- Naeema Mohammed Sageer
Katch University was joined by Alex Marquardt, a Senior National Security Correspondent for CNN, based in D.C. He began his journalism career as an NBC page, going on to become a foreign correspondent, based in the MENA region and London, for ABC News. More recently, he has been at the heart of D.C.'s Black Lives Matter movement, covering the protests that erupted in May following the killing of George Floyd. He described the experience as "incredibly surreal," comparing it to protests he has witnessed in Egypt and Turkey.
When asked about CNN's political leaning, Marquardt stated that the network is composed of "objective journalists who do a pretty good job of staying in the middle." Such a principle sometimes necessitates that they be critical of those who attempt to censor free speech. Nonetheless, he acknowledged that the media sometimes portrays politics as a "horserace," so some criticism in their direction is also warranted. He further pointed out that some skepticism is healthy when it comes to the news because, in this age of increased access, factuality may be hard to come by, especially on the internet.
Discussing the subjects news organizations choose to cover, Marquardt expressed the struggle between giving audiences what they want and what they need. Some stories, like the Beirut Blast, are under-covered by American media. Others, particularly those of a political nature, are given a lot of coverage owing to audience demand. Commenting on the Beirut incident, Marquardt described the effects of the blast as "heartbreaking yet infuriating," further saying that the incident occurred amid "an extraordinary period of unrest around the world." He believes that this shared experience of political unrest is why regional events are beginning to resonate with the world. The George Floyd killing, for instance, gave rise to protests not just in the United States, but also internationally.
Touching on the subject of the outlook of the media industry, Marquardt supposes that, due to shrinking budgets amid the pandemic, there will be "a continued fracturing of the media landscape." He followed up by noting that "the quality of journalism during the Trump era has been phenomenal," and he believes this will remain the case.
Marquardt concluded the talk by commenting on something very relevant to us here at Katch - the responsibilities of filmmakers. Though their main priority is to create something entertaining, they should avoid "playing on tired and cliched stereotypes," and instead, "try to get it right." Marquardt added that he sees documentary filmmaking, podcasts, and books in his future, and hopes to bring the pursuit of truth and his brand of reporting to those realms.