A  Companion  site  for  the  C-SPAN  series  airing  Sunday  nights  at  8pm & 11pm ET 


Advanced Search
August 14, 2011
Washington Journalism and Media Conference
Program Details
Watch Program
More Information

Info: High school students from 35 states and Guam discuss the quality of today’s journalism along with their career aspirations in media. The students attended the Washington Journalism & Media Conference hosted by George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Students discuss elements of the Journalist’s Creed, a code of ethics written in 1906 by the University of Missouri School of Journalism’s founder, Walter Williams. Topics include the role of opinion and commentary in journalism, along with the effect of money on the news reporting industry. In addition, students reveal where they look for reliable news and information in today’s multi-media environment.

Uncorrected transcript provided by Morningside Partners.
C-SPAN uses its best efforts to provide accurate transcripts of its programs, but it can not be held liable for mistakes such as omitted words, punctuation, spelling, mistakes that change meaning, etc.
BRIAN LAMB, HOST, Q&A: Abigail Burch, tell me where you’re from, and why you’re here in Washington D.C. this week.

BURCH: I am from Duluth, Minnesota. And I am in Washington, D.C. this week to be part of the Washington Media & Journalism Conference to learn more about writing, politics, media, and how it’s used in our world today to broadcast. And just all of the things that you could learn about other people who have been successful with journalism, to help us understand what we can do with our careers in the future, if we go to college, and do everything that we have been dreaming about to do. Because it is possible.

LAMB: So where do you go to school now?

BURCH: I go to school at Marshall School in Duluth. It’s the only private school in Duluth.

LAMB: So why did you come to this particular conference? What got your attention, and how did you know about it?

BURCH: I don’t know how I was nominated. But I received the letter of recommendation to sign up for this. It was about January or so. And I wanted to do this because I will be having a novel published in about two years. And I want to figure out if I am doing everything I can to be the best writer that I can.

LAMB: Who is going to publish your novel?

BURCH: Little Brown Publishing Company.

LAMB: Oh that’s big.


LAMB: How did you get that?

BURCH: I have been writing since I was very little. And my English teacher found my notebook that had the first few chapters of my novel in it. Read it, and said to me, that this needs to be published. And he sent it to his friend, who is a small publisher. And he sent it to his associate, who is now my current agent.

LAMB: And they have already accepted this novel, and they are going to publish it.


LAMB: When?

BURCH: Like, when will it be published?

LAMB: Yes.

BURCH: It will be published after I have one semester of creative writing classes in college.

LAMB: Why are they waiting that long?

BURCH: In case I have the need after I take classes that are in college to delete the whole thing and re-write it.

LAMB: What’s it about?

BURCH: It is about a young girl who is failing her journalism classes in college as a junior. And in order to like bring her grades up, she takes on the forbidden project of interviewing the most important man in the country, and ends up falling in love with him.

LAMB: Wow. How old was she when she fell in love with him?

BURCH: Twenty-five.

LAMB: How old was he?

BURCH: Thirty.

LAMB: So he had – he can’t be president when he is 30.

BURCH: Well he is not president. It takes place in 2031. So we don’t have presidents in that time.


BURCH: Sorry guys, just that’s a spoiler of the future.

LAMB: It’s a good – thank you, Abigail.

BURCH: Thank you.

LAMB: That’s a good start. We’ll look forward to the novel. That’s – Little Brown’s a big publishing company. All right. Who else in this room wants to tell us some more about this conference, and why you are here? Put your hand up. Matt’s down here. Let me get the mic, Matt. I’ve got one right back here. I’ll give it to you. You don’t have to stand up. Where are you from?

RAMIREZ: I am from Greentop, Missouri, Schuyler County High School.

LAMB: Why did you come to this?

RAMIREZ: I came here because I wanted to learn more about, you know, my career, the career I want to go into, make contacts. And this way, you know, with making contacts, I can get where I want to go in the future.

LAMB: And where is that?

RAMIREZ: I want to be a sports broadcaster. Behind the scenes mostly. Behind the camera. And I want to be maybe a production assistant, or a producer, or a director of maybe working ESPN or something of that sorts.

LAMB: Why do you want to work possibly at ESPN?

RAMIREZ: I love sports. So I love to be around sports. Sports pretty much is so interesting to me. Because I love to watch the action happening. And I love to – I love when action unfolds right in front of me.

LAMB: Thank you, sir.

RAMIREZ: Thank you.

LAMB: This group, I know is from 35 different states. All seniors in high school. We have somebody here from Guam. Who else wants to talk about this conference, and what it’s about, and why you’re here? If you give a young lady there in the back an opportunity to take the microphone, and please stand and tell us who you are, and where you are from.

CORREA: I can’t really stand. I’m in a wheelchair, so.

LAMB: Stay right where you are then.

CORREA: I’m Brianna Correa from Marlborough, Massachusetts. I attend Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School. And at the conference – what I have learned so far is that you have to strive for what you can do, and what you want to do. And to make connections now. And …

LAMB: What’s your dream? Where do you want to go?

CORREA: I want to be a photojournalist. But I don’t want to go to a different country. I want to stay in the United States and take local more community-based photojournalism. And go from there.

LAMB: How much of that do you do now?

CORREA: I am in a graphics program at my school. I go half school and half in a graphics program. And we use cameras every day.

LAMB: Can we see your work on the Web anywhere?

CORREA: I have most of my work on my computer. But I have some on my personal blog on Tumblr. And you can look me up on there. I have a lot of my work on there. But I love it, and I am getting a new camera this year, so I am so excited. And I just can’t wait to pursue more.

LAMB: So tell those of us who don’t know what Tumblr is, again, how to …

CORREA: It’s just – it’s a blog. It’s a blog.

LAMB: It’s a blog. And what is your name again?

CORREA: Brianna Correa.

LAMB: And so that would – all they have to do is look up your name on Tumblr.


LAMB: And they can see some of your work.


LAMB: Who else? Somebody over here had their hand up. I don’t know – well let’s go over here. Because – go ahead, Jennifer. Give to anybody that is in range. Yes, Ma’am.

