Behind-the-scenes journalism: Marc Fisher ‘76 talks news

Madison Li, Staff Writer

Marc Fisher ‘76, a senior editor at The Washington Post, spoke two weeks ago at an event hosted by The Record, discussing his experience in journalism and the role of media in today’s world.

Fisher has worked at the Washington Post for over 30 years. In 2016, he won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting and in 2014 he won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, according to The Washington Post website. Fisher is also the author of four books, including the bestselling Trump Revealed: An American Journey of Ambition, Ego, Money and Power.

Over the summer, Managing Editor of The Record Betsey Bennett (12) and Editor-in-Chief of The Record Lynne Sipprelle (12) looked through the “Notable Alumni” section of the school’s Wikipedia page in search of a few journalists that could possibly visit the school to speak, Bennett said.

“We gave the Alumni Office a list of the people we were interested in, and they were able to get in touch with them and see if they were available,” Bennett said.

“There are so many accomplished Horace Mann alums in the media, and we’d think it be really great if people who are on The Record can see alums just like themselves that have now gone on to work in the professional journalism world,” Sipprelle said. The event was open to all Upper Division students and faculty. During the meeting, Fisher talked about a wide range of topics, including the role that media plays in politics. Fisher wants people to understand that ‘media’ is a very vague term, he said.

“The more people lump all news organizations into one basket, the more confused they may be about the proper role of the news and the way in which it gets reported,” Fisher said. It is vital for all people to understand  how they get their information, who they can trust, and how changes in technology are changing the way they learn about the world, he said.

Nelson Gaillard (11) found it interesting to learn about how the culture of media has entirely changed since President Trump was elected; there are people who work for The Washington Post whose sole job is to fact-check Trump’s tweets, he said.

One of the concerns that comes with digital media is the loss of ‘serendipity’ while reading through a newspaper or magazine, Fisher said. “When you’re paging through a newspaper and you turn the page, you don’t know what’s going to be there, and you read about something that you didn’t know you were interested in. That, to us, is the ideal, but it’s very difficult to recreate that experience online,” he said.

“The role of a journalist today is to help people figure out what to trust, what to believe and to have a foundation of information that you need in order to have an intelligent view of the world,” Fisher said. It is crucial for people to be knowledgeable about their government and about the world around them in order for them to make good decisions as voters, he said.

When he left high school, he was more interested in pursuing politics or law than journalism, Fisher said. However, during his time at Princeton University, he wrote articles for several newspapers, which made him realize journalism was the career path he was most excited about, Fisher said.

“The Horace Mann and college experiences fine-tuned a lot of my skills, made me interested in different kinds of reporting, and set me on the path to doing the internships that led to jobs and the rest of my journalism career,” he said.

Fisher’s experience so far in the journalism industry has been terrific, as he’s had a very varied and rewarding time, he said.

“I’ve done several stints as an editor, as well as working a lot as a writer, in newspapers, magazines, and books, and it’s been an extraordinary opportunity to try different forms of writing,” he said.

Because The Record is not as much in the public eye as other clubs are, holding the event was also a way of having students who are not a part of the club become more involved and learn more about it, Bennett said.

“I’ve always wondered what it takes nowadays to get so much important information out to the public in an accurate and unbiased way while also facing so much mistrust from the public,” Tiger Lily Moreno (11) said. Hearing from an editor of The Washington Post was an incredible opportunity, she said.

Bennett is hoping that this event will be the first of many journalist speakers invited to speak with the school, she said.

“We’re hoping to start a tradition where every year, we’ll have a couple of speakers that come in,” she said.

“Hopefully, for people on The Record, the event will be both a club bonding activity and an activity where they can take away lessons they can then apply to make The Record a better paper,” Sipprelle said.

Kiara Royer (11) said that her favorite part of the talk was learning about Fisher’s time on the Record in high school and how that played a part in his later life as a journalist, she said.

“While I found Fisher’s experiences of writing his book about Trump very interesting, I wish we had more time to speak and discuss his time on The Record because as a writer for The Record, I feel like that’s where I could learn from and relate to the most,” Royer said.

History Department Chair Dr. Daniel Link thought hearing about how there are so many people who read opinion articles for news coverage over traditional unbiased news sources was very interesting, he said.

“I think that there is a perception, even among many of our students, that certain news sources are biased, and what a lot of students have a hard time understanding is the difference between the news section of a newspaper and the opinions section,” he said.

The most vital work for journalists these days is to help people overwhelmed by the wildly confusing flood of information that we all deal with every day, whether it’s on social media or email, Fisher said.

“The role of a journalist has become definitely more important in a much more challenging time and environment, where news organizations are struggling to survive and people are less and less willing to pay for journalism. Figuring out the answer to that puzzle has become the central challenge of journalism today,” he said.