New York Times editor talks journalism under Trump

Aishwarya Jois, Reporter

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Before President Donald Trump was elected, New York Times editor Dean Murphy said his job didn’t exist.

“We have a businessman who has created a whole new vein of reporting that a non-business president may not have created,” Murphy said.

Murphy, who leads a team of investigative journalists reporting on Trump’s business ties and business policy decisions, spoke to a group of about 50 students, professors and Evanston residents at a Friday event moderated by Medill lecturer Desiree Hanford. The Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications hosted the event in the McCormick Foundation Center Forum as part of its Medill Fridays program.

Trump, who built his reputation as a businessman, chose to keep his company under his control while being in the Oval Office. As a result, Murphy said his team of reporters began focusing on the intersection of business and politics.

“Part of what we’re doing is just filling the void in our knowledge about the business world in the Trump era,” Murphy said. “And you want every piece of it and you just don’t know, these stories, you just don’t know where they’re going to go. ”

He said his investigative team often relies heavily on political sources. But the crackdown on “leaks” by the Justice Department has sent some potential sources scrambling as the threat of unemployment, fines or even prison time looms, Murphy said. He added that though these threats are real, reaching out to “alienated” civil servants, especially those from intelligence agencies, makes sourcing easier.

The prospect of legal consequences for standard journalistic practices is “scary,” he added. Yet The Times continues to face criticism from multiple fronts, including the administration and its readers.

In February, The Times was barred from a press briefing alongside CNN, Politico and the Los Angeles Times, while other news outlets such as Breitbart and The Washington Times were invited into the room. That same day, Trump tweeted: “FAKE NEWS media knowingly doesn’t tell the truth.”

Medill graduate student Hayley Prokos said the reputation of The Times was a large factor in her attendance.

“I love hearing from New York Times people just because I think that they’re under so much fire right now because of their reporting on Trump,” Prokos said. “Not that I don’t read The New York Times anymore, but my view is definitely tainted by their coverage of the election.”

When asked about continued accusations of “fake news” directed at The Times, Murphy said the primary response has been to be more careful in the fact-checking and publication process, such as going back to sources repeatedly to ensure accuracy.

Hogan Davis, a Medill graduate student, said he attended the event to see a practical application of the work students do in the classroom. He added that the Medill Fridays program lets students interact with people in the industry who are writing the stories they eventually hope to cover.

“We talk a lot about the adversarial relationship between the … mainstream media and the Trump administration, and sort of seeing that in action and seeing how they work around the hostility is really interesting.”

Twitter: @aishwaryajois_