ORRIS: Hi, my name is Jordan Orris, representing Green Valley High School in Henderson, Nevada. Closer to Las Vegas, actually. I have been so honored to attend this conference. We were all nominated in January by a teacher, or someone who attended the conference in the past. And I feel like this opportunity has been absolutely wonderful as a way to get our voices heard, as a way to develop our skill set, as a way to learn how to develop our personal brand. We have had seminars on all of those things.

LAMB: Why do you want your voices heard? Your voice heard?

ORRIS: Well personally, I love journalism. I am very interested in perhaps a political career. Not my formal announcement by any means. But I am very interested in something along those lines in the future representing the state of Nevada.

LAMB: You like journalism, or government more?

ORRIS: Oh, that is so difficult! And I think they’re actually hand-in-hand right now. I feel that somebody who is in the government eye needs to have a journalism background. Needs to have communications background, for that matter. Needs to know how to effectively communicate with their constituents. Needs to know how to effectively communicate their personal brand. As well as like their ideas for legislation, and really getting their voices heard out in their district.

LAMB: Who do you most admire in politics?

ORRIS: Oh my goodness gracious.

LAMB: Name one, so we can get a flavor here.

ORRIS: You know, I actually served in the Senate last summer. And I would have to say that I admired a lot of the senators that were up and coming. And I have my eye on a particular Republican candidate, I would have to say, Representative Michele Bachmann.

LAMB: You like Michele Bachmann.

ORRIS: I see her doing well in the future. And especially as a woman. She is someone to look up to.

LAMB: Were you a page in the Senate?

ORRIS: I was.

LAMB: Here in town.

ORRIS: Yes sir.

LAMB: OK. Who else? We have a hand up right over there. Yes, sir. What is your name?

WEST: Joe West. Corsicana, Texas. I was just going to say, one of the reasons I came here was I got the nomination in January. But I have always liked journalism, mainly sports though. And you know I write for my city’s newspaper. And I work for the radio. And I just thought this would be like a really good opportunity to you know kind of broaden it, maybe learn some more. And I actually – I learned – I was planning on majoring in like journalism. But I have learned through the past week that journalism might not actually be the best major to get into journalism.

LAMB: Why not?

WEST: I don’t know. I just – I’ve heard that like three or four times this week from the different speakers. They didn’t really detail it. I just – I don’t know.

LAMB: Well this is all about journalism, as you can see up there, the Washington Journalism Media Conference. No, but I am anxious to find out from some of the others here about journalism, and if you have an attitude about it.

I have something here that I am going to get you involved in, in a moment. But we have so many hands up. Let’s just go ahead and this lady has something to say. Where are you from?

DANAHY: I am Caitlin Danahy, from Cartersville, Georgia. What he said about us being told that journalism may not be the best major to have, that was elaborated on to me that it’s really better to find a major about, you know, something you are really passionate about so that you can specialize in that. And you can really become known for, you know, knowing your details, and knowing what you’re talking about.

Because you know anybody – one of our speakers said to us was you know, anybody can come up to you and say you know what is your name? What happened? Write it down and put it in a paper. But for you to be able to – if you major in history, for you to be able to write about a certain event in another country, and you know the history of that country, and you know what’s been going on, you are able to bring more detail and more interest to a story that way.

LAMB: So after you go through this next school year, one year left in high school, where will you go to college?

DANAHY: I am planning on applying to Mercer in Macon, Georgia, and to Flagler, in St. Augustine, Florida.

LAMB: And what will you major in?

DANAHY: I am either looking to major in communications, and maybe go into broadcast. Or to major in history, because I have always really enjoyed learning about history.

LAMB: Thanks. I have something I have always wanted to do this. It’s a discussion I want to get into with you all in journalism. If you go down to the National Press Club. You go to the 13th floor. Have you been there? OK. Let me ask you this. How many in this room, you were there yesterday, noticed the journalism creed that is right before you get on the elevator? You did. Did you read it? OK. Let’s – I have got it here, the words. And what I want to do is, I want to read some of it, and then get you to respond to the definition of journalism as it’s on the wall there. It was written back in the early 1900s by a man that went on to be the president of the University of Missouri. Anybody here from Missouri?

And he didn’t even have a college degree. But he ran the journalism school there. And for – I never asked them at the Press Club why this is there on the wall. But they still have this up there on the wall as the definition. It’s called The Journalism Creed. I’ll read you just a little bit. And we can get the microphone to this young lady, then I’ll get you to respond to this. But here is what it starts out saying.

”I believe in the profession of journalism.” Here is the thing you want to think about is, where do you agree or disagree when you hear some of this. Now this was written back in the 1900s. Early in the 1900s. So think of it. No television. Certainly no iPhones. No Twitter, Facebook, any of that stuff. No CDs. No Walkman for people my age.

”I believe in journalism.” This is what the gentleman says. Walter Williams was his name. He is deceased.

”I believe that the public journal is a public trust; that all connected with it are, to the full measure of responsibility, trustees for the public; that all acceptance of lesser service than the public service is a betrayal of this trust. I believe that clear thinking, clear statement, accuracy and fairness are fundamental to good journalism. I believe that a journalist should write only what he holds in his heart to be true.”

That’s just a start. There is more. Tell us who you are. And what do you think of this.

CLOUTIER: I am Gaia Cloutier. I’m from Portland, Maine. And I think most of those ideals still uphold. But things where – as the trust of – I don’t remember the exact words. But when they are saying that it’s the duty of journalists to being the truth to the people.

I feel like, nowadays, there is a lot of talk about how journalists are more focused on trying to get a – sorry. Can’t think of the word. Like, a – I can’t think of the word.

LAMB: Is it – are you looking for they are trying to get their opinions out or …

CLOUTIER: Not their opinions. But they are trying to find conflict in Washington, and scandals, and stuff. And trying to …

LAMB: But do you think back in these times, they were trying to find conflict?

CLOUTIER: I think they probably were. But I think now it’s been taken to more – it’s more now. Instead of just getting …

LAMB: Are you sure it’s more now?

CLOUTIER: I am not sure. I mean I didn’t read the newspapers back then, obviously.

LAMB: Really?

CLOUTIER: I mean I know I look old like that. But …

LAMB: Well you know but there is a story about the Spanish American War, and how a newspaperman got us involved in that. Was all you know creating the drama and the excitement, back in the 1898 period.

