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Reporting From the #FakeNews Front

Reporting From the #FakeNews Front

Sulaiman Beg

Sulaiman Beg

June 19, 2018

“Never in my career have I felt the need to be so cautious and bold at the same time,” said BBC North America Editor, Jon Sopel.

Jon Sopel jokes that when he became a BBC News’ North America correspondent in 2014, he could finally take it easy. But then he and the rest of the world got President Donald Trump.

“I thought we’d have Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush in the White House,” he said during a talk at the Havas Café. “I thought I’d have a story here and there, and I could put my feet up and relax.”

But since Trump’s extraordinary election upset, news breaks seemingly every day (if not hour), and the president has gone to war with many media institutions.

Sopel joined Havas London CEO Xavier Rees for a talk about Trump, Brexit, and the media’s changing role in today’s political landscape.

“It’s the Donald Trump show, and no one else should be the center of attention,” Sopel said. He does things just on instinct. Yesterday, he went off on Angela Merkel. I will say he’s the most authentic politician I’ve ever covered in my life. You know exactly where he stands on everything.”

Sopel credited Trump for meeting with North Korea leader, Kim Jong-un, and dialing down tensions between the two countries, which seemed to be on path to nuclear war only a few months ago.

“Trump took the plunge and deserves credit,” he said.

As for Brexit, Sopel said it was hard to have an opinion on the issue because there has been no conclusion (or even close to one) since the referendum of 2016.

“I think businesses would feel reassured if they knew what the endgame looked like,” he said. “We are no further down the road.”

But has Trump’s #FakeNews war with the press changed the public’s perception of the media for good?

Sopel said the future of journalism will be direct; journalists will have to be confident in their research and make bold judgments.

“What we try to do is fact-based journalism, to make judgments on facts,” he said. “You can’t say, ‘Well, 2+2=4, but on the other hand, we have some saying 2+2=6.’ Because that’s not true and it’s our opportunity to say, ‘No, you’re wrong.’ When there is dishonesty we have to call it out.”

He added: “Never in my career have I felt the need to be so cautious and bold at the same time. Cautious to get my facts straight: bold, so when I have them straight, I say them.”

But Sopel did question how some American media outlets are treating Trump; instead of letting guests editorialize, hosts do.

“To some extent The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, and MSNBC are cashing in on the anti-Trump sentiment. And the danger is that it allows Trump to make claims of fake news.”

Jon Sopel jokes that when he became a BBC News’ North America correspondent in 2014, he could finally take it easy. But then he and the rest of the world got President Donald Trump.

“I thought we’d have Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush in the White House,” he said during a talk at the Havas Café. “I thought I’d have a story here and there, and I could put my feet up and relax.”

But since Trump’s extraordinary election upset, news breaks seemingly every day (if not hour), and the president has gone to war with many media institutions.

Sopel joined Havas London CEO Xavier Rees for a talk about Trump, Brexit, and the media’s changing role in today’s political landscape.

“It’s the Donald Trump show, and no one else should be the center of attention,” Sopel said. He does things just on instinct. Yesterday, he went off on Angela Merkel. I will say he’s the most authentic politician I’ve ever covered in my life. You know exactly where he stands on everything.”

Sopel credited Trump for meeting with North Korea leader, Kim Jong-un, and dialing down tensions between the two countries, which seemed to be on path to nuclear war only a few months ago.

“Trump took the plunge and deserves credit,” he said.

As for Brexit, Sopel said it was hard to have an opinion on the issue because there has been no conclusion (or even close to one) since the referendum of 2016.

“I think businesses would feel reassured if they knew what the endgame looked like,” he said. “We are no further down the road.”

But has Trump’s #FakeNews war with the press changed the public’s perception of the media for good?

Sopel said the future of journalism will be direct; journalists will have to be confident in their research and make bold judgments.

“What we try to do is fact-based journalism, to make judgments on facts,” he said. “You can’t say, ‘Well, 2+2=4, but on the other hand, we have some saying 2+2=6.’ Because that’s not true and it’s our opportunity to say, ‘No, you’re wrong.’ When there is dishonesty we have to call it out.”

He added: “Never in my career have I felt the need to be so cautious and bold at the same time. Cautious to get my facts straight: bold, so when I have them straight, I say them.”

But Sopel did question how some American media outlets are treating Trump; instead of letting guests editorialize, hosts do.

“To some extent The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, and MSNBC are cashing in on the anti-Trump sentiment. And the danger is that it allows Trump to make claims of fake news.”

Sulaiman Beg is Havas' Director of Global Internal Communications. He has never eaten canned tuna fish.

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