Dissecting the role of journalism in a post-truth, alternative facts world.

On Thursday February 16, a Startup Socials event sponsored by Longneck & Thunderfoot sought to address the changing face of media, resulting in a lively discussion about the current media landscape and how it has evolved under the Trump administration. The event was moderated by L&T’s President Jonathan Allen, and included a half hour of conversation followed by an informal Q&A session.

Missed the event? Never fear — we’ve recapped all the relevant details for you.

Journalistic Responsibility

The panel opened with a question about the duty of journalists to help readers improve their critical thinking abilities. “The mission and standards that journalists have to uphold have never been so true as they are today,” said Jonathan Woods, Executive Producer at Time, Fortune & Money Video. He went on to speak about Time’s responsibility to its readers to deliver accurate facts, stating that the organization’s “mission as journalists has never been more relevant.” Quoting the managing editor of Time, Woods said, “we’re most effective when we welcome debate and discussion from all compass points.” Above all, Woods stressed that the center of any political conversation — contentious or not — must be civil but always remain focused on facts.

Brand Transparency

Keith Reynolds, VP/Senior Marketing Consultant at Austin Lawrence Group, spoke about how our society and media as a whole need to focus on brand transparency. He stressed that the media industry has its own internal set of biases, which must be taken into account when forging a path forward. Citing recent examples, such as Shell’s sponsored content in the New York Times, Reynolds introduced a tough question: what role should integrity and transparency play in a media landscape where the line between advertising and journalism is becoming increasingly blurry?

Social Media Hysteria

Later, UN Resident Correspondent Salima Yacoubi Soussane addressed the role that journalists have historically played in our society. In past decades, it’s been their responsibility to bring information to citizens with the aim of making the government directly accountable to the people. However, President Trump’s penchant for tweeting his thoughts on policy and current events has essentially cut out the middleman. This has created a situation in which journalists are following his tweets and getting information in real-time with citizens, in turn creating a certain sense of hysteria in the press. “Headlines that seem like ‘the end of the world’ have become commonplace,” she notes.

Brand Publishing

Changing tack, Reynolds proposed the following argument: that media companies have a responsibility to separate their editorial and opinion departments from the news. He went on to point out that brands themselves have become publishers, and often don’t require a media outlet to get their message out. Using the example of President Trump publicly criticizing brands like Under Armour and Starbucks on Twitter, Reynolds laid out the following theory: if those brands did not have a direct relationship with the public and an editorial voice of their own, they wouldn’t have a leg to stand on in the media world that we now live in.

Mara Einstein, author of Black Ops Advertising, pointed out that the line between sponsored content and unbiased editorial information has been obfuscated. Specifically, she cited the example of Casper, a mattress company that owns a branded site called Van Winkle’s specializing in content related to sleep. Van Winkle’s essentially serves as a promotional tool for Casper — a relationship that the average consumer may be unaware of. Einstein went on to stress, “we need to know who is presenting the content to us, not simply that content is being presented to us.”

All in all it was a lively discussion which left the audience much to reflect upon. Watch the full event video here:

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Author Hilary Krutt

A graduate of Dartmouth College, Hilary joined L&T after several years in the publishing industry at Simon & Schuster. As a member of the editorial board for the Off the Shelf book blog, her writing has been featured on the Huffington Post, among other major publications. At L&T, Hilary manages content quality and production, collaborating directly with writers, content managers, and clients to ensure every piece we write hits the mark every time. In her free time, Hilary is an avid reader and live music enthusiast. She hails from Boston but currently calls Brooklyn home.

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