Let me read some more of this. And think about what this man is saying, what the Journalist Creed are and whether or not the Press Club should have this up there now. And, by the way, going back to you for just a second. Why did you read that, when you were standing there at the elevator?

CLOUTIER: I mean, it says the Journalist’s Creed. And I want to be a journalist. So I mean – and also, like I said, the ideals are very good, I think. I mean …

LAMB: You know, this was written actually in 1906 by Walter Williams. He also says, ”I believe that suppression of the news for any consideration other than the welfare of society is indefensible.” And one of the things that you hear about today are people writing books. And they hold information for nine, 10, 12 months until the book comes out. And they work for major publications. And is that the right thing to do? Is that fair? If this creed means anything, it says I believe the suppression of the news for any consideration other than the welfare of society is indefensible. Who else wants to react to anything they are hearing here?

Yes, over here. The lady in the back there with her hand up. The blonde lady with the ponytail. Sorry to have to define the way you look. Go ahead.

EPLEE: I am Rachael Eplee from Charlottesville, Virginia. What I have learned since I have been here, even is that journalism is, and always has been, the art of telling. And of telling the story of current events, of past, of present and then predicting the future. And I think that what that is saying is that, it’s the true, like the true meaning of journalism is to give the facts.

And I think we are struggling right now in this modern time when there is Facebook and Twitter and opinions out the wazoo. And we’re having trouble focusing on the facts, and just giving the facts. And I think that that is the hardest thing.

LAMB: So when you wake up in the morning, do you go to find out what is going on in the news?

EPLEE: I usually watch the Today Show.

LAMB: And is that, in your opinion, where you are going to find the best journalism?

EPLEE: Not always, no.

LAMB: So if you want the best journalism at the start of your day, where would you go?

EPLEE: If I am looking for local stories, I would go to the newspaper. If I was looking for national and international stories, I would probably go to The New York Times website.

LAMB: And what is your goal right now? Would you want to be a journalist?

EPLEE: I do. I am really interested in international correspondent work, political correspondent. I haven’t really decided.

LAMB: Well, if you look around the world, are we now in a better position for somebody like you to get – find a job down the road? Are we in a worse position in say it was when I was your age?

EPLEE: In my opinion, we’re in a much better – we’re in a much better place. I mean, the opportunities people have to travel and to just – I mean we have heard so many stories from amazing people like Hoda (ph) and …

LAMB: Tell everybody who Hoda (ph) is.

EPLEE: Hoda (ph) is, we all heard her speak yesterday. She is a journalist. She did a lot of work for NBC now. But she does ”Dateline” work. And she is – she does correspondent. And I really learned a lot from her as far as her stories about at the beginning of when she was learning to – when she was first a journalist, she got turned down 27 times, I think it was, before she finally got someone to give her a job.

And I think that that is such a perfect story of today, how we have opportunities that we can just go and find. There are so many different news places, and there are so many different websites and things that you can get involved in too.

LAMB: Let me read – thank you. Let me read some more of this to see what you all think. This is the Journalist Creed, Walter Williams, 1906, tacked to the wall there at the National Press Club.

”I believe that no one should write as a journalist what he would not say as a gentleman.” Does that tell you anything right there? This is what he wrote in 1906. ”That bribery by one’s own pocketbook is as much to be avoided as bribery by the pocketbook of another.”

Think about that for a minute. Get a sense of what does that mean in this new world of television, radio. ”That individual responsibility may not be escaped by pleading another’s instructions or another’s dividends.” What do you think of that business about pocketbook?

Jennifer, the lady back there in the first row with her – obviously her hand up. If you all want to say anything down here, all you have to do is tell me. I have got a mic here, I can sneak it in. Your name and where you’re from, please.

SAPIRMAN: My name is Alyson Sapirman. I am from Sanford, Florida.

LAMB: What do you think of this thing I am reading here about journalism, and this business about there is much to be avoided of bribery by the pocket book – or the bribery of your own pocketbook?

SAPIRMAN: I think it means that you don’t – you need to be like true, as a reporter. You can’t like put false – information out into the public. Like it’s your job to bring the truth out to the American people. Or if you are in another country. Like, to the people. Like, that’s your job as a reporter.

LAMB: What do you think of the journalists that you see today? Are they – any of them worried more about their own pocketbook than they are about the news and the truth?

SAPIRMAN: From what I watch, not really. Like a lot of them put their opinions out there, which sometimes I think puts influence into other people’s opinions a lot. But I don’t really think that reporters get bribed all that much.

LAMB: What they’re talking about, their own pocketbook also, sounds to me like it might be how much they are paid by their news organizations in order to do their job. There are some other hands up. Why don’t you pass it off over there, and you know we have – we have had one journalist in this country that made $15 million a year. What does that sound like to you? Would you rather have the money, the truth, or both?

PETSCHKE: Well my name is Evan Petschke, and I am from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. And as an aspiring journalist, I am already preparing myself for the very small salary that I will be starting out with. Because I know that, I am pretty sure everyone in this room knows, journalists do not make a lot of money, especially when you are first starting out.

So I think, you know, most journalists should be aware of that. And there are some jobs that will make more money. And for the people that want that money, they need to find those other jobs. But if you want to be a journalist, you need to have a passion for what you do. It’s the kind of job that isn’t about the money. It’s about, you know, the work. It’s about the truth and the facts, and you know being there for the people.

And I think a lot of times, especially in our economy today with the struggling times that we are in, people get caught up in all that kind of stuff. But …

LAMB: Where do you go for your news and information?

PETSCHKE: Well I – my dream is to work in The New York Times. So that’s – I read The New York Times a lot. But I also read my local newspaper, because that’s – a lot of the news affects me. So those two main papers.

LAMB: And as you think about it, are you going to college?


LAMB: Do you know where yet?

PETSCHKE: Not yet. I am going to be applying soon. So hopefully a big city.

LAMB: What will you study?

PETSCHKE: I want to study international relations. Perhaps a double major with journalism in international relations, or international relations and government and politics.

LAMB: So at your age, what are you, 17, 18?


LAMB: Seventeen? What is your dream job right now?

PETSCHKE: My dream job is to be an international correspondent for The New York Times.

LAMB: There aren’t many slots left.

PETSCHKE: No there are not, but I can get one.

