Intellectuals v. Media ‘n Coffee
Controversy n’ Coffee’s upcoming speaker may have spent his entire career in a newsroom, but after just three episodes of Aaron Sorkin’s fledgling HBO drama, he just couldn’t watch it any more.
Matt Bai, chief political correspondent for the New York Times Magazine, will host a lecture and Q&A session in May Auditorium on Thursday to confront “The Newsroom”’s prevailing notion that the media is increasingly irrelevant and dishonest.
“I think if you watch a couple episodes of ‘The Newsroom,’ you can really take in the contempt that intellectual America has for its news media,” Bai said. “It’s emblematic of a real disdain and concern that people have.”
A graduate of Tufts University and the Columbia School of Journalism and later a fellow at Harvard’s Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School of Government, Bai said he is one of just a handful of political feature writers nationwide.
While he has little time to field criticism given the density of his schedule, he acknowledged that simply writing off the criticism is not successfully going to solve the rising tension between intellectuals and traditional media.
“It’s quite fashionable to criticize the media and quite often accurate. But I think this is a conversation we need to have,” Bai said. “The less we trust the most traditional media we have, the less informed I think the public actually is… and I don’t think that’s helpful.”
Junior Ola Abiose, president of Controversy n’ Coffee, said she first came across Bai this summer while reading an editorial on Huffington Post criticizing the media for focusing on how a poor job report would affect the November election and not real people.
Bai called the media’s tendency to use factors such as job reports to predict political outcomes “ESPN-ing,” or trying to use data to reduce a race to numbers.
By coming to Washington University, he hopes to discuss the problem with people from the type of place where he says much of the concern is coming from.
“It’s the first opportunity I’ve had to go to an elite school and talk, not so much about politics, but about political journalism and some of the reservations that people have that I think need to be addressed,” Bai said. “[It’s] an opportunity to really talk about it to an audience that I think cares.”