tv Nikki Usher News for the Rich White and Blue - How Place and Power... CSPAN November 25, 2021 12:24am-1:25am EST
structures that will ensure the full independence and robustnese of the american journalism in the digital age. i am truly thrilled today to be able to introduce a senior fellow and a book news for the rich, white and blue how power and play with american journalism. nikki is an associate professor and author of two previous books. i first met nikki about five years ago at a holiday party in the office of a foundation here in dc. one of the places people speak very softly and try to avoid references to power. after talking forla about five minutes i realized two things. nikki is a brilliant observer of today's journalism and is a hell of a fighter. i thought to myself we are going to work together someday to help save journalism in america.
from the powers that most now threatened especially google and facebook but also from the prejudices and wealth ofof the privilege. within power and politics go out in the way. donald trump won the white house, google pushed open markets and facebook decided they wanted to rule the world. nikki and i reconnected and this book is proof of two♪ things. first nikki indeed has the chops to save american journalism and a second, nikki can pretty much do it on her own. that said we have someone with us today to talk about news for the rich, white and blue who is an expert on these things and that is matt thompson of "the new york times," the new headway initiative that does a deep investigation intoes economics, the environment and more.
working at the fresno minneapolis star tribune and the atlantic as well as the center for public integrity at the institute. in her book, nikki writes the journalism is what enables an active and engaged citizenry so last i welcome everyone who's joined us today because as good as important as the book is, we can't win this great battle for democracy in the 21st century unless every citizen is active and engaged in every citizen is working to protect and rebuild american journalism. finally, one little note, this is being recorded for booktv on c-span. we do not have a date for that but hopefully we will let you know soon. now i will turn it over to matt. thank you to everyone joining us and i am delighted to be heretoo discuss this book how police and power destroyed american
journalism. i think it would probably be hard to be a journalist in the u.s. in the news industry today and not feel like your book describes the world to a certain extent so we will touch the promise of the book a little bit in the conversation. you say the news media struggles to amplify the voices that most needed to be heard in a democracy in the political representation and meaningful address yet i would say most journalists i know, and i know a lot of journalists come into this field with a passion of
discrimination or oppression from power, so how is it that we come in with these ideas and end up reinforcing or amplifying the inequities in the society? >> i think that is a great question and thanks again for being here. there also is a lot of tremendous journalism and a tremendous journalism with the news organization that are shining the light on power and e quality. one of the things i start to worry, there really are not that many, but may be cnn doing these spotlightswe and they are doing them well but as often
extracted. let me explain there is great journalism that is focused on the concern but it's being told about people so that is one sided and the other side is that you just get trapped into doing what journalism always does. there are certain kinds of stories that you cover and certain kinds of stories that are going to win awards. ..
engaged in the us with a political power elites. what do you think are the biggest changes that have enforced that distance between who is represented in newsrooms and the needs of the concerns of the people that populate our country? >> there always has been with the elites and the question now making it ten times worse is that we really are at a crisis point and was out to describe. no. but they are literally going bankrupt and hedge funds are taking over and important news organizations. so the economics is at an
separately contributed to the problem. so starting with the geographic one, you talk a lot about where newsrooms are and are not. but newsrooms and a lot cities have the classic a deal of where the newsroom is situated in the city is the beacon in downtown with security guards at all of the entrances. it is both the symbol that this has a powerful institution holding the powerful accountable down the road from city hall but also potential a monolith where the news is madee behind closed doors and and is there a possibility that is those new
rooms have gotten challenging for thesen corporations to uphold but sending a deeper into the communities to make it more accessible. >> because it's easy it has been they are now working from home and then depending on who you are and where you are going. so that's a real limit for the reporting that if you think about "the new york times" it is a position and the place and at theat port authority that
is beautiful and very clearly at "the new york times" and that is the ultimate example of the chicago tribune. but my students don't realize now that is historical and you can go in mean that is the chicago tribune. but i think that loss of the symbol and that loss of being a monolith really undermines some degree the organization in places that people see the
building disappear and i think there's no news or newspaper anymore. that out of sight outt, of mind. and then in the center of downtown. it is a wrecking ball. and it is a real thing that doesn't send journalists into their communities. you would hope so. because 91 them out and about in the community. that my worry is to get even more. you don't have to go downtown to go into the newsroom. so those people outside of your daily routine that
really, i worry about that. because in certain situations those are not used to being. so i would be curious and when you come up t to san francisco, but the question back on you. >> iti is interesting. because there is this ambivalence that courses through your book and ies feel ambivalence about this. on the one hand there are all of the cities. minneapolis. it is interesting. i worked atst the star tribune and it was very prominently downtown the star tribune carved in stone at the top of
the building. if you were going to a vikings game tuesday on —- to see the star tribune with this institution anchoring downtown. and now it is in a beautiful skyscraper. still downtown. the name of the newspapers are quite so prominent in the site is now occupied by the stadium. [laughter] so i feel ambivalence. on the one hand. the star tribune staff has been reasonably robust and it has come back after one of the most troubling periods than any metropolitan newspaper has gone through.
