NPR Media Correspondent David Folkenflik on the State of Journalism
This week, Roben Farzad, host of Full Disclosure, welcomes NPR’s David Folkenflik, who in his 20 years in journalism has often focused on the relationship between the press and the general public.
“I've always felt that the most complicated and controlling institutions to deal with are big media outfits. This is a fascinating moment. I think it's spurred by technology in ways that you and your listeners can well imagine. You are seeing journalists speak out explicitly about the choices that their hierarchical superiors have made in the past -- that have been allowed to persist without thinking hard about and have perhaps might even well be perpetuating in the moment.”
The following excerpt was edited for clarity
Roben Farzad: What are you going to be covering? What should we be asking you about? What do you think is getting short shrift in this environment?
David Folkenflik: I think you've really touched upon some of the most important things. I think it's a question of, can you trust the journalism we get? Are those actors able to fulfill their mission doing that? Are people just simply trying to pursue financial survival? What does it mean for so many American local newspapers to be owned by investment funds to an unprecedented degree? From my standpoint of 20 years of covering this business, are we going to have the information we need to understand what Facebook is doing or what your local zoning board is doing? Do we have the information? We live in a time where the media is falling apart, and there's truth to that. At same time, they're doing some amazing work. They're doing it, in part, propelled by what non journalists are doing. If you look at this moment in social justice, part of why the American public has really had a revolution in the way in which it thinks about equity, the criminal justice system and law enforcement, is because of what we've seen on videos taken on our Androids and iPhones. City after city, protest after protest, almost night after night, you've seen law enforcement officials of varying seniority and in varying jurisdictions basically, seemingly punishing people for expressing their frustration, dismay, anger and hurt in a lawful way. With law enforcement, at times, doing so very aggressively, very violently, at times, even fatally. I think that's a moment where you can't help but expect that journalists will think differently about how they do their jobs. About what the terms are in which they engage with their bosses about their own, about the systems within which they work and about how the stories that they tell the public are defined. So you're seeing a lot of questions of, hey, we've always said we need to have sources on the record or documentation. What if the documentations are lies when you compare the documents put out initially by the Park Service police to the videos of what actually happened in front of Lafayette Square near the White House? What if we need to credit the people that were interviewing to a different degree than we would have in the past because they don't have fancy titles attached to them. I think you're seeing a reckoning on a series of levels right now that are fascinating.
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