LAMB: But all – there you go. How is that? All right. Here is another paragraph. This is – we have got two more paragraphs to go here.

”I believe that advertising…” – again, this is Walter Williams, 1906. ”I believe that advertising, news, and editorial columns should alike serve the best interest of readers. That a single standard of helpful truths and cleanness should prevail for all. That supreme test of good journalism is the measure of its public service.”

Now you have been listening to a lot of people this week. We’ll get the mic to you, Richard. Tell us who you are, and where you are from.

SELA STEPHENS: Hi, my name is Sela Stephens. And I am from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. And just expanding on you know what some of the previous, you know, speakers have said. That I believe that the most impactful journalism is journalism that’s honest. And, you know, earnest.

Like when Hoda was speaking to us the other day, she made a great impact on me. To be completely honest, I hadn’t heard of her before. But when she came in, she instantly just – you know she commanded the room. And everyone was just silent. And just like paying attention to her. Because you could tell that she was coming from a really sincere place.

She told how she had failed, you know, 27 times. And it’s not – you know, an easy story to hear, because everyone, you know, wants to graduate college and make all this money. But it’s really, you know, it’s larger than the money that you make. It’s about, you know, being true to the art of journalism, and reporting a true story.

LAMB: Let me though, ask you. I’ll just be a ”doubting Thomas” for a minute, just to ask you a couple questions. Why do you think she was telling you the truth? Why do you think she was sincere?

PETSCHKE: Because it’s what makes the most impact. We have heard, you know, the clichιs you know, time and time again of, you know, just the – you know, stick to, you know, what you believe in. Stay in school. And of course you’ll make it. But, you know, that’s not always what holds true. She didn’t go to journalism school. She went to Virginia Tech.

And, you know, just working around, you know – working around problems or setbacks is really the only way to success.

LAMB: Besides Hoda, who do you know, or watch, or read that you admire?

PETSCHKE: I personally want to be a music journalist. So I read a lot of like Spin and Rolling Stone. I admire their style of writing personally.

LAMB: And we go back though, it’s interesting the definition of journalism here is that ”supreme test of good journalism is the measure of its public service.” And she is talking about writing about music and all that. What about this public service thing? Do you think that has anything to do with journalism? Anybody? Back here in the back, Jennifer, right there.

What do you think? Where are you from?

RAGAN: My name is Shannon Ragan, I am from Vienna, Virginia. And I feel like the purpose of journalism is to tell the truth, and to impact people.

LAMB: Let me stop you there and ask you though, how do you know what is the truth?

RAGAN: You – I think that you should be able to trust your journalists. And I think, personally, if I believe that what I am reading is the truth, and later I hear that it is not the truth, then I lose all respect for that reporter. And I think a person’s integrity is in journalism, the most important aspect of their career.

LAMB: Lately, in television, a number of places have become very opinionated. You know when you go to these channels that they’re going to be on a side, usually. They may have people from other sides there, but, by and large, they’re on a side. I won’t name them, because everybody gets all upset when you try to characterize what any of these channels do. Is that good or bad for us?

RAGAN: I don’t think it’s a good thing. I believe opinion is good, but only when it is strictly written as opinion. Like, the opinion section in the newspaper, for example. I think it’s interesting to read editorials, and it’s nice to hear other people’s opinions. But I think the importance of journalism is to hear what’s happening in the world, and the truth. And there is no other place that people are going to get that information besides from journalists.

So that is our responsibility to the people.

LAMB: But the most successful network in the United States, cable network, makes more money than anybody else, has a very strong opinionated base to it.

RAGAN: I think …

LAMB: They may disagree with that. But I think most people – and when they’re not in front of a microphone, they will agree with that. But what do you think of that? Is that – they found out they could make money, lots of money, being opinionated?

RAGAN: Well yesterday we heard a speaker called Jonathan Martin. And he mentioned something. He said something about should we tell the people what they want to hear, or what they need to hear? And I think in that case, it’s kind of using people, and not sure how to phrase that. But it’s manipulating people, I guess. An audience to play on their emotions by using a very strong opinion to try and get them to agree with you.

And I think that we need to give citizens the truth. And we need to tell them the information that they need to know, regardless of whether it’s what they want to hear or not.

LAMB: I think the word I hear from all of you is truth. And we go back to this thing about the ”supreme test of the journalist is the measure of its public service.” As long as we’re right here with the microphone, what about this public service thing? Mr. Williams thinks that’s important. Would that be why you went into journalism?

PEEL: I’m Kaitlyn Peel, and I am from Stone Mountain.

LAMB: Where are you from?

PEEL: Stone Mountain, Georgia.

LAMB: Good. That first name again?

PEEL: Kaitlyn Peel.

LAMB: Kaitlyn. What do you think? Public service?

PEEL: Public service is a big part of it. Journalism has been described as the fourth branch of government. And I think that’s good because the government was set up by the people and for the people. And journalists are people. And we write for people. And it gets the truth out. And I think a republic cannot exist without journalism.

LAMB: So, it’s not a business. It’s really a fourth branch of government.

PEEL: In a way. It’s a service …

LAMB: Do you want to it to be a part of government?

PEEL: No. I think journalism is such a broad spectrum from entertainment, to, you know, the politics. There is, you know, you can change the channel. On one, people are talking about the elections in 2012. And then you go to another channel, and they’re talking about what Angelina Jolie wore today.

LAMB: Now where would you go right now, if you wanted to know what’s going on in the world?

PEEL: Probably CNN.

LAMB: Why?

PEEL: I find that what they put out is the most truth. And I have good respect – a lot of respect for them.

LAMB: How do you know they’re truthful?

PEEL: You just have to go with your instinct, and what your gut feels. You can’t – you can’t know for sure. You’re not on the front lines with them. But you just have to trust them.

LAMB: Anybody down here want the microphone? Matt we have got to go to somebody else here. Who wants the microphone? Yes. Come on. Tell us what you’re thinking. I know. Here is a Missourian. A Missouri fella. Are you going to go to the University of Missouri and study journalism?

BARNHILL: Yes, I am.

LAMB: What do you think of my friend here, Mr. Williams?

BARNHILL: He is amazing. He, you know, University of Missouri is the best journalism school in the nation, you know, no doubt about that.

LAMB: No doubt?

