Local journalist focuses on media, election

Rain drops raced down the freshly washed windows as the chatter filled room hushed to an expectant silence.

Brad Byrd, lead news anchor for Eyewitness News, cleared his throat and thanked the room of 20 people for taking the time to hear him speak.

Byrd began by explaining that even though social media has the power to do great things in the world, it has a dark side.

“I do not know everything when it comes to journalism and the media,” Byrd said. “Especially after this election, I have been forced to reevaluate my knowledge and my understanding of our political system.”

The point of Byrd’s speech was to debrief the recent election and how the media’s projections were so off.

“How many of you have heard about the 1948 Chicago newspaper headline?” Byrd asked. “The headline came after the presidential race between Dewy and Truman. Truman won the election, yet the Chicago newspaper released a story with the headline: Dewy defeats Truman.”

Byrd explained what we are going through right now after this recent election is similar in some ways.

“We were not even close when it came to projecting who would win this election,” Byrd said. “Where did we go wrong?”

Kelly McBride, an administrative assistant in the college of Liberal Arts said she was interested in attending the event because of her close work with social media.

“Listening to an insider view of journalism is fascinating,” McBride said. “I think my biggest take-away from today is that social media is constantly evolving. It is it’s own beast. I don’t think social media is inherently good or bad; it is capable of whatever we use it for.”

Byrd spent some time discussing the way social media played into the false projections of the winner of the election.

“Twitter was huge for this election,” Byrd said. “Not to sound like Trump, but it was huge. Especially because of the  way journalists used Twitter. It has become all about getting the information out there the quickest. So much error occurs when journalists don’t slow down and evaluate what they are posting.”

Byrd said the biggest errors come from multi-tasking.

“For student journalists, I have a few pieces of advice,” Byrd said. “Take a deep breath and focus on one thing at a time. Be careful what you post on social media. Fact check.”

English instructor Jim Hunter said he came to the event because of his personal relationship with Byrd.

“I was a little surprised how media centric this talk was,” Hunter said. “Well, maybe I wouldn’t say surprised. I think I was more appalled.”

Hunter revealed he is not on any social media platform.

“I get my news the old-fashioned way,” Hunter said. “If that means I get my news a little slower than I would if I were on Twitter or Facebook then that’s fine with me.”

Byrd left the audience with the challenge not to take information on social media for face value.

“If you are getting the bulk of your information off social media,” Byrd said, “you need to fact check.”