Change the Narrative

Susanne Craig, a business reporter with the New York Times, is a hero of mine. She co-authored the story that proved Trump’s folksy narrative of himself as self-made billionaire is a lie.

This investigation into the fraud and financial misdealings of our commander in chief was the first story the Times has ever published twice — one time mid-week, and then again in last Sunday’s paper. The team combed through more than 100,000 financial documents over 18 months. The eight-page story follows the charade of shady financial dealings of the Trump family.

Asked about the administration’s animosity towards the press, Craig replied, “You have a president who believes that the Bill of Rights starts at the Second Amendment.”

That being true, “Donald J. Trump is as good for the media as war is good for the economy,” she quipped.

In preparing to publish the ground-breaking story on Trump’s misconduct and deceitful practices, the Times gave the pres a month to respond. “Stories are always richer when the other side comments,” she said. However, he did not comment (or deny).

Craig cautioned us several times that sources must understand that a reporter can never induce them to give a reporter evidence. A journalist can only receive evidence if it is unsolicited.

In looking to the future, she did not refute the possibility of another financial meltdown. The current administration is “going after protections that were put in place” to safeguard the economy, like the Dodd Frank Act.

I am inspired and impressed by the work ethic of Susanne Craig. It’s clear from listening to her that all presidents should release their taxes and ‘end this charade.’ This way we will know if they are in the pocket of industries, countries, or special interests. Follow the money to find the truth.

In 2016, Susanne Craig was the recipient of the three pages of 1995 tax returns that appeared in her mailbox at the New York Times. The itemized loss of a billion dollars meant that Trump received a billion dollar gift card.

As we continue to learn news of Jared Kushner’s lack of paying ANY taxes, I am grateful for journalists who comb through arcane tax codes and pages of documents.

The truth will come out. It always does. The resilience and reporting of journalists like Craig is a gift card to the American people.

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Susanne Craig speaks to students at the School for Ethics and Global Leadership.

Investigative Reporting


Dogged determination. Facts. Empathy. Fairness. These are just some of the attributes of investigative reporter Mike Rezendes of the Boston Globe Spotlight team.

Rezendes, who began reporting on the Boston Catholic clergy abuses of children and youth some sixteen years ago, has noted a change in society of late. Back when he began, when people came forward with allegations of crimes, they were seen as shady. And they were, generally, not believed. Even children were not believed by their parents. The ‘sea change?’ “Now they’re listened to. They have credibility. That was profoundly satisfying,” Rezendes said.

Asked about the attributes of an investigative reporter, he replied, ‘Be naturally empathetic, curious, a good listener.’ He also said that, along with his fellow Spotlight reporters, he “became an amateur psychologist. When you’re a reporter you pick it up as you go along.”

He laughed when asked whether Mark Ruffalo was an apt actor to play him in the film Spotlight. He reported that Ruffalo and he, besides sharing the same initials, shared similar characteristics. (And Ruffalo might have nailed Rezendes a little too accurately.)

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Hearing the wisdom of Rezendes and Susanne Craig, who I will write about tomorrow, at the homecoming and family weekend of the School for Ethics and Global Leadership in Washington DC, and the brilliant students who questioned them, totally inspired me. These young people and journalists have great integrity.

While I am a fast and good (humble) writer, I am not a dogged writer. I lose interest in stories that require lengthy research. I joke that my favorite parts of journalism are accepting the job and accepting the paycheck. It’s all the in-between stuff that I find difficult.

That’s not completely true, I do love interviewing people too. I like to cut through B.S. and get to what matters to people. My motto? Go deep fast.

Back to the seismic shifts in the betterment of society from the reporting of Rezendes and Craig — I believe that there is a sea change of honesty and empathy emerging in our national conversations. I have hope that my fellow civilians will treasure the work of the press the way I do.

Asked about how they respond when naysayers call the media ‘fake’ or deny the facts, Rezendes said, “Get the documents. Get the proof. Push for evidence.”

Regarding his own reporting on the institutional abuse of children by the Boston clergy, he said, “I wanted to be as fair as I could be…I’m a paid skeptic.”

As Noah Bopp, founder of the School for Ethics and Global Leadership, said at the outset of this panel, “Our ethos is to be empathetic.”

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From left, Reporters Susanne Craig, Mike Rezendes, interviewer Valeria Gonzalez, and School for Ethics and Global Leadership founder Noah Bopp at the homecoming weekend.

Women and Ethics in the Newsroom

 

Mortimer and Daniels on the set of The Newsroom, HBO series. (photo courtesy of The Newsroom)
Mortimer and Daniels on the set of The Newsroom, HBO series. (photo courtesy of The Newsroom)

Have been watching The Newsroom featuring Jeff Daniels and Emily Mortimer. I love the snappy dialogue and the urgency of the news in our shared recent past. 

The show raises important questions, like, Is the purpose of television media to educate or to divide? 

Let’s look at health care. Since Obamacare passed, the news has had a freakin’ feeding frenzy on a side topic — the website’s technological failings. The media fed this vulture of divisiveness, serving the egos of a few recalcitrant Republicans who loved pointing out what went wrong.

Why not educate us on what we should do about this new law? How can we sign up for our newly granted right? Why did the media not walk us through, step by step, the best plan for a newly covered individual? Or tell us what are the benefits (or drawbacks) of universal coverage? How does a person register for the health insurance? Let’s take a look. No, we didn’t get any of that.

Maybe we don’t get these service stories because the media is ruled by the New York Times. I love the Times – don’t get me wrong – but it is written for the intellectual (and economic) elite. Maybe the staff there has health insurance, but what about the rest of us? We need to know. We need all the news that’s fit to print. Inform. Inspire.

The news has a noble purpose and I believe it is to educate. We are not supposed to simply whip each other up into a mud-slinging party of hatred.

We are social animals. Humans, like horses, need to stay together as a pack. Why are we so divisive?

The Newsroom addresses these ethical questions. Last night I saw the episode on bullying and the news anchor and reporter realized that they had bullied their guests. And they were sorry. Wow!

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Brenda Starr, reporter

I think I love The Newsroom because I have always loved the way pop culture portrays the smart news reporter or television producer. Emily Mortimer is so smart. Remember Mary Tyler Moore and Brenda Starr? They were reasons I wanted to be a writer.

The news room is one television genre where brilliant women shine. And these fictional women make me proud to be a girl reporter. Okay, just call me a reporter. And in real life, there are real brilliant women reporters like Arianna Huffington and Helen Thomas.

I don’t want to brag (much) but do work and have friends who work in the media biz and they (we) are, like these characters, super bright and super committed.

I’d like to write more about this but I have to read up on the firing of Jill Abramson, the perhaps underpaid, fiesty executive editor of the New York Times. 

Wait. I want to consume a divisive newstory? Me? I guess I like mud slinging just as much as the rest of the world. For that, I’m sorry.

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How We Get Our News

I sent this email to about a dozen colleagues.

I like following trends at the Pew Research Center.

If you get a little time – 20 mins. – it’s worth it to watch this – Tom Rosenstiel on “The Future of News” from NPR.

He says a lot of what I’ve been thinking about journalism. It’s especially relevant for those of us doing media for the United Methodist Church. 

News is immediate, brief, interactive, unbundled, diffuse, browsed, international, community-based.

http://pewresearch.org/docs/?DocID=108