TWC Talk: Ed O'Keefe Reflects on Journalism Today

TWC Talk: Ed O'Keefe Reflects on Journalism Today

Steve Scully, CSPAN, recently interviewed Ed O’Keefe, Washington Post Congressional Reporter, at the Washington Center.

How should journalists cover the Donald Trump presidency?

Journalists must be up around 6am when he starts tweeting, but should not let these tweets drive the day. They must have the White House engaging and respecting the First Amendment. More time needs to be spent outside of Washington. When Congress is out of recess, national journalists should find people, not just lawmakers, and learn how they're reacting to policy decisions and what they mean.

Trump’s first press conference demonstrated the importance of question structure. Each question should be designed to gather information. Reporters should ask Trump one simple question to produce one simple follow up. Would you . . .  And then: how? When? Why?

The “Trump Treatment,” as it has become known, is public dissing mixed with being charmed off-camera. How does The Washington Post deal with this?

There is no change in the approach or expectation. The Post was the first paper to cover Donald Trump running as a serious contender. He remembers that, though he doesn’t like the Post’s reporting on his personal background. The Post wrote a book about him, for which he sat for multiple interviews, then dissed it when it came out. The Post was blacklisted from the campaign press pen, but could still get inside the events with the audience.

Trump’s presidency is back to the future with new innovations. His ideas regarding the press and his kids working for him, need to be contextualized. This is not new. What is new is that they’re all in business together. This could be journalism’s finest hour. The Washington Post will be there to explain it all as it happens.

What does media accountability look like?

Not relying on one source. Verify authenticity before publishing. The Washington Post had the documents released by Buzzfeed. We sought to verify it and couldn’t, so we didn’t publish it.

Readers must keep media accountable. Don’t just rely on one source. Step away from Facebook. Seek out primary documents. Do your homework. Read, absorb, think critically, and encourage everyone else to do so.

What should one expect with a career in journalism?

You should expect a deadline that was five minutes ago; being on call all the time. Start in your community, work there and build your own organization. Help reporters here understand what is going on around the country.  

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