but there iser a five that the paper is active in its community helping relative to where was fighting for its existence every day. but i don't know when minneapolis was experiencing the peak waves a protest in 2020 last year. i don't know if the journalist that were downtown, i don't know how many felt similarly of the pressures of that capacity down by powderhorn park which is a distance away from downtown. i don't know how much the residents who fought for and identified to be named after john c calhoun i don't know
those who thought represented by that change of they also represented by the star tribune star journalist in theirhe neighborhood. they saw the authority the institutions had to be authoritative to them as well. i cannot tell you those things despite having lived and then a journalist in minnesota. i don't know. im ambivalent. it feels like the same flavor of ambivalence runs through your book that you say two things at once. that it is critical. and then to show up and reinforce and make healthy a democracy. on the other hand with the t
patterns and inequities that are destructive. is that ambivalence? >> and with every academic it is complicated that's me with my way of dealing with the complication. i believe that conversation i'm thankful for open markets and you really cannot get to the heart of what is happening. and with that economic crisis arguably with that representation and you cannot talk about that stuff when it's about public service journalism and what happens when now watchdogs are not there. and where new organizations andu journalist are part of the
power structure they are not always perfect they are perpetuated legacies off racism and segregation and not in actuality de facto. you cannot just try to put a band-aid on the problems of journalism by pretending that doesn't exist and that is my big objection if you want to talk about journalism the idea of preserving institutions and that has fallen very short of thee goal but if you want to see journalism you have to think what is the function not the institution of a newspaper and that is what i was getting at that we cannot have an
honest conversation about society and democracy to acknowledge that is also a flaw as he currently imagine it. >> in the process of researching and what led to this book so what gave you the most? is there anything that you saw that you thought that really lights me up? >> as somebody who had long studied the news organizations that are powerful institutional voices some of those people that are underserved with that that was
ligoing on. and some of those are exciting experiments in journalism as part of the community centers about communities for communities. but i wonder to seek that power of the entire city governments. and then i think about more rural areas than i am now. and people that don't consider themselves journalists. but they havean a blog and then they smiled politely. it but there is a lot of hope but i just wonder how much people are on the periphery.
and how to get the attention of very powerful people that's what i'm worried about. there all these awesome authentic journalism and then how do wee make sure that somebody doesn't uncover the next watergate that somebody actually cares. that's what i worry about. >> but that power and authenticity region representation of journalism. and every day i would say of my career possibly no more than in dc where the access of
the most inclination is like a game. and the people in power and with that proximity to give up for what sort of representation coverage. so arern there are alternatives? are there other ways of building power but then go to dc and fancy dinners? to be physically and geographically removed from the people whose voicesar you are representing or purported to represent? >> that delicate dance of access and power you need to
be close to it to understand that. so we have been in that world. but we understand u it. to understand how to move to a room in washington. and then to be comfortable with people who are in charge of governing. and that soull sucking around doing things that you don't necessarily believe in, but that is something you see up close. but the problem is you get stuck in that world and think of what is happening to be most important. and that you can literally make a joke that was on cnn one hour ago and everybody would get it. that is a dc thing.
