Program Report: David Graham – The Atlantic Online

David Graham looked more the part of guest student until he took the podium as our featured speaker Monday representing one of the nation’s most venerable and respected magazine titles, The Atlantic.

Graham, it turned out, is a seasoned staff writer and journalist who covers national politics at The Atlantic. He told a full house that much of his work is producing journalism to compete for reader attention in the digital information battlefield where fine traditional reportage goes up against cheap clickbait, fake news, lazy rewrites, Tweets, blogs of all quality, some of it “total junk.”

Given this reality, serious readers, in Graham’s view, could do themselves and society muchgood by training themselves to separate the wheat and the chaff.

“In general, society benefitted from more media literacy,” Graham said. “It’s important to read articles closely.”

Among reminders he suggested in a broad, quick look at the state of today’s journalism are to keep any eye on the reporters and writers, their track records on the subject matter at hand, and the number of sources driving a given story, plus how the sources are identified. Keep an eye on the reporter’s attitude about the subject matter at hand – is the writer generally hostile or friendly?

Graham is a 2009 Duke graduate who has served with other national quality publications such as the Wall Street Journal. Through the modern miracle of remote technology, some good bosses in Washington and the fact that his wife landed a nice job in Chapel Hill, he is living back inDurham and still writing for The Atlantic. (Suggested piece: Bull City charms.)

Though young, he reminded club members of some age-old facts of journalistic life, for example:

“Reporters are sharks. We want stories. We want juicy stories. If we see blood in the water, we go after it.”

And: “Even the best outlets screw up. The difference is we are apologizing and correcting.”

Last: “The press should be adversarial, not the adversary.”

These maxims are both true and a fine standard of conduct and values that should be a refresher course for many participants in a once-proud profession trying to regain its footing. Our thanks to David Graham for his entertaining presentation.

Graham was introduced by Judge Nancy Gordon.

Submitted by Mark Lazenby

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