New Republic Editor Talks Trump, Upcoming Lecture

By Will DiGravio, News Editor

Eric Bates, editor-in-chief of the New Republic magazine, will speak as part of the College’s “Meet the Press” lecture series on Tuesday, March 7. His lecture, titled “Journalism vs. Trump: The Media as Opposition Party,” will take place in McCardell BiCentennial Hall 220 from 7:30 – 9 p.m.

Bates became the editor-in-chief of the magazine in April of last year. Prior to joining the New Republic, he worked as executive editor at Rolling Stone, as an investigative editor at Mother Jones and as the editor-in-chief of Southern Exposure. More recently, he worked at First Look Media where he helped start The Intercept.

Organized by Scholar-in-Residence Sue Halpern, the “Meet the Press” lecture series has brought dozens of journalists and editors to the College since its creation in 2003. Tuesday’s lecture marks the third time that Bates has spoken as part of the series. He spoke about the presidential elections in 2004 and 2008.

“He is one of the most politically astute writers/editors working today, so I always try to get him to come to campus to help us get behind the news,” Halpern said. “With Trump’s self-described war on the media, journalism itself is the story, and as the editor of a political magazine, Eric is in the crosshairs. I think it will be enlightening to have him tell us what that is like, and how the press will be negotiating the current political environment.”

The Campus communicated with Bates via email to discuss his upcoming lecture, President Donald Trump’s relationship with the press, and the advice that he would give to young journalists.

Will DiGravio (WD): The title of your lecture is “Journalism vs. Trump: The Media as Opposition Party.” Much has been written and said about the Trump Administration’s relationship with the press, how have you and those who work in your news room responded to being labeled the “opposition party?”

Eric Bates (EB): That’s what the press should be—a sharp and thoughtful critic of whoever’s in charge. So we take it as a badge of honor, and a welcome reminder of our role in a democracy.

WD: How do you balance coverage of larger stories and controversies surrounding the Trump administration with smaller stories and controversies that happen more frequently?

EB: We’re fortunate to have a website, which we can deploy as a rapid-response vehicle, and a monthly magazine, which encourages deeper reporting and sober reflection. But our core mission is to stay focused on issues that are larger than Trump: to understand the broader forces at work today, and to help the left chart a new and more effective course.

WD: What are the challenges of reporting on an administration that does not always deal in fact? And as a liberal magazine, how do you deal with backlash from those who may say that you are biased when you expose falsehoods?

EB: The goal is not to be unbiased. The goal is to be accurate, and fair. If our journalism does not lead us to facts that the administration and its supporters dislike, then we’re probably not doing our job.

WD: What advice would you give to young journalists who are looking to cover politics in the age of Trump?

EB: Don’t assume that Trump is the alpha and omega of everything, as he wishes to us to see him. The forces he represents were here long before he arrived on the scene, and will be with us long after he’s gone. Make yourself an expert in something and go after him in that area. But go after his opponents just as hard. He’s where he is, in large part, because liberals have failed to understand the experience of millions of Americans and address their needs.

WD: What can the average person do to support the work of journalists and news organizations?

EB: Subscribe to the ones you like. Share their stories widely, and encourage those you know to do the same. Donate to the ones that aren’t supported by big corporations. Push them to favor substance over sensation, and to ask the right questions. And maybe, once in awhile, let them know how much their work means to you.