Chris Wallace, Maggie Haberman Find Common Ground on the Media’s Role in a “FAKE NEWS” era

Journalists from Fox News and The New York Times discuss the role and obligations of the media in an event at Columbia Journalism School

New York, NY February 26, 2020 – On Tuesday night, Common Ground Committee (CGC), a nonpartisan, citizen-led organization devoted to improving public discourse in politics, hosted its 12th public forum, which brought together Fox News Sunday Host Chris Wallace and The New York Times White House Correspondent Maggie Haberman. The forum, titled “Facts, Fake News and the Media” was held on the campus of Columbia Journalism School.

On the agenda for the evening were a host of topics including President Trump’s impact on the media and how political coverage has changed in what has become a divisive political environment – especially in the midst of a highly contested election.

“As we head towards a critical election cycle, Americans will rely on the media for fair and accurate reporting of the candidates,” said Bruce Bond, co-founder, and CEO of CGC. “Last night’s discussion was full of important insights from two of the media’s best. We hope the audience was inspired by their words and will continue to push for reporting that puts facts before rhetoric.”

During the event, Wallace and Haberman came to an agreement on a number of issues including:

  • Donald Trump is making a concerted effort to delegitimize and attack the media, but journalists should not respond with attacks in kind.
  • The public should recognize that Fox News isn’t the only news outlet with a point of view.
  • Most news consumers can tell the difference between opinion and news.
  • Twitter is ultimately just noise and clutter.
  • The collapse of local news has substantial, long-term effects that reach beyond politics.
  • It’s important for the public to read opinions they don’t agree with and consume news in a holistic way from varied sources.

Wallace, the host of Fox News Sunday, is one of the country’s most prominent political journalists. Over his decades-long career, he reported from the ABC News desk as a senior correspondent for Primetime and 20/20, and as an anchor on NBC News’ Meet the Press. During the event, he spoke about the decline of local news and how that will affect communities.

“People enjoy watching the Trump show but that doesn’t generally affect people’s day-to-day lives,” said Wallace. “To have a disintegration of local news coverage affects you far more than who’s up or down in Washington. Nothing good happens when people aren’t watching.”

Wallace also spoke about the role of media in the Trump era and the importance of separating fact from opinion. “Our role is to be observers, umpires and fact-checkers,” he said. “It’s not to be advocates or opponents.”

Haberman, The New York Times White House correspondent, and CNN political analyst, is one of the most respected and influential voices in national affairs journalism today. A seasoned veteran of political reporting, she covered City Hall for the New York Daily News, the 2008 U.S. Presidential campaign and other political races for the New York Post, as well as national affairs as a senior reporter for Politico.

Last night, she spoke about the current perception of the media. “Public trust in media has been declining for a long time, and Trump has just thrown accelerant on it,” Haberman said. “We are in this moment of time where we have readers who don’t understand what reporters are supposed to do. We are not supposed to give you the reality you want – we are giving you what the reality is.”

The event was moderated by Linda Feldmann, The Christian Science Monitor’s Washington Bureau Chief and Senior Political and White House Correspondent. She has covered every presidential election since 1996. The event ended on a hopeful note with both journalists citing their jobs as sources of joy and inspiration. While the media landscape is changing, Haberman and Wallace both agree that quality journalism will continue to play a pivotal role in American politics.

This was CGC’s second forum of the year, having previously brought together General David Petraeus and Ambassador Susan Rice for a discussion on foreign policy at George Mason University. By demonstrating how people of differing views can find agreement without compromising core values, CGC aims to inspire the public, political leaders and the media to seek common ground, increase civic engagement and reduce polarization for a stronger nation.

For interview requests, please contact Zachary Halper at zhalper@momentum-cg.com or 862-224-3233.

Common Ground Committee

Common Ground Committee (CGC) (commongroundcommittee.org) is a non-partisan, citizen-led organization that inspires action on polarizing issues by bringing prominent leaders with opposing views together in public forums to find common ground. Since its founding in 2009, CGC has held nine forums featuring 26 panelists who have reached over 200 points of consensus. Panelists have included such notables as Michael Steele, Donna Brazile, Barney Frank, and Larry Kudlow, John Kerry and Condoleezza Rice exploring issues ranging from race and income inequality to taxes and entitlements. Free of political agenda and financial influence, CGC has a singular focus on bringing light, not heat, to public discourse.

About Columbia School of Journalism

For more than a century, the Columbia Journalism School has been preparing journalists in programs that stress academic rigor, ethics, journalistic inquiry, and professional practice. Founded with a gift from Joseph Pulitzer, the school opened in 1912 and offers Master of Science, Master of Arts, Master of Science in Data Journalism, a joint Master of Science degree in Computer Science and Journalism, The Knight-Bagehot Fellowship in Economics and Business Journalism and a Doctor of Philosophy in Communications. It houses the Columbia Journalism Review, the Brown Institute for Media Innovation, The Tow Center for Digital Journalism, The Ira A. Lipman Center for Journalism and Civil and Human Rights and the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. The school also administers many of the leading journalism awards, including the Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Awards, the Maria Moors Cabot Prizes, the John Chancellor Award, the John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism, the Dart Awards for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma, the Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award, and the Mike Berger Award.

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