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Political correspondents talk reporting during Trump, Biden presidencies at 2021 Griffin Forum


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Courtesy Photo | College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences

The College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences invited distinguished names in journalism to talk politics, misinformation and administration past and present for its 2021 Griffin forum April 12.

The event was sponsored by the Robert and Marjorie Griffin Endowed Chair in American Government, a program that brings in government professionals to teach courses in the Political Science Department.

After a brief introduction by Dean Richard Rothaus, current Griffin Endowed Chair David Rutledge introduced the panelists. Major Garrett is the chief Washington correspondent for CBS News. He moderated the discussion while adding in personal anecdotes. Time's Molly Ball and The Associated Press' Darlene Superville answered questions from Garrett and audience members.

The three panelists opened with a discussion on the state of journalism and how it has changed during the Trump administration. 

"Journalism is always here to stay, I don't think it's ever going to go away," Superville said. "We have to keep plowing ahead and keep providing the public, the readers the students with the factual reporting they need."

Superville built her reputation over the last 8 years as Chief AP reporter, she covered the presidency of Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Ball is a national political correspondent for Time Magazine since 2017 but has won awards for her coverage of the 2012 elections for The Atlantic.

Garrett asked Ball about how the capital insurrection earlier this year plays into the larger narrative of disinformation in the U.S.

"What surprised me is not that (Donald Trump tried to overturn the election) but that it got as far as it did, that our institutions didn't do more to stop it," Ball said. "That to me is so much more of the story of the Trump era."

Traditional journalism was turned on its head during the pandemic. For political reporters covering the 2020 Elections, this meant following the campaign trail from home. Ball said in a typical election year she's on one or two planes a week, last year was of course different.

"My number-one advice to young journalists is just show up to stuff because that's what we do we bare witness to things," Ball said. "In 2020 I did very little of that. I followed President Trump to a couple of campaign events so I did a little on-the-ground reporting. But I hate being cooped up in my house."

The conversation shifted from journalism to politics in the latter half of the event. Garrett asked the panelists to make predictions on how the Republican Party will change following the Trump Presidency.

"(The Republican Party) always feels like it's at this breaking point, whether it's during the 2016 elections or during the acrimony during Mitt Romney's loss in 2012," Ball said. "We've obviously seen a leadership change in the party in that it is institutionally owned by Donald J. Trump."

All three of the reporters reflected on how the media environment has changed with a new family in the White House.

"Joe Biden is not Donald Trump," Superville said. "One of the things we have to remember is Donald Trump is not like any President many of us had seen in our lifetime. He broke through all these norms and traditions of the presidency. So, in many ways I think it's unfair to measure Biden or any president after Donald Trump, against Donald Trump."

In the last segment, Garrett used questions from the audience. Some of whom asked about the emotional and physical toll it takes to be a political reporter.

"I don't think you can have this job if you're not able to do something that makes someone angry," Ball said. "Alot of what comes with our job is being confrontational, aggressive and nosey and rude so if you're not wired that way, you're not going to want to be a reporter."

Ball's newest book, "Pelosi" was released last May and is available on Amazon. Superville's work along with the rest of The Associated Press' National Politics Team can be found on the AP's website.

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