BARNHILL: Yes, no doubt.

LAMB: Whoa.

BARNHILL: Sorry about that guys if you – yes. But it really is, because, you know, there is KLMU (ph). You have the student-run, you know, news station. And you get first-hand experienced before, you know. And like you are ahead of the game.

LAMB: Sean, did you tell us your name?


LAMB: Give us your full name.

LAMB: OK. My name is Sean Barnhill. So …

LAMB: And you are from where?

BARNHILL: Branson, Missouri.

LAMB: Branson.


LAMB: It’s a famous name in America.

BARNHILL: Yes, very.

LAMB: All right. What about Mr. Williams here, he used to be the dean of the Journalism School.


LAMB: We have talked about all of this thing about public service and shouldn’t be feeding money in your own pocket, and public journal, public trust. Truth, accuracy, fairness. Do we get that today?

BARNHILL: I am not going to name the network. But one network, like I do not trust at all. Like, you know, they are so you know they are so bias. And it’s like you know all networks are, but you know this one especially. You know it’s – they exaggerate.

LAMB: Well let me play the devil’s advocate.


LAMB: Maybe, isn’t it better that you know what their bias is, instead of them slipping it in on you?

BARNHILL: Yes, I guess.

LAMB: Are you politically not on their side?

BARNHILL: Well, I mean it’s not that. It’s just how they cover the news. Like I don’t know like …

LAMB: The news that they cover, or the opinions that they give? Can you sift through the difference?


LAMB: What do you – how do you get your news?

BARNHILL: I go to CNN. CNN local news.

LAMB: So you are happy with CNN.

BARNHILL: Yes. And, as she said, you know you really don’t know if they’re telling the truth. But, it’s like, you just have to, you know, go with your instinct.

LAMB: Let’s get a wide shot of this room. Because I want to have you show your hands. If you had to choose in here, I am going to ask you which network you would go to. Thanks, Sean. How many of you would tune to CNN if you want to get the news? OK. How many of you would tune to Fox News? All right. And how many of you would tune to MSNBC? Anybody else? Would go to another place?


LAMB: You go to the BBC.

HAMSHER: Everything they say is about the same.

LAMB: Everything?

HAMSHER: No matter what they’re saying, it always sounds …

LAMB: Hold on. Let’s get a microphone to you, Richard. Tell us your name, and where you are from.

HAMSHER: I am Jess Hamsher, and I am from Lafayette, Louisiana. I would turn to BBC for my news. I feel like when BBC talks about things, they just kind of give it to you straight. And they really – you can’t really tell if they have bias. Maybe it’s the accent, maybe it’s just everything sounds the same. But to me, I just get my news straight. It’s you know. And BBC comes on in the morning. We’ll watch it before I go to school. My step-dad will have it on. We’re about to head out to go to school. I catch what’s going on in the world. And I am out the door.

LAMB: Have you ever seen Jeremy Paxman?

HAMSHER: Probably. I don’t recall the name. I don’t really watch it like. Like I just listen.

LAMB: I don’t know Mr. Paxman. He is a tall – it looks like he is a tall guy. But there is nobody I have ever seen on television that is more in your face than Jeremy Paxman.

HAMSHER: I really – I don’t like watch it. I listen. Like you know what I mean?

LAMB: Listen to the World Service?

HAMSHER: Yes. So I just kind of – like it’s in the morning. I just turn it on. I listen.

LAMB: How do you know – how do you know they’re telling you the real thing?

HAMSHER: I feel like it’s just – and there is a difference between truth and fact to me. Something that is the truth isn’t necessarily fact. It’s like fact is truth.

LAMB: How do you know though, if you are listening to the BBC?

HAMSHER: You can never be sure.

LAMB: Never.

HAMSHER: Unless you go and talk to the people that they are interviewing, you can never be sure.

LAMB: What do you want to do when you grow up?

HAMSHER: I want – I really would love to be into politics.

LAMB: So you don’t want to be in journalism.

HAMSHER: I love journalism.

LAMB: Who do you idolize in politics, or do you idolize anybody in politics?

HAMSHER: I don’t idolize anybody. I respect people.

LAMB: Name one.

HAMSHER: Our representative, Charles Boustany. I really – I feel like he is doing really well for our community. And he works for the people. And he doesn’t necessarily work to be reelected. And because he works for the people, he keeps getting reelected.

LAMB: Do you think there are any of these representatives here that do not work for the people?

HAMSHER: I feel like some of them might have another agenda that they don’t – they wouldn’t necessarily …

LAMB: What would that be, though?

HAMSHER: Just an agenda maybe for themselves that they, you know, feel. I am not sure. I don’t know personally. Like I don’t go ask …

LAMB: But if you have an agenda that you don’t feel and you’re for yourself in this, why do they get reelected?

HAMSHER: Good campaigning. I mean, there are some in office that I don’t agree with. And I feel like they have an alternate agenda besides working for their people. So.

LAMB: Who else has their hand up? Back there, yes. Jennifer you can get that mic in your hand.

RETCHO: Hi. I am Gabrielle Retcho, from New Windsor, New York. I would just like to go back to what you were saying before, how is it a good thing or a bad thing that a lot of new stations are becoming more opinionated.

I believe that that is a good thing, because some people – they’ll watch it. And they know, oh, this isn’t what I believe. And if they don’t agree with it, they can go watch a new station that they do agree with their views. That way, you don’t have the problem of getting mixed up, and then people don’t sometimes know what to think.

LAMB: When you go, do you ever go into a bookstore?


LAMB: You go into a big bookstore. A Borders or Barnes & Noble, or an independent store, there is some 120,000 titles in there. Do you ever go in and say, where are all these books biased?

RETCHO: I am sorry. I don’t quite understand what you are saying.

LAMB: Well, I am relating it to television. Everybody worries and fusses over bias on television. But when you go into a bookstore, you don’t stand there and say isn’t it a shame that all those people up there have opinions?

RETCHO : Well they are books. You can sift through what you want to read and what you don’t want to read. You don’t have to read something that you don’t agree with.

LAMB: Why isn’t that the same with television? I mean all the choice you have today, if you don’t want to watch something, you can change the channel.

