Huffington Post political reporter Sam Stein became the first new media journalist ever to ask President Barack Obama a question at a White House news conference in 2008.
Stein stopped by the Kelly Writers House Tuesday afternoon to talk about changes in new media and journalism, the Huffington Post’s progression in today’s technology-driven society and his participation in the recent election.
As an online-only news outlet, the Huffington Post has been recently gaining relevance in the rapidly changing world of media.
About 20 attended Stein’s talk over lunch at the Writers House — mostly members of the public, with a few students sitting in between classes.
Stephen Fried, a 1979 College graduate and a professor in the English department, introduced Stein and guided the discussion with questions.
Fried, who has taught Stein in the past at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalim, spoke highly of him, calling him “the antidote” to skepticism of online journalism.
“People have wondered over the years whether online-only reporting can be substantial — as substantial as every other kind of bricks and mortar reporting,” Fried said. “Sam has been the proof that, in fact, everything that could have gone over to the New York Times can go onto the Huffington Post.”
Stein discussed the changes occurring in media today and how the online medium is the future of reporting. The Huffington Post has successfully managed to combine breaking news with good storytelling, and people who can attract readers with their writing will always succeed, he said, no matter the medium.
“There still is a good role for incredible storytelling and people who are good at it,” He added.
Reporters must constantly be on call because of the continuous news cycle enabled by technology, according to Stein.
Stein also said that he enjoys the flexibility of online journalism. The space confines of print media do not exist, and a story can always be updated and corrected when new information surfaces, although readers may not always check the article later for accuracy.
With experience in reporting for the Huffington Post in both the 2008 and 2012 campaigns, Stein contrasted this election with the last.
“People ended up gravitating more toward their predisposed beliefs than in 2008,” Stein said. “People were not willing to believe what were clearly facts, or statistics or polls.”
College senior Jesse Dubois, who works for the Annenberg Public Policy Center, said he found these insights particularly interesting. “Our idea is that everyone listens to the fact-checkers, that what we’re doing is very important and very persuasive, and [Stein] was able to explain why that wasn’t the case.”
He explained that Republican ads continued to use Obama’s “you didn’t build that comment” even after fact-checkers deemed it misleading.
Fisher Hassenfeld House Coordinator Emily Kovach also said she enjoyed Stein’s discussion. “I got a lot of good insights about the state of modern political reporting [and] the story of one younger journalist’s rise from student to star online reporter,” she said.
The online medium is beneficial for today’s aspiring journalists, Stein said, explaining that with modern technology, young reporters can break through in ways that would have been impossible five to ten years ago. All that is needed is “talent and drive.”
“If you’re a young reporter, so long as you can report and get people on the phone or email and have a bit of competitive instinct, you have now the medium to basically make it for yourself,” Stein said.
This article has been updated to reflect that College senior Jesse Dubois was specifically referring to Republican ads’ usage of Obama’s “you didn’t build that” comment instead of all fact-checking endeavors when he was quoted as saying, “Our idea is that everyone listens to the fact-checkers, that what we’re doing is very important and very persuasive, and [Stein] was able to explain why that wasn’t the case.”
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