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Journalists navigate a "post-truth" world


By Charles J. Mays, Graduate Fellow for the University of Delaware's Center for Political Communication

Watch the video. Read the transcriptListen to and download the podcast.

NOVEMBER14―The final installment of the National Agenda speaker series featured award-winning Washington Post journalists Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan. Their talk focused on the idea that "Facts Matter" as people navigate what some have deemed a "post-truth" world. 

Mary Jordan writes about national politics, political issues for the Washington Post.  She spent 14 years abroad as a foreign correspondent and Washington Post co-bureau chief in Tokyo, Mexico City, and London with her husband and colleague Kevin Sullivan. She's written for more than 40 countries.  She and Sullivan won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for the investigation of the Mexican justice system. Sullivan is a senior correspondent and associate editor for the Washington Post, covering national and international affairs. He was a foreign correspondent for 14 years then served as chief foreign correspondent and a Sunday features editor for the Post. He's reported from more than 75 countries on six continents.

Washington Post journalists Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan at University of Delaware's Mitchell Hall Auditorium on November 14, 2018.

​The University of Delaware’s National Agenda speaker series continued on November 14 with a conversation about why "Facts Matter" with  Mary Jordan (left), Kevin Sullivan (center), both Washington Post journalists, with National Agenda Director Lindsay Hoffman (right).

When asked about the recent phenomenon of "fake news" and how the phrase has been pejoratively thrown about by opposing political sides, Jordan said that these times have really energized the field of journalism. Now more than ever, it is important for journalists to engage in comprehensive, factual journalism.

President Trump's decision to label the media as the "enemy of the people" is quite dangerous as it makes the press a punching bag and allows him to minimize any sort of criticism. "The media is the fourth pillar of democracy and it's a check on power," said Jordan. Sullivan agreed, noting that the slogan "enemy of the people" serves almost as a rallying cry that he cautions could lead to someone getting killed.

Jordan and Sullivan both agreed the current political era has been a very different time in their journalistic careers. "In a 10-minute speech the President will say 15 things that are not true and so it became really hard to write," said Jordan. "We didn't want to use the word lie because lie means intent."

Washington Post journalists Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan

​Washington Post journalists Mary Jordan (left) and Kevin Sullivan (right) won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for the investigation of the Mexican justice system. 

In response to critics who claim that the media is "picking on" the President, Sullivan said that journalists are supposed to seek out truth. "It is our job when the President of the United States says something that is incorrect especially when it's clearly a lie, when there clearly is intent―and there have been cases when that's pretty obvious―it's our job to point that out and it's not picking on the President."

In discussing how to parse out the barrage of information flying at news consumers, Jordan and Sullivan implored everyone to step outside their bubbles. It is critical for news consumers to wade through a diverse field of opinions and sources by listening to people and sources who are outside their political spectrum and by listening to local sources. "I have listened to more people that love Donald Trump and they're nice people and they are really smart. They have good points, and everybody's just got to start listening to each other," said Jordan.

Washinton Post Journalists Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan discuss why Fact Matter with National Agenda Director Lindsay Hoffman on November 14, 2018, at UD's Mitchell Hall Auditorium.

​Washinton Post Journalists Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan discuss why Fact Matter with National Agenda Director Lindsay Hoffman on November 14, 2018, at UD's Mitchell Hall Auditorium.

Sullivan also pushed for young people to get involved and "fix the mess" that society has created. "This generation rising is the best educated generation we've ever had.  And I think they can really change―you guys can really change things and I think you should, don't let the world happen to you. Get out there and happen to the world."

The eighth annual National Agenda speaker series, hosted by the University of Delaware's Center for Political Communication, brings nationally known speakers to campus. This year's theme, "Midterm Matters," explores how issues affect midterm elections and why voter and civic engagement is important. National Agenda is free and open to the public and made possible with support from the University of Delaware Office of the Provost. For more information, please visit cpc.udel.edu/nationalagenda.

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In the final event of the National Agenda 2018 speaker series, Washington Post journalists Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan explained why "Facts Matter" in a "post-truth" world.

​In the final event of the National Agenda 2018 speaker series, Washington Post journalists Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan explained why "Facts Matter" in a "post-truth" world. 

11/26/2018
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