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NBC Editor Talks Trump Tweets, Political Journalism

By Tanya F. Devani, Crimson Staff Writer

Dafna Linzer, a political news editor for NBC News and MSNBC, reflected on challenges of political reporting during Donald Trump’s presidential administration at the Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Tuesday.

In a discussion with Nicco Mele, director of the Shorenstein Center, Linzer offered thoughts on journalistic ethics with regard to anonymous sources, Trump’s Twitter posts, and the President’s recent characterization of news media as “the opposition party.”

Beginning the discussion, Linzer spoke to the importance of reporting on Trump’s tweets, which throughout his month-long presidency have been frequent and impassioned.

“I hear people say that we shouldn’t report on his tweets. I strongly disagree with that,” she said. “I believe that what the President tweets is U.S. policy and [thus] is extremely important to be covered.”

Linzer said that while Trump’s tweets offer the American public an opportunity to get “a very unfiltered look at the President and [hear] from him directly,” keeping up with Trump’s “ability to Tweet facts that aren’t facts, wrong facts, falsehoods” has posed a challenge for reporters.

Linzer also offered advice on how journalists should respond to Trump’s accusations that media perpetuate “fake news” and are an “enemy of the American people.”

“We’re not at war with the White House,” Linzer said. “I don’t like to hear there’s a war between the Trump administration and journalists or journalism.”

Spencer E. Shapiro ’18, who attended the event, said he agreed with Linzer’s thoughts.

“When you read a lot of the media, or you listen to the news, it can be difficult to put it in perspective that the media really does just want to cover the facts, and they’re not trying to have a certain viewpoint or anything,” he said.

Linzer also said it is critical for journalists to continue reporting on issues that are of interest to the American people, even if those stories are based on anonymous sources. Recently, Trump has decried leaks from his administration and reporting with anonymous sourcing in White House reporting.

“Anonymous sources are never the ideal. Of course you want everything on the record, who doesn’t?” Linzer said. “But when you’re talking about policy issues, things that should be subject to public debate and public scrutiny, and there’s no other way to know about them except through anonymous sources, then I think that’s important.”

Asked by Mele whether she worries about “fatigue” among both reporters and viewers as a result of the nearly constant news coverage of the White House, Linzer said she is concerned about “voter fatigue.”

“Americans were very engaged in this election, despite what happened on election day with voter turnout,” Linzer said. “They were very engaged with the issues and I really truly hope they stay engaged in the issues.”

—Staff writer Tanya F. Devani can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @TanyaDevani.

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PoliticsHarvard Kennedy SchoolGovernmentMediaTrump