Women in Media Panel Discuss “Nasty News” in the Trump Era

On March 31, five women met to discuss women in media on The George Washington University’s Mount Vernon campus. The panel focused on President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed, so called “fake news,” and the lack of women in top media and legislative positions.

The panel titled “Nasty News Challenges: Media Coverage in the Era of Trump,” featured Chastity Cooper, Climate Action Campaign’s communications strategist; Claritza Jiménez, GW alum and digital video editor for The Washington Post;  Francesca Chambers, White House correspondent for the Daily Mail; and GiGi Schumm, vice president and public sector general manager for Symantec. The Panel was moderated by Cynthia Steele Vance, a former news anchor for Fox News’ DC affiliate.

The discussion began as all modern discussions of politics do: with President Trump or, as Vance called him, the “Tweeter in Chief.”

How do you cover a president like Donald Trump?

The question of how to cover a president like Donald Trump was brought up multiple times during the panel discussion, and the complicated issue was viewed from many angles.

“Almost everything that this president does is news,” said Chambers.

She discussed the difficulty of a work-life balance when it seems like the news is never ending, specifically mentioning President Trump’s tweets about members of the Freedom Caucus.

“So you’ve got to redo the entire story about him having a political payback list apparently,” she said, in reference to his recent tweetstorms. “You just have to make the decision: I’m going to go home.”

Within the complexity of the constant news cycle comes the challenge of synthesizing the information and putting out a product that tells the whole story.

“We need to challenge one another to tell truthful stories,” said Cooper.  

Jiménez agreed, saying it’s important to put stories from the White House in context. “We don’t want to just give you the soundbite from the press briefing,” she said. “We want to put text on screen that says ‘however,’ ‘actually,’ ‘in reality.’”

Audience watches panel at Women’s Leadership Conference. Photo Courtesy: Karena Halvorssen

Where have all the women gone?

Gigi Schumm of the “Women of Washington” radio show said one of her biggest challenges is finding women in Washington: “At the cabinet level, there has not been an effort to embrace a lot of diversity – whether that be cultural or ethnic or gender diversity. There are truly far fewer women in executive positions now.”

The other panelists agreed, pointing out that Trump’s cabinet has the lowest percentage of women since Ronald Reagan’s presidency.

Chambers noted that even though Ivanka Trump’s position in the White House seems unorthodox, she’s another woman in a male-dominated administration.

“She is someone who wants to talk about women’s issues, and has been a real driver behind the women’s empowerment panels and everything that they are having,” Chambers added.   

How fake is fake news?

Another topic of discussion was the accusations of “fake news” that are consistently levied against news publications.

“If you get one fact wrong in a story it becomes ‘you can’t trust the media, fake news,’” said Jiménez, who works at The Washington Post – a publication that has been continuously criticized by the president.

Aggression towards journalists has gotten so intense that Chambers said she doesn’t feel comfortable using Twitter anymore.

“I don’t like Twitter very much anymore,” said Chambers. She noted that someone always has something negative to say, and “it doesn’t matter what it is.”

Ending the discussion with an outlook to the future, Schumm spoke about her optimism for the American people and how we can avoid hatred for the press – saying simply:

“The solution is good reporting and smart consumers.”

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