Conference on ‘alternative facts’ and journalism emphasizes local reporting, objectivity

The University of Colorado Boulder’s College of Media, Communication and Information hosted a conference discussing, as the event is titled, “Reporting in the Age of Alternative Facts.” Open to the public, the event featured speakers who offered their advice on how young journalists should proceed during Donald Trump’s presidency.

“I saw an opportunity to really galvanize both community, the academy and the profession,” said Mei-Ling McNamara, an assistant professor of journalism at the university and organizer of the conference.

The conference referenced “alternative facts,” a term coined by Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway when defending untrue comments made by White House press secretary Sean Spicer.

The conference commenced with a keynote address from Joe Sexton, a senior editor of ProPublica. He talked about where he sees journalism going and what he thinks it should be. Centrally, Sexton focused on the importance of journalists covering issues not relating to Trump.

Sexton referenced the recently-announced Pulitzer Prize winners. The Charleston Gazette-Mail, the local paper of Charleston, West Virginia, won the award for Investigative Journalism for reporting the town’s opioid problem. A problem unrelated to Trump nor written about by a big-time paper, Sexton noted.

The talk “Out of the Community and on to the Wire: Independent Press and the Public Voice” showcased local reporting topic. The panel hosted guests with backgrounds working with local papers. Vince Bzdek, an editor of the Colorado Springs Gazette, and Maeve Conran, the news director of KGNU were the panelists that the audience asked the most questions of.

During the panel, Conran emphasized how journalism needs to be a voice for the people. She said she focuses on finding voices traditionally left out and to give a platform for their story.

Bzdek said that local news offers a chance for real reporting and an opportunity to step away from Twitter-driven articles and opinion. He also talked about making sure that journalism is objective. There needs to be a clear line between an opinion or Twitter-driven piece and a news story, Bzdek said.

The conference ended with a recap of the day from Paul Voakes, the department chair of journalism in the College of Media, Communication and Information. He reiterated the need for local reporting by referencing the college’s mission statement and addressing its importance in democracy.

Contact CU Independent Managing Editor Jake Mauff at jacob.mauff@colorado.edu.

Jake Mauff

Jake Mauff is the Editor-in-Chief and staff writer for the CU Independent. He enjoys biking, hiking and running in what little free time that he has, and he has interviewed a variety of interesting people including a presidential candidate. You can follow him on Twitter at @jake_mauff.

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