RETCHO: Well, sometimes I feel like – well you can pick up a book and you know what it’s about. But you watch a TV show, and there is so much going on, and people are saying a lot of different things, that messages get mixed up. And I think that’s a lot of the problem today, is that people don’t really know what they’re listening to, what they’re watching to. What they’re watching.

LAMB: But do you think you know more about somebody that has written a book than you do somebody that is giving their opinion on television?

RETCHO: You can – well personally, I think you can clearly make out what someone is trying to say, and what they are trying to get across in writing than on television.

LAMB: So should there be a different …

RETCHO: I think writing is more clear-cut.

LAMB: Should there be a different standard for television, radio, and newspapers? On what’s truth, what’s journalism?

RETCHO: I don’t really know, honestly.

LAMB: Who else has (INAUDIABLE)? I see we have a few hands up. Why don’t you just pass it behind you there, as long as we’re over on this side, and then we’ll come back over here. Yes.

DICKERSON: My name is Mary Grace Dickerson, and I am from Virginia Beach, Virginia. I just wanted to piggyback on what she said. But I don’t have the same opinion. I feel that editorials do have their place. But it makes – it compromises the integrity and the facts in the news. And it’s very difficult in every – when every station is opinionated to get the facts if – like because I know I personally only really watch one station.

And if I go to watch another station, I change it really quickly because I don’t agree with what they are saying, or …

LAMB: What station do you watch?

DICKERSON: I watch FOX personally. But …

LAMB: And why is it that you – I suspect that this gentleman down here doesn’t like FOX. Yes, he is nodding up and down. Why is it that you like them?

DICKERSON: I am socially conservative. And pretty fiscally conservative also. But I just feel …

LAMB: Do you think they are giving you the conservative view?

DICKERSON: Yes, sir. I don’t know. But I don’t agree with bias in the media but I …

LAMB: You don’t, but you …

DICKERSON: But I watch – I don’t – because there is nothing else to watch, I guess.

LAMB: Why don’t you agree with bias in the media? And where do you know – where can you find no bias in the media?

DICKERSON: You can’t. Well personally, I have never found it. And I …

LAMB: So if you don’t agree with bias in the media, and you have never found a place that there is not bias in the media, what difference does it make?

DICKERSON: Oh I just think that there should be a place where you can go to just get the who, what, when, where, why, how. Just the facts.

LAMB: So are you willing to take the time to read the speech, watch the speech in its entirety?


LAMB: You think so?


LAMB: How often?

DICKERSON: As often as it takes for me to learn the facts.

LAMB: Aren’t you busy?

DICKERSON: Yes. But with the internet there is so many easy ways to – there is definitely easier ways than you can – YouTube and you can fast-forward I guess.

LAMB: Ah. So you don’t really want the whole thing. I am confused. Let’s ask this young lady down here. What’s your name?

BARKHUFF: My name is Grace Barkhuff, and I am from Clifton Park, New York.

LAMB: What are you thinking?

BARKHUFF: I think that bias in the media has become so popular because it’s easier. If you just give people the facts then they have to think about it themselves, and they don’t have time. They’re too lazy. So if you tell people what to think, then they just listen to you and they believe it.

LAMB: So what do you do when you want the news. Just the news.

BARKHUFF: I haven’t found it either yet.

LAMB: Think you will?

BARKHUFF: Maybe in the future. I think that’s why we’re all here, to learn how to be better journalists. So maybe some of us will learn from this experience. And grow up to be unbiased journalists.

LAMB: What do you think of what I have been reading here? That definition of journalism.

BARKHUFF: I think it’s very idealistic, and that it’s something we should strive to do, but haven’t achieved.

LAMB: Thank you. I have got one more – I’ll be right to you. Don’t – hold on here. I got one more paragraph. And there is something in this paragraph that I really would like – you’ll hear it. I’m not going to tell you what it is. But I want your reaction to it. And especially in today’s atmosphere. See if you can figure out what it is. First hand that goes up to tell me what it is, I’ll go to you. Did you read this before? OK.

”I believe that the journalism which succeeds the best, and best deserves success fears God, and honors man. Is stoutly independent. Unmoved by pride of opinion or greed of power; constructive. Tolerant, but never careless. Self controlled. Patient. Always respectful of its readers. But always unafraid. Is quickly indignant at injustice. Is unswayed by the appeal of the privilege or the glamour of the mob. Seeks to give every man a chance, and as far as law, an honest wage and recognition of human brotherhood can make it so.”

This is an awfully long lead on anything a journalist would write.

”An equal chance; is profoundly patriotic while sincerely promoting international good will and cementing world-comradeship; is a journalism of humanity, of and for today’s world.”

Who thinks they heard in here something that might have surprised them? This gentleman here. I don’t – what did I do with the mic? There it is. Let me hand it to him over here. Tell us your name and where you are from.

WRIGHT: Hi, I am Patrick Wright, and I am from Broken Bow, Nebraska. And the word I – that popped into my head when I heard that was discipline. To be a good journalist you have got to be disciplined enough to really put aside your bias and report the facts, the truth. What is really real, per say.

LAMB: What do you want to do in your life, where are you going?

WRIGHT: I want to be a journalist. And I want to kind of work with social media too, and communications like that. I feel that it’s really opening up the world and allowing us to share stories, more than we ever could before.

LAMB: So you don’t want to go through all these filters out there.

WRIGHT: Not entirely. Because with the social media, it’s more factual and true, and you get it sooner.

LAMB: Social media is more factual and true. How do you know?

WRIGHT: Because it’s real people telling real facts.

LAMB: Why do real people tell real facts, and journalists don’t?

WRIGHT: They don’t always have as many people watching them. There is not as many people that will criticize them for whatever they say, and try to put them down. So some people they can just say whatever they want and it’s not a problem for them.

LAMB: All right. Now go back to this paragraph. Somebody have an opinion on this paragraph that – we have not talked to you yet, have we? Right there. What did you hear here that struck you as might be controversial today?

RUST: Well first of all, I am Katie.

LAMB: Hi, Katie. What’s your last name?

RUST: I’m from New Jersey. Rust.

LAMB: Where are you from?

RUST: Fredon, New Jersey. And what struck me most about this paragraph was the fact that it said that it would be – the media would be not influenced by any outside opinion, or any personal opinions. But today’s media is. And – or swayed by the mob. There was another part in there that said it would be swayed by the mob.