but then the story of the day is outside of dc. so that was really problematic. those that were working to atpublications and those and probe public and those others institutions are marked - - mocked. of course you can do that you don't have to necessarily be in dc to cover national news. and those that are really conscious of that. and those that get more
indebted that they can leverage the institutions they are part of to be better connected. >> we are starting to get some questions in the q&a. it is interesting just before coming to the times come i look at the amazon investigation. think of it as an example to build power from a lot of different voices amazon has been investigated by a lot of journalist in the labor practices in particular has come under scrutiny with the press but itet has been pretty hard for those stories to
break through. but what the investigation did in part was that reporting was very much focused on finding employees working at amazon warehouse is across the country and equipping them with the know-how to get the forms documenting injuries in their warehouses and in their organizations. so we had people sending us these forms. they could only be requestedplpl by workers so people from all over the country sending here is what we found and then we can put together this picture that amazon could not deny. and it feltan like an alternative form of power we could not havet gotten that data from amazon. and then to go to the courts
to release the data. that alternative to building power. and with that national organization like the indianapolis star. and then to craft power in a different way. >> yes. this is one of the reasons. because you are really thinking of how we do investigative journalism where the people who are part of creating the story are also recovering in the journalist start to leverage those connections that is bottom-up power using journalism as a
vehicle to redirect. so how can we continue to take the strategy that you used for amazon with other corporations and that crisis in journalism hurts in terms of good reporting you can still request government documents but amazon and google don't want to give you their spending you will never i get it. you will need to work with people on the inside. so honestly to rethink how we engage forces that is not just color or conversation and then do their own investigation so also it was beyond journalism
with ida b b wells statue in chicago. but the ability of large national news organizations to bring together. that is a way absolutely. but i worry how whenever these investigating reporting sound centers are founded and so the reshuffling off talent. or as much as it is a shackling. and those who can do the work of the challenging power and
organizing power of journalists. >> most journalists would freak out by this idea. this would be's sending bills to have that power. >> that you mention places like city bureau in chicago where with ordinary people to do the baselevel work of a functioning city hall reporting. going to the meetings. but then you mention places and if i miss pronounce your name, would you say that that
vilification of bank cities was an example of the class religion in color and ideology? like andrew cuomo and 2020 and any number of examples from new york including anthony weiner. [laughter] >> absolutely anybody in period i can take the mayor of new york city tells you the way of the media of the media and provincial things. and this is for somebody who living in central illinois that there is a relationship that develops over time that yes giuliani became a mayor and cuomo became a governor. but that relationship his
family has had with the news media in that entire generation. so what that tends to reflect is that relationship that is very long-lasting and how journalism works. and there aret certain kinds of people that we will not do that and i think that you are talking about that you are spot on that is my day central critique and that the media elite and what they understand
why that's important. especially at the largest national. >> one question that comes from dan who asks if we could of access so how do we address the difference between who has access and who is represented"and his reports. >> there is nothing more maddening and for some people to get information. from what they are willing to pay and i understand journalism has to pay for it i
do. but that ends up distorting the conception around people making the decision about who thebo audiences. and that is cyber-based and subscription -based and that is the strategy that is the only way going forward to distort even more so than it was before. so increasingly when people are cut off from information, particularly at the local for those that are the subjects rather than the people we will engage with
because is not for those people from that acts of quality or something like that.ye so yes it is important for those running theec decision-making positions but the downstream effects but around their daily lives that sounds problematic you have to pay for what is happening is that sometimes is the only place he will get that information. >> that is so right. one of the challenges i would say for us in the business so what do you do i guess?
i did the same nomadic journalism thing where i reported or edited in fresno saint pete minneapolis, idc and the incentive of the profession and that point of perhaps getting more immersed in a culture of the press than anyic particular place where we are deeply rooted and connected not just on the city level but on a neighborhood level but having identify that prescription what is a working journalist to do? how do we mitigate or approach entirely different pathways to journalism to see parts of the world that are background training education?
>> there is a larger culture making challenging what success means to speak with young journalists so like working for espn. is that the end goal and that is more true with a desire to change things that write the injustices so that is one side of it. so to put that economic crisis and representation inside journalism together but the most important part of all of
this is the people who are working look like they communities that they cover in a look at the stat yesterday and 9 percent of detroit is white. if you look at those journalists thatt are white it is 80 percent. you cannot tell me there are not ways to do better. and how are we failing as people who care about this to not make it possible for people to be empowered to become journalists to work in the spaces and leverage the institutional power with that top direct journalism?
