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Journalist Criticizes Media’s Role in Trump-Era Politics

Vann R. Newkirk II: Race, Identity and Media
Vann R. Newkirk II, a writer for The Atlantic, discusses the interplay between media, race, politics, and healthcare in a visit to the Harvard Kennedy School on Tuesday.

Vann R. Newkirk II, a staff writer for The Atlantic, criticized the American media's coverage of race in the United States at a Kennedy School event Tuesday afternoon.

At the hour-long event moderated by Director of the Shorenstein Center Nicco Mele, Newkirk discussed how the media did not properly cover a violent rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville earlier this summer.

"We like to say things that make us feel good about calling out the affect of racism without doing anything about the actual muscle of racism," he said.

Newkirk was also critical of the media’s role in the election of Trump, an argument previously made by other speakers at the JFK Forum. He said that journalists should have more closely covered demographics beyond the white working class.

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“I didn’t see stories about the towns that got destroyed by floods and had to go out and vote in two weeks," he said. "So, for me it’s the media’s job to win back trust.”

Newkirk graded the media’s coverage of racial issues “a big fat F.”

Other topics Newkirk discussed included the difficulties black journalists face to address systemic racism and how young journalists provide cautious optimism for the future of the media.

Khalil G. Muhammad, a professor of history, race, and public policy at the Kennedy School who attended the talk, was pleased with Newkirk’s visit.

“I think having a journalist who is challenging the industry to recognize its poor performance in addressing both the history and contemporary realities of racism in America is essential to [Harvard] being part of the solution,” he said.

Another audience member, Lily de la Fuente, also gave the presentation positive reviews.

“I think it was a great forum to discuss race and how it’s portrayed in the media, and to hear the different viewpoints of people working around campus,” she said.

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