The – today’s media is swayed. And it is people bribe and they twist things. But …

LAMB: How do you know?

RUST: What?

LAMB: How do you know?

RUST: Because there is a lot out there that …

LAMB: Let me ask it this way. What’s your sense of ideal good journalism? What one institution would you say has the best journalism, as defined here or as you would define it?

RUST: The way that I would define best journalism, is to put the facts first. And then put your opinion later. Like if someone wanted to hear the straight facts, they could hear it. And if they don’t want to hear your opinion, they don’t have to hear it. But they could hear it.

LAMB: Yes, a newspaper would tell you that their facts are on their front page, and their opinions on the editorial page. Do you believe that? Is that right?

RUST: That’s right.

LAMB: Right. Do you have a favorite newspaper?

RUST: I like The Post, The Washington Post.

LAMB: The Washington Post. OK. By the way, you haven’t gotten to the thing that I thought might trigger your interest from this. Who else has – let’s get somebody that hasn’t spoken. Right back here. Jennifer right here. Yes.

I’d be interested in it because I know that if in today’s world, if there were actual journalists in the room that were working in the profession, there is something in here that they would – might quarrel with.

SHERMAN: Hi, I am Sarah Sherman. I am from Kalamazoo, Michigan. And I think bias is truly human. We all have very, very specific opinions about everything, just as you can see in this room. And if you’re writing a story just facts, it’s completely unemotional. And the reason why people love Fox News and like, movies so much is because it’s an experience. It’s emotional. It’s love and its hate.

And when you see, just like, an article with facts, it’s drier. And that’s why so many newspapers are failing, because …

LAMB: They’re just giving you the facts, Ma’am?

SHERMAN: Right. And the journalism I consider like the best journalism, like I want to be a photojournalist, and I want to work with National Geographic, ideally.

LAMB: Not bad. It’s not a bad goal.

SHERMAN: Yes. It’s – like the journalism I read in there is completely an experience. It’s a story. And it’s completely human. And what people want to hear is like love. And they want to hear compassion. And they want to hear stories of people getting saved, or people getting hurt. Because that’s what people can relate to.

And of course, you want media that gives you the truth. But you can only find truth through …

LAMB: There goes that word truth again.

SHERMAN: … you know stories.

LAMB: Anybody figure – thank you. Anybody else figure out what I was citing, as long as we have – go ahead, Richard, give somebody right there. That young lady – right here. The lady in the polka dots or whatever that is. Hi.

MCMANUS: Hi, I am Mcguire McManus. I am from Frisco, Texas. And what I think people would quarrel with now is, it said something about not fearing God. And I think because …

LAMB: That, by the way is what I was …

MCMANUS: Yes. Because that’s what people strive (ph) …

LAMB: Interested in hearing about.

MCMANUS: Like she was saying, people want to hear stories about love. People want to hear stories that are moving. However, in journalism, if we want to report just the facts, you can’t fear God. You have to keep all emotions outside of it.

LAMB: Do you think – I mean this man went on to be the president of the University of Missouri. He was the dean of the Journalism School, started all that, and then wrote this creed. And they put it on the wall in the National Press Club a few years ago. Do you think if the Press Club got together and said, we need a new definition of journalism, that that line would make it?

In other words, let me read it again. ”I believe that the journalism which succeeds the best, and the best deserves success, fears God and honors man.” How do you think that would read today? What would they put in place of those words?

MCMANUS: I feel like …

LAMB: Would you fear anybody?

MCMANUS: Not really. Because …

LAMB: Would you honor man?

MCMANUS: Honor man’s opinion. Today.

LAMB: But what about the word man? Do you think any chance that that would get into something like this?

MCMANUS: Probably not.

LAMB: Why not?

MCMANUS: I don’t know. Because …

LAMB: Well, one of the reasons, I must tell you is this room is full of probably 150 journalism students. And maybe one out of 15 is a man. And if you would have been in this room in my time, one out of 15 would have been a woman. That is one of the things that has changed.

MCMANUS: Maybe in terms of the actual word man, would you replace it with person?

LAMB: I don’t know. I am asking you.

MCMANUS: I mean I didn’t – I didn’t think of it as honors man as in I thought it was like mankind. I didn’t think of man as the …

LAMB: OK. Who else? We have people all the way in the back, that anybody down here in the front? I have got a mic. I am going to give it to this young lady right here. Tell us who you are, and where you are from.

WIRTALA: Hi. I am Micaela Wirtala from Prescott, Arizona. And when you described that paragraph, the one thing I thought about is what real journalism is meant to be, which is passion. And you have to have the passion to go forward with the hard stories that people don’t want to hear. And you have to have the passion to strive above everything else and be the best. Sorry.

LAMB: So is passion more important than truth?

WIRTALA: I believe that you can have both. You can be a passionate person. You can be a truthful person. But as long as you are doing your job, and doing what you are supposed to be, then it is – it’s a hard way to describe it. It’s …

LAMB: What’s the process of thinking? Let me though ask you this. As long as you are on your feet. This line – what I am really interested in is today. If you as a group had to write a definition of journalism, would you put the word God in a definition of journalism?

WIRTALA: I would. I mean personally …

LAMB: Well hold it right there. Let’s find out in this room. How many of you in this room – I want you to put your hands up very high, would keep the word and the mention of God in a definition of journalism? Put your hands way up. How many would not? Why don’t you pass the mic to this young lady. Stand up. Tell us your name and where you’re from.

MANN: My name is Allison Mann. I am from Orange County, California.

LAMB: Why would you not put that reference to God in there?

MANN: I personally don’t – like I don’t believe that fully that God should like take a part in what we write in the newspaper, in print – or report. Like …

LAMB: What’s changed since 1906, 100 years later, that you think you wouldn’t do this?

MANN: I don’t know.

LAMB: Let’s hold on a second. We’ll put – give the mic to the young lady there who can tell us. You’re all young. I should have got the word young, I guess.

KATIE TOLBERT: Hi, I am Katie Tolbert, I am from Charlotte, North Carolina. And it’s because the mention of God or religion can offend several people. And I think that’s why journalism is so controversial these days. Because people are so worried about offending other people through what they say that sometimes like they kind of censor what they put out. Which is why we’re kind of like struggling whether it’s the truth or not, because not everything is going out.

