TAPP event discusses politics in journalism

The event featured a panel of three journalists.

Tigers Against Partisan Politics held its first event of the year, entitled “Politics on the Record.”

“One of the reasons we chose this topic is because we have seen a trend of political journalism changing in the past few years and a change in how political journalists report, which is different from the traditional standard,” TAPP co-president Garrett Poorman said.

Trey Sprick, TAPP director of education and advocacy, led the event by asking questions to a panel of three journalists. Mary Kay Blakely, associate professor of magazine journalism; PoliticMo Editor-in-Chief Eli Yokley; and Jason Hancock, Kansas City Star Jefferson City correspondent, made up the panel.

Objectivity was the subject of the first question Sprick asked. Each panel member had a different view on bias in news writing. Blakely made a point that the whole panel agreed with, arguing that fairness was more important than objectivity.

“Everyone has a bias, and the concept of objectivity isn’t served when you have to quote both sides,” Blakely said. “It causes the media to say there’s an even balance between ideas even when there’s not.”

After Sprick asked questions, the audience was allowed to tweet its questions for the panel. One audience member asked how to decide what is true in the news. Hancock’s response summed up the panel’s view on the matter.

“Read lots of stuff so that you have a diverse media diet,” Hancock said. “Don’t just trust your main source.”

As the event continued, another audience member asked what was the single biggest problem with political journalism. The panelists disagreed on the answer because of the broad nature of the question. Hancock’s answer led the discussion on this particular discussion.

“Are you really enhancing the debate if you don’t cover actual policy?" he said, speaking about covering the political horse race. "There’s too much perishable news."

After the event, Yokley explained the difference between his reporting and Hancock’s reporting.

“Jason comes from a traditional newspaper, and I work online, and we kind of work in different worlds,” Yokley said. “I’m focused on making sure people visit our website and getting people to come back. I think more reporters are working on making their stories compelling for the reader.”

Shortly after this discussion, the event came to a close. Blakely said the event fosters important dialogue.

“I really like what TAPP is doing because our political landscape is so divisive,” Blakely said. “We’re more alike than not. The conversations will be more insightful when we can reach that common ground.”

The open dialogue of the event attracted students of all ideologies. Both the president of Mizzou College Democrats and Mizzou Republicans attended the event. The event also attracted journalism students interested in politics.

Sprick said the night’s event was a success.

"I think we got a really nice perspective of political journalism from experts in the field,” Sprick said. “We did a good job of asking them questions that are relevant to students.”

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