Panel of national pundits discuss ‘truth decay’ and journalism during NHIOP forum

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Journalists Jamelle Bouie and Dan Balz discussing the rise of “fake news” at NH Institute of Politics forum. Photo/Laura Aronson

MANCHESTER, NH – Tuesday’s panel discussion on the state of the news with major national journalists drew a crowd of over 200 to New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.

Dan Balz, award-winning Senior Correspondent for The Washington Post, was the moderator of the Feb. 21 forum, titled Leaks, Fake News, and a Free Press.

Panelists included:

Photo gallery by Laura Aronson

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The freewheeling panel discussion focused on “fake news” and the free press. It began with Presidential Tweets: His real thoughts or a performance? Jackson insisted they are his real opinions. Pettypiece then said that Russian disinformation is a bigger threat than Trump, and called “fake news” a dangerous term that people use when they don’t like the media. In the face of enemies of the press, Bouie stated the press must act as a neutral arbiter.

Balz gave statistics that over 60 percent of the public distrust media, which Montanero called “a slippery slope.” The journalists agreed that they are concerned about the public disbelieving even well-researched news, for example the Washington Post reports of sexual misconduct allegations against Senate Candidate Roy Moore of Alabama. Bouie added, “Distrusting the press is becoming part of being a Republican.”

The panelists concurred on the need for strong professional ethics, transparency, and “sobriety of tone.” Multiple panelists described how they fact-check and corroborate information, researching multiple sources. Jackson said, “Verify, verify, verify.”

Pettypiece said, “We have to do our jobs flawlessly, and get ‘17’ sources. We are on the edge of a knife, at a crucial moment for credibility.” Montanero recommended that reporters explain the significance of details, the “so what.”

Jackson criticized the narrow view of reporters who never leave Washington and New York, stating “People outside New York and D.C. have a different point of view.” Montanaro agreed, saying that in a conflict between polling data and direct experience, reporters should, “Believe your eyes.”

The best zinger of the night was “truth decay” in a statement by audience member Katie Delahaye Paine, at which the panelists erupted in laughter.