Anthony Brooks: ‘It’s not about me. It’s about the journalism.’

Monica Sager, Scarlet Staff

Anthony Brooks, a veteran reporter, spoke in front of about 100 Clark students, faculty, and guests Wednesday night as the Higgins School of Humanities’ final speaker in their How Do We Know? symposiums on evidence.

Clark English Professor Esther Jones facilitated a conversation with Brooks for the “A Free Press in Turbulent Times” event in Dana Commons.

Students were able to ask questions during the second half of the occasion.

A majority of the talk was centered around authenticity, credibility, and the idea of “fake news.”

“It’s a tough time,” Brooks said.

A million people, according to Brooks, voted for President Donald Trump. Brooks wants to know who they are and why they decided to vote in such a manner.

“It’s one of those things I’ve just loved about this work,” Brooks said of interviewing people.

And that’s how to get to the truth, Brooks spoke of how stories and people are important.

Brooks spoke of a piece he did where a daughter and father have a real-time conversation over the phone about Trump. The daughter asks how her father could vote for someone who treats women in such a manner. The daughter and father love and respect each other, Brooks said, and are just trying to understand one another. They still vote, however, on opposite sides of the aisle.

“In the early days, it was easy to go to these rallies and talk to people and see what’d make these people tick,” Brooks said.

Today, however, there’s a different challenge. Brooks spoke of how people at Trump rallies don’t want to talk since they believe the media is out to make them look like “clowns.”

“We tend to put them in a box,” Brooks said. “My job as a reporter isn’t to tell these people they’re wrong. It isn’t my role to sort of re-educate you.”

In today’s society, there’s also the change of news speed.

“If you were a reporter there were days that just felt slow,” Brooks said. “Today it’s relentless … We’re at this stage … where there’s this instant need … We’re on air 24/7. We haven’t even figured out what happened two years ago.”

Brooks mentioned how Trump was able to steer the spotlight back to himself after firing Jeff Sessions after the midterm election results.

Trump has an effect on every level of government, Brooks said.

Rally-goers have been known to call the media “terrible people” and to start jeering.

“It’s a troubling thing,” Brooks said, but added that he never felt unsafe. “It felt like theater.”

Brooks brought up Jamal Khashoggi and how journalists are quite literally risking their lives, even though the Trump administration calls the press the “enemy of the people.”

Along the lines of “fake news,” Brooks called Trump “brilliant” in how he put the word into play. Trump, according to Brooks, has a systematic approach to his rallies that you realize after attending multiple of them.

“[The chant] ‘Drain the swamp’ is brilliant,” Brooks said, adding that the top issue reported by voters recently isn’t healthcare but instead the corruption in Washington D.C.

“Trump doesn’t care about the facts,” Brooks said. “For me, if someone makes a statement, can you back it up?”

But all of this theatrical government has led to some amazing news stories. Brooks spoke about the debate of whether or not to cover Trump’s tweets, and how it all is a self-fulfilling cycle to gain money.

This is why Brooks took issue with Jim Acousta, the CNN reporter who had his White House pass revoked. He explained that you can’t showboat in journalism.

“It’s not about me. It’s about the journalism,” Brooks said. “I think a lot of the commercial market does make it about them and the journalism suffers.”

Brooks has over 30 years of experience in the public-radio-field. He has worked as a producer, editor, reporter, and host for WBUR and NPR. Brooks was the senior producer on the team that launched “The World’ for Public Radio International.

“I think what drew me into radio was that it was new,” Brooks said. “It felt different. It felt authentic.”

Brooks has won many awards for his broadcasting, including the Edward R. Murrow Regional Broadcasters Award and the AP Broadcasters Award.