By: Megan Roche
If you could sit down with a journalist, who would it be and what would you ask them? On May 8, residents from Livingston and surrounding communities got exactly that chance. During the year, the National Council of Jewish Women, Essex, host lunch and learn programs, where the public can learn about a variety of topics. Their spring event, Breaking News: Navigating Today’s Media, opened up a crucial conversation between journalists and news consumers on the future of the news industry.
“The current media and with the press under attack all the time, newsrooms are bleeding money and people, everyone is talking about what’s real and what’s fake news, it’s a critical time to talk about journalism and where we’re headed and what we can do to be better consumers of the news,” Stephanie Abrahams, Director of Advocacy and Community Engagement for NCJW Essex, said.
With all the events going on in the world relating to the media, it’s no surprise that NCJW wanted to give people a chance to understand how the media works and the importance of a free press in society. The panel discussion on May 8 featured Stephanie Clifford, an Investigative Reporter and NY Times Contributor, Marshall Cohen, a CNN Reporter and Producer, Rob Nelson, WABC-TV Anchor and Reporter, and Kevin Lerner, a Professor of Journalism at Marist College.
The four panelists were chosen thanks to their background in the media but also their influence and education on a wide range of media topics.
“We wanted to cover all of our bases and give our attendees a chance to hear from all different types of media personnel. This room can be a safe space for people to ask their questions and get the true answers to those questions.” Abrahams said.
During the program, each panelist answered questions about their respective field and how their field influences journalism as a whole. For Rob Nelson, speaking to the public and answering questions about the broadcast medium is extremely important.
“There has always been a fascination with how the news business works so any chance we have to help explain that process, I think is a good thing for people who consume the news. It’s an interesting time to be in the news media right now so I think today was an important discussion to have to better connect with the people who are served by the product that we all work so hard to put out there.” Nelson said.
Clifford agreed with Nelson but found it’s a two-pronged approach to getting the news out into the community.
“Showing people how we do our work is important but it’s also really important for journalists to hear from people who are consuming their work. We need to understand what our readers want and what are we doing well and what are we not doing well. There is a huge mismatch between what we think we are doing well and what the public views as doing well right now.” Clifford said.
For Lerner, his educational background in the field and the combined effort to teach the journalists of tomorrow, he encourages people to think critically about news as a whole before they form their opinion.
“I think it’s so important for people to think critically about the news. It’s very easy for people to get into the habit of thinking that news is just there and not to hold the people producing it responsible for doing it well. People need to understand the process in which the news comes about.” Lerner said.
Cohen agreed with Lerner, showcasing that the basics of working in a newsroom are still very much present today.
“In many ways, journalism is under attack right now. It’s important to speak up and use our voice, explain what we do, how we tell the truth, we check our facts, and the most fundamental elements of what we do, we’re still doing it and it’s important to make sure everyone knows that.” Cohen said.
NCJW will host another lunch and learn in the fall. Their fall 2018 luncheon focused on the Me Too movement and shared experiences from sexual abuse survivors. More information on the fall 2019 luncheon will be available soon at www.ncjwessex.org.