By Trent Tetzlaff
Although Terence Samuel, the Washington politics editor at the Washington Post never had the opportunity to work with Ann Devroy, he said during his time with the Post he has learned more than enough about what kind of journalist she was.
A new generation of Washington Post editors and journalists may not have worked with University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire alum Ann Devroy, but they certainly feel her influence, the 2016 Devroy Forum speaker said.
“All these years later, to this day almost two decades after she’s left us she remains the standard that we try to live up too,” Washington Post Politics Editor Terence Samuel said. “She is the example of how we are to conduct ourselves and how we honor the public trust that is serious journalism.”
Samuel spoke to a crowd full of community members, journalists, political scientists and students alike during the 19th annual Ann Devroy Memorial Forum in Schofield Auditorium Thursday night.
Samuel’s speech, titled “Responsible Reporting in a Social Media Age” covered everything from stories about Ann Devroy’s journalistic skills, to Twitter’s ties with political reporting and the importance of truth telling in journalism today.
One of the biggest changes in the world since Devroy’s time, Samuel said, is the internet. The internet, he said has completely revamped journalists lives and work. The Post staff no longer calls The Washington Post a newspaper, but a publication or media outlet, he said.
“I believe the internet is the future of journalism, and that future is now,” he said.
Samuel recalled being in the D.C. newsroom earlier this week celebrating a Pulitzer Prize in national reporting. That project consisted of a reported database containing information about every person killed in the US in 2015 by a law enforcement office.
Most of the leads for the cases came off of social media like Twitter, he said, and the reporting then followed.
“Social sharing was key to getting a lot of that reporting done,” he said. “Serious and social can exist, must exist and they do coexist.”
As the speech went on, Samuel began to explain how Devroy stressed the truth, or what he calls the core “journalistic mission.”
Whether the truth is delivered through traditional means, or through social media, Samuel said, it stands above all else.
Samuel said Devroy pushed as hard as she could to get to the truth and would accept nothing less. He said one of her former colleagues at the Post said she would push so hard for the truth while covering the White House because she knew she was only getting about 10 percent of what was actually going on within the confines.
“Of course if Ann was getting 10 percent, everyone else was getting closer to five because she was getting more than everybody else,” he said. “I also suspect that if she thought she was getting 10 it was probably closer to 15 or 20.”
Although Samuel’s speech and question and answer session took up a majority of the forum, sophomore journalism and geography major, Andee Erickson, also received recognition as she was announced as the 2016 Ann Devroy Fellow.
Erickson, who will complete an internship at the Post next winter break, said the experience with Samuel was one-of-a-kind and inspired her even more to keep working hard to improve her skills.
“It’s very motivating being in Ann Devroy’s shoes and other alumni shoes such as Courtney Kueppers,” she said. “I know I have things to work on such as information gathering which Ann Devroy was really good at, and it will be special to get to continue to work on that at the Post.”
Professor of Communication and Journalism Jan Larson said Erickson was someone that really stood out to the selection committee and has the skills to continue to get better as a journalist.
“Andee stood out as a Devroy applicant for her enthusiasm and committment to upholding the journalism standards Ann Devroy exemplified,” she said. “We look forward to seeing her grow as a journalist and to the contributions she’ll make with her involvement in student and local media.”
Larson said Erickson combining her knowledge of journalism and geography was something that the selection committee liked, especially if she is able to continue to tie the two together.
Have any questions or comments on this year’s forum? Feel free to leave a comment below.