MSNBC’s Chris Matthews Headlines 2017 Insight Forum

Photo by Kaitlyn Koegler

Chris Matthews, former presidential speechwriter, congressional chief of staff, and longtime host of MSNBC’s Hardball, delivered the keynote address at the 2017 Insight Forum on Tuesday, October 24th in The Hub Ballroom. Matthews spoke about the need for an educated public that can tell the difference between “fake news” and serious journalism, offering advice and insights from his own career to the student audience.

Sponsored by the Department of Communication Insight Committee, the annual forum’s focus this year was “#RealNews2017: gathering, dispensing, and presenting news in today’s social-mediated world.”

After a brief welcome and introduction from Provost David Wu and Interim Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS), Robert Matz, Matthews kicked off the event with a quote from Thomas Jefferson:

“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them (1787).”

The important part, he stressed, is the second idea — that citizens must be “capable” of understanding the news in order to maintain a thriving democracy. Jefferson indicates that the role of a free press (and the people’s access to it) is potentially more important than government itself, but unless the public is able to tell fact from fiction it is meaningless.

So what to do in the age of “fake news”? Stay informed. Read newspapers. Do your own research utilizing reputable sources. Be skeptical, but know that facts are not open to dispute. Learn the difference between propaganda (that is designed to deceive) and news (that is designed to inform). Take in diverse points of view from serious journalists with a reputation for accuracy. Challenge yourself to seek out objective information outside the partisan echo chambers of social media — even if you disagree with it.

But most importantly, don’t become complacent. For you, as a news consumer and American citizen, have the right to demand excellence from the fourth estate and should settle for nothing less than the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.