I always look forward to an annual trip to Birmingham, Alabama to visit with my late husband Tim Robinson’s family and attend the Robinson Forum at Samford University. The annual lecture honors the career of my late husband, a pioneering legal journalist and internet entrepreneur. The Robinson family has endowed an annual journalism scholarship, which includes a partnership with the Washington Post that provides an internship each year for a lucky Journalism student. Sadly, this was the second year that I was unable to attend the Forum in person, but instead watched on an electronic hook up.
The 2018 speaker was Professor Jennifer Greer, associate provost for administration at the University of Alabama and previously chair of the Dept. of Journalism. Greer stated that journalism was in her heart and soul – she started her career as a newspaper journalist and also started Horseman Magazine with her sisters when she was young. She still does a talk show for Alabama public radio.
Professor Greer focused her presentation on the subject of fake news –which she noted goes back to the 1800s. She gave two definitions of fake news:
- False or exaggerated to sway actions or change opinions – purposely false
- Weapon to discredit media organizations or journalist
Professor Greer noted that two early publications that featured “fake news”, the New York Sun and Penny Press in 1835, were all about money – selling advertising to a large audience and using an illustration of the moon on the cover, much like the National Enquirer today.
During her speech, she pointed out that President Trump is good at creating a consistent narrative – and his chief one is that mainstream news Is “fake news” – using quotes when talking about the media. Greer also observed that NBC News journalist Kristen Welker told her that she needs a bodyguard because of all the threats against the media.
The full speech is on the facebook page of the Samford Journalism Mass Communication Dept. at https://www.facebook.com/SamfordJMC/ – You can find it under videos (click on “see all”).
By the way, Professor Greer was the first female journalist to headline the Samford Forum and I think Tim would have approved!