Event brings top journalists to Atlanta


Celeste Headlee of Georgia Public Broadcasting moderates a discussion between Andra Gillespie, a professor at Emory University, Erik Wemple, a media correspondent for The Washington Post, and Jonathan Peters, a professor at the University of Georgia. (Columbia Journalism Review/Justin Ray)

On Wednesday, October 4, a few hundred people gathered in one of the ballrooms of the Four Seasons Hotel in Midtown. They had not gathered for a fundraiser benefit or a social affair, but rather for a one-time conference with a handful of some of the top journalists and journalism experts in the U.S.

The event, sponsored by the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, entitled “The Year That Changed Journalism,” included reporters from The New York Times, The Washington Post, Georgia Public Broadcasting, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Atlanta Voice, Reuters, as well as professors from both Emory University and the University of Georgia. The Columbia Journalism Review, which hosted the event, also had members of their editorial staff participate in the conference panels.

Glenn Thrush, who is a White House correspondent for The New York Times and was on the panel regarding covering the current White House, made clear that it is hard to cover a political climate where some of those in power challenge what is factual at times.

“The thing that has changed everything…is what is true, what is factual and how one comes about making those determinations is being challenged every single day by [the administration],” Thrush said. “It has forced us, I think, to reevaluate how we present the news and also how we hold people accountable when the lie. “

Ben Jacobs, a correspondent with The Guardian, also participated in the conversation with Thrush. Both identify as Jewish.

Addressing how journalism changed in the course of the 2016 presidential election campaign cycle, “[The press] spent more resources on security than [they] ever had,” remarked Erik Wemple, media correspondent for The Washington Post. “A lot of it related to covering these rallies…There was significant concern among news organizations that people would be assaulted, people would be hassled...But on top of that, the anti-semitic backlash on Twitter…as well as over the phone. All of the sudden you see news organizations having…rent-a-cops walking around the [press areas] and really beefing up the forces at these rallies and also doing…a lot of training on how to respond to threats and so on and so forth. So, the business of journalism has merged a little bit with the business of private security.”

The entire event was recorded and is available to view online here.