Audrey Cooper Speaks; SMC Listens

 

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Audrey Cooper, center-left, in the newsroom. Photo courtesy of Russell Yip.

By Kimi Schiefer

Audrey Cooper, the current Editor-In-Chief of the San Francisco Chronicle, spoke to the Saint Mary’s College audience on February 26th about the current state of the news industry, focusing largely on the downfalls and failures of news while expanding on her own complex, inclusive philosophy of giving voice to conflicting opinions.

“The news is coming at us all of the time, there’s no way to stop it, there’s very few ways to tell if it’s any good or not, and it’s just like a fire hose is pointing at all of us all the time,” said Cooper.

Much of Cooper’s lecture was structured around two central concerns. The first was the emergence of a vehement Anti-Trump school of thought that encourages people to feel that they’re contributing to the resistance if they monetarily support news organizations, and Cooper related alarming emails that she has received about even using President Trump’s full title.

Her other concern was the “increasingly frantic calls… to have the press adopt the president’s tactics and become a mantle of activism.” Throughout her speaking engagement, Cooper emphasized the importance of allowing differing opinions to be heard, remembering her desperate search for a replacement conservative columnist and Cooper’s own view that “if anything, it’s my job to make you upset and make you uncomfortable.”

Cooper’s most powerful moment was perhaps when she clearly laid out the one thing she wanted her audience to remember. “You do not have the right to an uninformed opinion.”

Cooper closed her lecture with a description of the tall building housing the Chronicle, citing founder William Randolph Hearst’s ideal that “people should look up to their journalists.” She transitioned into a lengthy question and answer session, fielding questions about her status as the first female editor-in-chief of the Chronicle and the danger of echo chambers in news. In this time, she also expanded on the current trajectory of the news, expressing her desire to expose more people to the ways news is actually made in order to earn their trust.

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