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Post-truth politics and the US Presidential Election: implications for journalism and society

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  • UserSteve McGookin, John Naughton, David Runciman, Gary Gerstle
  • ClockWednesday 26 October 2016, 17:30-19:15
  • HouseLee Hall, Wolfson College.

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Professor John Naughton.

A special event organised by the Wolfson Press Fellowship Programme

What does the rise of Donald Trump (and the Brexit vote) tell us about the role of journalism in a “post-truth” society?

The 2016 US Presidential Election campaign that is now drawing to a close has been the strangest electoral contest in recent American history. Donald Trump’s victory in the Republican primaries caught US media unprepared, but the general expectation was that once the election campaign proper got under way his candidature would implode under the weight of his indiscretions and the intense journalistic scrutiny to which presidential candidates are traditionally subjected. But this didn’t happen, despite the best efforts of serious mainstream journalism.

As a result, US journalism is in a state of crisis. Despite the best efforts of the New York Times, Washington Post, The Atlantic and a host of other reputable media organisations, there is a possibility that a man who has broken all of the conventions of normal democratic discourse may be elected President. How has this come about? What role has the Internet—and in particular Trump’s dominance of Twitter—played? And if this is the new reality of democratic politics, how should professional journalism respond? What is the role for responsible reportage and comment in this new environment? Will the 2016 Election campaign be seen just as an historical outlier—a ‘black swan’—or as a signifier of a new kind of politics?

About the speakers

Steve McGookin is a former Wolfson Press Fellow and ex-Financial Times journalist who now works in the US. He has been following the Trump campaign on the ground since the early primaries. In this special event, scheduled to coincide with the closing week of the campaign but before the actual vote, he will be joined by a panel consisting of John Naughton (Observer columnist and Director of the Wolfson Press Fellowship Programme), David Runciman, (Professor of Politics and Head of POLIS ) and Gary Gerstle (Paul Mellon Professor of American History) to discuss the significance and implications of an extraordinary year in democratic politics.

About the Wolfson Press Fellowship Programme

The Fellowship is a programme that has been running since 1982 in which journalists in mid-career come to Cambridge for a term to research a project of their own choosing under light academic supervision. To date, the programme has welcomed over 330 journalists from 47 countries.


All welcome but registration essential because of space restrictions. If you intend to come, please register here

Please note change of time – now starting at 5.30pm

This talk is part of the Wolfson Press Fellowship series.

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