Don Lemon: Role of Journalists Vitally Important in Today's Divisive Political Environment

The news media is under siege but its role in society has never been more important and needed than in today’s hyper-political environment, according to CNN news anchor Don Lemon.

“Everyday it’s like drinking from a fire hose of news … it is exhausting,” said Lemon, who serve as the keynote speaker Tuesday at the 32nd annual NAMIC Conference. “Everything has changed when it comes to this new world order and beyond in the media.”

CNN anchor Don Lemon speaking at the 32nd Annual NAMIC Conference

CNN anchor Don Lemon speaking at the 32nd Annual NAMIC Conference

Lemon, who anchors CNN Tonight with Don Lemon, said he never expected to experience the current level of vitriol and attacks directed at the mainstream news media when he first began his TV journalism career.

“It was never my intent to be fighting people who write and say the most vile and racist things about me on social media and television,” he said. “It was not what I intended [to see] that my profession would constantly be under attack by the Oval office and from masses of Americans. But let me tell you, I’m here for it and I’m ready to live up to that challenge.”

Lemon, the only African-American journalist currently hosting a primetime cable news show, said that right now is the most important time in recent history to be a journalist to serve as a reliable check and balance to often misleading and unreliable information coming from all corners of the political spectrum. He added it’s also a perilous time for reporters, pointing to the recent disappearance and suspected murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“In the context of this new world order of dramatic political, social, and unparalleled technological change, the role of media has never been more important, and it's also never been more dangerous,” Lemon said. "Foreign reporters in war zones, as well as domestic reporters and journalists like me in war zones of our own here at home, are facing angry people and the threats of violence.”

Lemon also said traditional news media outlets also face threats from social media, which often posts inaccurate news and information. “It is incumbent upon the owners and managers of those sites like Facebook and Twitter to do their due diligence, and it’s incumbent upon you and the rest of America to make sure that they do it,” he said.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.