Christiane Amanpour, chief international anchor at CNN, sat for a livestream interview as part of the University of Rhode Island’s Taricani Lecture Series July 16. Entitled “Truthful Not Neutral in a Time of Dissent,” the lecture was moderated by Sree Sreenivasan, professor of digital innovation & audience engagement, Stony Brook University.
The series is named for Jim Taricani, the late, legendary investigative reporter at WJAR Providence, who mentored Amanpour after she graduated from URI.
Amanpour took on the issue of bogus news being shared on social media, and called it “a scandal that the social media giants don’t police themselves better. They cannot hide under just being platforms. They are publishers. If we have to abide by the laws of the press and publishing, then they should too.”
She said it’s “a complete and utter disgrace that so much rubbish and so many conspiracy theories” traffic around the social platforms.
Amanpour encouraged consumers to get their information from trusted news sources. “Please don’t just look at social media,” she said. “Please, please, please, please, please.”
Getting one’s news from social is “damaging to your health, it is damaging to our democracy, it is damaging to our lives,” said Amanpour.
Amanpour is the host of Amanpour on CNN and Amanpour & Co. on PBS.
She spoke about being a reporter throughout the pandemic. At her London home, she mentioned how part of her kitchen has become her studio. “I’m used to mostly being face-to-face with people I interview, and that hasn’t been possible,” she said.
Amanpour noted how sources appear to be more available, as they’re often stuck at home. “They have no more excuses,” she said. “We’re getting a lot of guests we may not have as easily brought onto the program.”
Amanpour was asked about the First Amendment, and said “it is the example to the world.”
She mentioned it being under attack from U.S. leadership, which she called “unacceptable.”
“It is vital, it is absolutely vital, even under the most difficult circumstances,” she said.
Amanpour described an “unconstitutional attack on our profession from the leadership of the United States,” and said she will not state the phrase “enemy of the people,” as President Trump has described the media. “I simply won’t go there,” she said.
Amanpour was asked about bias trickling into journalism. “I think we have to accept that bias exists,” she said. “It is our job to report truth and objectivity despite what biases exist.”
Speaking about Black Lives Matter, Amanpour acknowledged taking “great exception” to the way civil rights protests were often described as riots in the U.S. “We are not to be swayed by the politics and the agenda of those who would knock us off the root of truth,” she said.
President Trump, she said, has a “complicated relationship” with truth, democracy and “basic freedom.”
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