Gearing up for TRIP’s Foreign Affairs Journalist and Scholars Conference

by Morgan Doll

November 4, 2019

This weekend, the Teaching, Research, and International Policy Project will host a conference at William & Mary for foreign affairs journalists and scholars to discuss foreign policy journalism in the Trump era and address the goal of bridging the gap between journalism and scholarship. The purpose of this conference is to create a dialogue between academics and journalists and brainstorm ways that scholars can increase engagement with the media. It will begin with a panel discussion open to the public, titled “Foreign Policy Journalism in the Trump Era” featuring CNN analyst Susan Hennessy, Correspondent for the New York Times David Sanger, and Reporter for the Intercept Akela Lacy. Additionally, it will include three workshops each with different themes and guiding questions for journalists and scholars to interact and discuss media-academic engagement. Here at TRIP we are incredibly excited for this weekend and have been gearing up for it for months. 

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So, what topics can we expect to hear about from the attending guests?

Impeachment

It is likely that the journalists at the panel will discuss the Trump impeachment, since at least two of the featured speakers have written about/eluded to the impeachment proceedings in recent work, and impeachment seems to be on everyone’s minds lately. Since this conference will focus a lot on journalism and scholarship in the Trump Era, it would be interesting to hear how journalists predict President Trump’s impeachment and possible removal from office would affect journalism and politics leading up to the 2020 elections.

Fake News

The newer threat of fake news affects both scholars and journalists, so I would expect to hear a discussion of how skepticism of experts and the media has altered these professions and what can be done to combat fake news? What is the role of expert knowledge? How can scholars and journalists make sure they have the public’s trust?

America’s International Image

Finally, I would expect to hear a lot about how foreign affairs have changed in the Trump Era, especially concerning the unwritten principle that politics stops at the water’s edge. According to TRIP Snap Poll XI from 2016, 93.8% of IR experts agree that the United States is less respected today by other countries. It would be interesting to hear whether/how this has affected foreign policy journalism and whether journalists see this data in action when reporting abroad.

Here are some questions I have for the panel:

For all Panelists: 

  • In 2019 we surveyed journalists covering U.S. foreign policy about their views on international relations (IR) experts and expertise. Now, we would like to put some reasoning to the survey results. Do the journalists believe that the American public cares about the communication of expert knowledge?
  • My fellow Research Assistants and I have noticed that certain journals like The Monkey Cage and Lawfare employ scholarly articles in their OpEds more than traditional news sources such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, so does the outlet that one works for affect the degree to which they use/engage with expert knowledge? Do journalists feel pressured to keep up with scholarly debates and findings in the fields that they report on, or is it simply too much to keep up with?

For Susan Hennessey:

    • How has the Russian Connection affected the way the US is seen abroad, and how has it defined the Trump presidency and American Politics today?
    • In your opinion, has the office of the presidency and presidential powers changed forever under Trump?

For David Sanger:

    • Is there a divide between policy makers and reporters in DC? Do policy makers ever listen to your opinions?
    • How important is journalism to national security? Do you ever have to balance between protecting national security interests and reporting to the public?
    • Do you think young people care about politics/national security more or less now than when you first started at the New York Times? If so, was there a specific point in time when this shift occurred?

For Akela Lacy:

    • To your knowledge, how do experts view immigration and how has that been twisted by the media and Trump Administration?
    • Is there a distinct difference in reporting about foreign affairs compared to domestic issues?

We expect to learn a lot from this conference and are excited to hear what the journalists, scholars, and the public have to say about these topics.

The panel discussion will take place this Thursday, November 7th at 5:00pm in Tucker 127A, 350 James Blair Dr.