Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold delivers Toner Lecture

by Saniya More

September 22, 2017

Pulitzer Prize winner talks Trump, politics and fake news

Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold at the Newhouse School Sept. 19 Saniya More

Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post, recipient of the Newhouse School’s 2017 Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting, visited campus Sept. 19 to deliver the annual Toner Lecture.

Fahrenthold earned acclaim for his coverage of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, particularly for his pieces that looked at the candidate’s charitable giving. His reporting also revealed the existence of a recording of Trump making lewd remarks about women.

Over 100 students packed the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium in Newhouse 3 for a discussion and Q&A session with Fahrenthold, moderated by Professor Joel Kaplan.

Fahrenthold spoke about the 2016 presidential election, saying, “the outcome was so surprising and it felt like history was changing.” He said he never felt his stories on Trump changed the outcome of the election, though they may have influenced some people.

“In a political campaign, you give people information. If I felt like I had not succeeded in uncovering who Donald Trump was… including what his character was like, then I would have felt bad,” he said. “But I feel like I did it, and people can do with that what they want.”

Fahrenthold said that all journalists can do is inform people. He said that despite appearances, Trump cares about the media and their opinion. And he said the media helped Trump during the election, but he wasn’t convinced that the press was entirely responsible for the Trump presidency.

Students asked Fahrenthold about the rise of fake news and how it has changed the way journalists report on stories.

“I’ve tried to give people more of a view into how I do my job, so that when I put up a final product, you will have more trust in me,” Fahrenthold said. He said people like seeing how journalists work because it gives them more confidence in the press.

Fahrenthold also spoke about his use of social media, saying he doesn’t share unconfirmed news. If there is a report on Trump, he said, his policy is to not retweet or publicize the story until the information has been vetted.

After the lecture, Fahrenthold spoke with students from Kaplan’s class, providing more detail about his stories and giving them tips on how to advance their careers.

His advice for current college students?

“Try new things.”

Saniya More is a junior broadcast and digital journalism major at the Newhouse School.

Wendy Loughlin contributed to this article. 

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