Carl Bernstein, an American investigative journalist and author, took the time to sit down with Belmont students to share some of his insight as a professional in the industry just days after Belmont hosted the final Presidential Debate on campus. Bernstein worked collaboratively with Bob Woodward and was an active reporter in the Watergate Scandal of 1972.
In a conversation moderated by Belmont journalism instructor Jennifer Duck, Bernstein was able to discuss important issues that journalists are often faced with daily. Dr. Mary Ellen Pethel, who co-teaches a special topics course with Duck called “Democracy, Media and the Public Sphere,” along with Professor Sara Wigal, who teaches a separate special topics course on Watergate and All the President’s Men, also coordinated the event.
Belmont students participated by asking Bernstein their own personal question on what it’s like to balance the truth inside the media world. Much of the conversation focused on the issue of fake news, his use of anonymous sources and a journalist’s role as a watchdog where he shared his extensive experience in the industry.
Bernstein also discussed what makes a ‘good reporter’ in terms of reporting accurate information. He shared how all industries will attract professionals that are not always biased but are just at a different level in their career.
He used the analogy of doctors to share how some are the best in their profession and will save your life, some of them are average and can get the job done, but others are below average and could put your life at risk. “It’s the same with journalism, we’re an institution that draws all kinds of people,” he said.
As the topic of bias was prevalent throughout the night, Bernstein shared how as reporters their job is to share “the best obtainable version of the truth.” He also opened the discussion of social media as a tool in modern-day journalism but stressed the importance of sifting through sources to ensure accurate information.
The night ended with junior Abigail Bowen asking for advice on how the next generation of journalists can gain the trust of the American public. He shared his article, “The Triumph of Idiot Culture,” which discusses how the press has started to move their content to be more in favor of the tabloids.
Bernstein said some in the journalism industry have moved more towards gossip and manufactured controversy with reporters invading personal space and boundaries in order to have entertaining content. He closed by encouraging students that, as journalists, “we need to stand our ground on what is the best obtainable version of the truth.”
For more on this event and debate related events, visit. Belmontdebate2020.com.