LAMB: Yes, I want to – we have got – we’re running out of time, and I want to make sure we get to as many people as possible that had their hands up. So Richard, find somebody back there very quickly and – I also want the audience to know, our audience that are watching at home, that they can get this Journalist Creed on the internet. This is something you couldn’t do years ago.

And all they have to do is type in Walter Williams and Journalist Creed, and it comes up there. You can get it easy and there is also some information on him. And you can ask yourself the same questions on how much of this you would believe.

Yes, Ma’am. Where are you from?

MORIAH FELDER: I am Moriah Felder from Chesapeake, Virginia. I think journalism in its purest form is telling the truth. And it’s telling the true straight facts. And I think all journalists should – well the – I think in this purest form, journalists should say come what may, I am going to tell the truth and straight facts. And let people make their own opinions and decide what they believe and what they don’t believe for themselves.

LAMB: When do you trust a journalistic institution? Can you name it?

FELDER: I think you really have to go with your gut and listen to different networks, and different sources. And say, I think this source has a little bit more opinion than this source. And kind of judge it for yourself. And you have to choose – and each person has to choose which network, or which institution, or which source they are going to believe for themselves.

LAMB: Please turn around and hand the mic to the lady behind you so that we can get as many people quickly involved in this. What is your name, where are you from?

ANNA BRUNER: My name is Anna Bruner, and I am from Somerset, Pennsylvania. And I guess what stood out most to me in the paragraph was the word respect. And it’s the duty of the journalist to pay a story the respect it deserves.

And by all means, like don’t leave opinion out. But don’t overly glamorize it or completely denounce whatever you are reporting on. And …

LAMB: Wouldn’t Walter Williams love to know we’re talking about him almost 100 years later, and his creed is still on the wall of the National Press Club? Yes, Ma’am.

LAURA SKAAR: My name is Laura Skaar, I am from Geneva, Illinois. And what I noticed was, we’re talking a lot about truth here. And people are saying how they will believe whatever network they think agrees most with their views.

But really, truth isn’t always what you agree with. And if you really want to find what is really the truth, you need to listen to people with different opinions, as well as people with your own opinion.

LAMB: How much of that do you do?

SKAAR: I try to do it as much as I can. I mean I listen to news from different stations, even if I don’t really agree with kind of the opinion that they do have. Because maybe they are right, and maybe I am not.

LAMB: If I saw you 10 years from now, what would you be doing?

SKAAR: Ideally, international journalism of some kind. I am also interested in like the different platforms of social media journalism, like a couple of other people have said. Because I know that’s going to be really growing in the next couple of years, so.

LAMB: All right. Let’s get a mic to somebody else who is – anybody got the mic? Right over – yes. Please hand it so we can – we have about five minutes left, and I don’t – I wanted to get as many as possible. Yes, Ma’am.

KATIE GREENBERG: Hi, I am Katie Greenberg from Clifton Park, New York. To go back to what you were talking about God, in the paragraph that was in the creed. I don’t think God should be mentioned in journalism. I personally grew up in a household where God was a sensitive subject, because my parents had different views on God.

And I think that in today’s society, religion, and God in general, has changed a lot from when the creed was written. And I don’t think that you need to include God. Because journalism reaches everybody. And everybody has a different opinion.

LAMB: But this – he is basically saying fear God as you do your work.

GREENBERG: I don’t think that you should put that in there. Because I don’t think that you necessarily have to believe in God to be a journalist. So if you are saying fear God, to some people, that doesn’t mean anything. I am not saying that’s how I feel. But to some people who don’t believe in God, you are saying fear God, and that doesn’t mean anything.

So you’re not – it’s not an accurate representation of all journalists.

RESITA COX: My name is Resita Cox, I am from Kingston, North Carolina. And I believe good journalism, you must have the passion for it. And after the passion, the truth comes. Opinion isn’t necessarily required to make a good story. I heard someone say that if the stories were on just facts, it’s kind of boring.

But you have to – to be a journalist, you have to know how to put your words in a way of just facts so that the public can form their opinion on your writing. And that’s where the passion comes from, and that’s how the truth follows.

LAMB: What are you going to do in 10 years?

COX: I want to travel the world and tell stories. Like, I believe that journalism is giving a voice to those that have been silenced. The news is probably the way to build up to get there. So I will probably major in like broadcast journalism. But that’s what I really wanted to do.

LAMB: Yes, Ma’am.

JASMINE JOHNSON: Hi. I am Jasmine Johnson. I really believe that journalists are driven by like the desire to share experiences with the public. Not only with facts but opinions. Our opinions kind of give a human aspect to the whole nature of journalism. And with in relation to the whole idea of putting God into the definition of journalism, I mean, we have freedom of religion. And it can be seen as a little bit disrespectful to serve in groups of people who have to face journalism, and read certain pieces of news, but yet also have to hear opinions that are so opinionated with the idea of God.

LAMB: Thank you. Last comment.

OLSEN: Hi. I am Danielle Olsen from Huntington Beach, California. And after listening to this document, I just, like you said, it was written 100 years ago. And so many things have changed within 100 years. Like, you said the fear of God, and man, and stuff. Like about the whole religion thing, like everyone has a different opinion on religion.

But, and then like, most of this conference is women. And I think being – like having an opinion and being biased is actually really important, because a lot of people have been saying oh, like, state the facts. State the facts. But I feel like if it was just the facts, everything would be the same. You know like every paper would seem the same.

I think that like having different opinions, and like different people like put their own flavor into like what they’re writing, I think it like opens up a new like way of thinking for yourself. Like, you can take like most of – like kind of the gist of the story, and you can make a judgment for yourself. But I think it’s really interesting to listen to other people’s like opinions, and then kind of like look at it from their perspective.

LAMB: Thank you. That gee, that went pretty fast, didn’t it? This is Andrew Flagel’s dream, the Dean of Admissions at George Mason University to have you all here. This is the third year of all of this. The Washington Journalism and Media Conference. Why don’t you give yourself a big hand and we’ll say good-bye.

C-SPAN  ·  American Writers  ·  American Presidents · Booknotes  ·  Book TV
Capitol Hearings  ·  Students & Leaders