i mean the stuff may have been doing all of these other associations if they do those are the daily times but but what we talk about before is that people don't have to choose or even taking a third job that they are part of the nonprofit journalists could definitely be called them whatever you think of journalism big conflagration but we can do better. we need to do better and part
of thatt is having those conversations. >> yes. i would say also it could be easy especially if it is race and ethnicity as opposed to a multidimensional and that income wealth privilege it can be pretty easy to create access to folks who are pretty well represented in the newsroom and i am curious how we define and speak explicitly
and i hear allied of to diversify the newsrooms of a lot of representation to reach the communities reaching out of journalism but explicitly trying to figure out i think that is a challenge. >> and you are the kind of person who started theseth conversations period explicitly. and with those most elite museums in the country we need more people like you to be in these positions not just because they have an ied the dream talking around diversity
so sometimes and you have that data and it is powerful and it can't be ignored that is why those surveys are so important so look at the lack of representation and then it's really bounded in the internship classes. and i think the new yorker with the archives editor looking at as the number of book reviews written by women. you need the data to draw that stark picture. that needs to be the benchmark
so when you talk legally about diversity, what have you done lately? we've had those conversations. >> so i think so in my quoting enough women? that needs to be part and parcel of the practice of doing that work. >> i will pull any related question. when it comes to the investigative reporting and community connection how do we connect with the and connected such as indigenous people without wi-fi and those that are connected nonetheless?
which may w have great reporting platforms on the community issue so howe do we connect and what is journalism's relationship? >> and that platform with the critical infrastructure for the communities and the problems with that but it's hard to ignore as it is traditionally understood it is not move fast enough and to see that as but that's not part of those values because
thatat part one is think in the role of the platforms and if we want these platforms to be critical infrastructure that's what i'm working on in the marketplace and what does that mean? are those people are not being needed to those traditional forms but there is that assumption made with the disconnected and in wisconsin talk about the ways in which journalists engage with the leaders in the areas so they are always in the connected people is always they are more connected more connected person needs to be the person
that you have to get to the disconnected people so it is not as binary as it may seem and also to presume this connection but it may come from being connected and being passed off that you are not seeing yourself represented so it's a great question. >> it reminds me as an intern where the local newspaper was referred to as the early and those sentinel it is such a reminder of the fact you can have a press but the precept in the value as the culture of
the place from the evangelical christian community in orlando those were how should we treat the press? athey are secular and all share our religious values. and always wondered what to do with that. there is an interesting question here from adam who asks about visual journalism versus traditional written journalism. often by necessity do you think that the visual platform can play to represent the community in a different place
then either the boilerplate story or the long beautiful magazine link? >> some of those beautiful magazines and photo essays. that is pretty incredible with the tax based journalism with that documentary style. and then to be deeply embedded coin the communities because i'm not sure that's always the case but it depends on the journalists but for journalist at the l.a. times. when a photojournalist refused
and then to figure out what to do with that power and also to go beyond with those platforms to figure out how we create a window into their experience. and in speaking to the issue of salaries and how that seeks to works for vigorous cities. >> if you follow that track. is not just the journalism that the academy. and it is hard. and ashley and some of these dating cities.
but i do think that if they have a healthcare plan absolutely where they work where they choose to live. and what role might transparency play? and with these other institutionsnt to be accountable for their salaries but when the "washingtonou post" was like please volunteer your n,information in these are important because you might
find out making ten grand a s month and that profile. [laughter] >> ask about the potential effect of the sustainability act and the possibility of government intervention. so what do you think? so i would just volunteertt always had this sunny counterpoint to the narrative decline in those which comesed from minnesota and i know how that is alluded to but one of those and implicit that in.
one —- appears in the paper every week so the public government information of the different? >> those to make news organizations more competitive in the marketplace and then by using existing legislation and in the executive branch so whether that is a news chain and those making terrible choices but also obviously
that is the first step for me quite frankly i am extra nearly soured on the idea of the expansion of government subsidies but there are other believers out there. >> and researching and reporting the book as many of the healthiest ways of sustaining and supporting journalism maybe this is the last question. and then when it comes to local news and those that are not journalists at all.
so that is tapping into what does itov look like so these people get with their daily lives and what do they offer? and that cannot be done so trying to come up with this measure to understand of the yet.or and still i am convinced with mark money and politics with right we local press that we are seeing. no one wants to take me up on that but if we went to final them because republicans are already doing that.
>> and with that other line of coverage and that's right we should refer to them as such even though that is one of the big income streams popping up but there is a whole unfair line of questions that opens up andnd i wish we could keep talking longer because the book is fascinating and these ideas over headed and we could go on for hours so i encourage those to check it out it is on sale at the book state on —- the book center near you.