Students at the University of Mississippi, particularly in the School of Journalism and New Media, were offered a treat on Monday, Nov. 6, when the former moderator of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Chuck Todd, spoke at the Overby Center on “Trust, News and American Politics.”
Now serving as NBC’s chief political analyst, Todd sat beside the SOJNM’s Dean Andrea Hickerson as she asked him questions about trust in the media, especially in the world of politics. Hickerson was delighted to have the opportunity to converse with Todd and moderate the discussion.
“It was absolutely thrilling and a little nerve-wracking,” Hickerson. “It was, personally, really exciting to meet with Chuck. He has been in the institution on television for a really, really long time, and just to be around someone who’s smart and savvy and has had a front row to history was really a privilege.”
Hickerson kicked off the conversation with a question about how Todd got involved in the worlds of journalism and politics. In his response, he revealed that he did not always want to be in the journalism industry.
“I didn’t know I wanted to be a journalist, I’ll be honest,” Todd said. “I was always into politics. My dad was a political junkie, and that was his hobby.”
Todd went on to share that because of his hand-me-down love of politics, he grew up aspiring to become a campaign manager. He went on to work at a publication centered around American politics, and that is where his journey in the journalism field debuted.
As the conversation progressed, Todd delved into the topic of media distrust and how he thinks the United States lost trust with the average American viewer. He thinks the televised trial of OJ Simpson is where that began, as he believes it was presented as entertainment instead of presenting much real news value. Todd subscribes to the notion that some people view TV news as a joke because the trial was so entertainment-driven and milked for so long.
“When you make these core mistakes and then ask, ‘Why do people think TV (news) is nothing but a TV show?’ (It is) because we made it nothing but a TV show during OJ,” Todd said.
Toward the end of the interview, the audience asked questions. One of the listeners inquired about shielding personal opinions, particularly as a political analyst. Todd said that, in his opinion, unless a reporter’s segment is an opinion section, such as his co-worker Rachel Maddow’s series on NBC, the audience should be clueless to their stance.
“People think they know my political opinions (but) I’ve never shared them. If I shared a view … somebody would be like, ‘Wow, you believe that?’” Todd said. “I’ve had people try to convince me to go to the partisan side of things, and I don’t want to do that.”
Junior journalism major Hannah Ivey said the event was an incredible opportunity, and she was happy that she could attend.
“It was super interesting,” Ivey said. “As a journalism student, it was a really great opportunity to hear Chuck come speak.”