Katy Tur, NBC News correspondent, MSNBC anchor and author of “Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History,” discussed contemporary media issues and the state of journalism at Distler Performance Hall in the Granoff Music Center yesterday. Tur is best-known for covering the Donald Trump presidential campaign for NBC News and MSNBC, as well as for receiving frequent, direct taunting from President Trump.
Approximately 100 people were in attendance.
The event was the 13th annual Edward R. Murrow Forum on Issues in Journalism, sponsored by the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, the Film and Media Studies program and the Edward R. Murrow Center for a Digital World, according to the event’s program. The lecture is also part of Tisch College’s Distinguished Speaker Series.
Tur was welcomed by University President Anthony Monaco and Julie Dobrow, a senior fellow for media and civic engagement at Tisch College.
In her remarks, Dobrow emphasized the importance of journalism.
“We here at Tufts are honored to welcome you here today, not only because of your achievements, but also because your work has demonstrated the intelligence, the compassion and the commitment to journalism as a form of public service that we try to impart with our students,” Dobrow said.
Neal Shapiro (LA ’80), former executive producer of “Dateline NBC” and current president and CEO of WNET, guided the conversation with questions.
In her talk, Tur stressed the importance of good political journalism.
“This job is really important. Informing people about the election; their candidates; how they should vote; giving them the tools to make the best decision they can make personally is one of the most important jobs we have in our democracy. Period, end of story. It is crucial,” she asserted.
She explained that aggressive campaign supporters and President Trump’s personal attacks did not dissuade her from reporting the facts.
“This job is more important [than] Donald Trump’s petty grievance. It’s more important than me feeling uncomfortable right now,” Tur said. “So my strategy, no matter what I was feeling inside, was to just look at the crowd and smile and wave. And it was really effective because they didn’t see me bothered by it. They thought that I was making it [a] joke.”
In a roundtable before the event, Tur explained that the American public has the responsibility to be informed and engage with current events.
“Resiliency should be shared between all of us. If you are worried about the state of our country, then consume … If you’re worried about facts not mattering, make sure they matter. Have conversations with people you don’t agree with. Enlighten where you can,” she said.
Tur also believes that journalism should focus more on American public opinion, rather than solely politicians, in the future.
“I hope it [2020 presidential campaign media coverage] looks like reporters talking to more people, as opposed to just covering the horserace of politics,” Tur said. “And politicians are obviously very newsworthy, but just as newsworthy is: What are people thinking? What are people worried about? What do they want to see changed? What do they want to see stay the same?”
She expressed concerns about the current political climate under President Trump.
“Right now we’re living in scary times … We don’t have a shared set of facts any longer, and without that, it’s hard to tell where people will look to get their news or get an opinion they trust … It’s dangerous, and it’s short-sighted. I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Tur noted. “All of the factors that got Donald Trump elected are still there, so it’s not unreasonable to say that Donald Trump has a very good chance of getting re-elected in 2020, as of this moment at least.”
Tur also discussed the experience of women in journalism and the #MeToo movement. She talked about a part of a women-led team of journalists, covering President Trump’s campaign.
“It was amazing. The team was all women, not by design, but by hard work,” Tur said. “It was a nice dichotomy to have a … strong, powerful group of women coming out and being the voice of journalism for 2016 … It was a privilege to … help inform the voters about who exactly they’d be voting for.”
Tur ended her lecture with a Q&A session that discussed fake news, the future of campaigns, the writing process, keeping informed and the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
Finally, Tur advised budding journalists to persevere in the face of competition and rejection.
“You’re going to get a lot of ‘no’s … Only one person needs to tell you yes,” Tur said. “And when you get that yes, you run with it, and you look for your next yes … Work your way up. Just do it, and take criticism to heart. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. Learn from it.”