that this is an event worth remembering.”

Three other events marking the Pulitzer Prize’s centennial will be hosted by Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab, the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and the Dallas Morning News.

All St. Pete events are open to the public.

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