Cokie and Steve Roberts wrote a column late last month imploring the "rational wing" of the Republican Party to prevent Donald Trump from being its presidential nominee. NPR later issued a release to clarify Cokie Roberts' role on the network, saying she serves as a commentator rather than a journalist for NPR.
But the episode raises the question of whether there are times when journalists should play an advocacy role. Shop Talk panelist Rich Egger pointed out Edward R. Murrow used his platform as a reporter to stand up to U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy’s (R-WI) communist witch hunt in the 1950s.
Panelist Emily Boyer said reporters should play a role in vetting candidates. She said Trump’s rise can be partially attributed to reporters focusing on his outlandish statements rather than his policy positions.
Panelist Jasmine Crighton agreed that many reporters focused on the three-ring circus of the Trump campaign instead of substantive issues. She’s hesitant to endorse advocacy journalism, pointing out Trump and others have used that to portray the media as the enemy.
Boyer said Trump’s threats and insults could create a dangerous situation for reporters covering his rallies. She said journalists shouldn’t have to fear for their safety while reporting on a political campaign.
Egger feels people in power have long put down journalists because reporters speak truth to power. He’s disappointed more people don’t recognize that journalists are trying to ensure the public is informed.