MFF: Telling truth from lies
By GWEN OREL
“I don’t understand why there isn’t a niche for smart people,” Joe Klein said sadly on Sunday at Montclair Kimberley Academy, during the panel discussion “True or False? Reporting in the Age of ‘Fake News.’”
Many people, who seemed to be smart, challenged the panel with tough questions during a Q-and-A session.
MFF Executive Director Tom Hall introduced the member of the panel, which was co-presented with Retro Report.
Retro Report had also shown a block of films in the festival, titled “True or False? The Lure of the Fake Narrative,” short films that, Hall said, “re-contextualize old stories with modern understanding of the facts.”
Klein, the author of “Primary Colors,” and a long-time journalist with Time magazine, shared the bill with Montclair’s Jonathan Alter of MSNBC/The Daily Beast, Sarah Blustain of The Investigative Fund, and Jim Axelrod of CBS News.
Clyde Haberman, of Retro Report, formerly of the New York Times, moderated, noting that Montclair was considered one of the “pales of settlement” where New York Times staffers could live, along with Pelham and the Upper West Side.
The panel talked about the public distrust of the media, and what happened during the election cycle.
Klein said the current golden age of marketing, with news for every niche, was a fundamentally un-American principle. He also said that over his career, the default position of the press has changed from skepticism to cynicism.
Axelrod pointed out that the press in the 19th century were part of the “party press,” with direct political agendas. Calling himself “Little Mary Sunshine,” Axelrod said that had Hillary Clinton won the election, “we’re not up here. We’re now engaged in a very deep dive about what matters.”
Countering Axelrod’s suggestion that people don’t trust the media because so many of the press corps supported Clinton, Haberman asked, “Is it our fault or their fault they don’t respect our ability? I would argue a lot of people go into our line of work because there is a missionary aspect to it.”
With regard to the election, Haberman said that one of the “bricks hurled at our collective head was that we completely missed what was going on out there. I don’t think we did.”
Alter received a round of applause when he said, “We gave Donald Trump way too much coverage.”
When an audience member asked why the panel had allowed themselves to be manipulated by Donald Trump, Alter replied that nobody on the stage had been manipulated for a second.
“Whether the people who run cable news for profit were is another question,” he said.