PBS at UCSB: Gwen Ifill Talks Politics at Campbell Hall

Gwen Ifill

Beatriz González
Staff Writer

Photo by Mark Brocher

The reality of politics from the perspective of seasoned journalist and current managing editor of PBS’s “Washington Week” Gwen Ifill was the headlining topic on March 2, when she lectured at the University of California, Santa Barbara through UCSB’s Arts & Lecture. In addition to her position at “Washington Week,” Ifill is also the senior correspondent for the PBS NewsHour. Nowadays, Ifill said during her talk, it seems that political news channels discourage people from paying attention because of the rough discussion between political parties.

“Before it was about the fiscal cliff, now it’s time for sequestration… Any party wants to own this last decision, although both have come to an agreement in order to move ahead it,” said Ifill. She noted that the magnitude of these political problems is enlarged by the media with artificial deadlines, fake fights, and the “blame game” between parties.

“Media like bad news, it gives money to corporations,” Ifill stated.

According to Glen Ifill, sequestration means that thousands of employees are going to be laid off and the country is going to become less secure. As a result, Ifill questioned the audience, “Why do journalism and politics still matter?” She answered herself, saying that both are still important because journalists are needed to ask the right questions, to push pressure and to demand the answers for the collective people.

“The average American has access to more information than ever before, but we have to be critical listeners; we have to look for the answers,” she said. In the era of the digital technologies, information is more reachable and a wider variety of media are available. This facilitates the idea that people only read the news stories that they want to hear. “I am worry about the fact that people are going stop engaging [in news]; they are only going to see as far as the ends of their noses,” she said.

As far as journalism is considered, according to Ifill, we are living a new age in journalism. The main characteristics of this period are a broader access to information and also an explosion of sources, which is why journalists have to pay special attention to the information that they present as true facts. However, she emphasized the near impossibility of being completely unbiased.

“The key is not to be objective, it’s to be fair. There is no reason to try to separate from the way you see the world. It is not possible to be objective,” she said.

Despite the dark predictions about the future of journalism, Ifill said that “it is going to be alive for many years,” and believes that its lasting existence will continue to facilitate change in a positive direction.

“I think it is possible to do it, if we are well informed and we are engaged,” she said. “One of the things that I have learned from journalism is the fact that you don’t learn more from the important people. We have to listen more to the average people instead.”