Paper alum: Collapse of local journalism in heartland led to rise of Trump

Dream team: Former Brooklyn Paper reporter Alec MacGillis appeared on a panel discussing covering President Trump on Thursday night.
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And that’s why readers of The Brooklyn Paper didn’t vote for Trump!

The decline of community news is the big reason President Trump rose from realty television star to leader of the free world, claims an award-winning Brooklyn Paper alum who explained his theory at a seminar about covering the Donald on Thursday night.

“I really believe the collapse of local journalism is a huge part of the Donald Trump phenomenon,” said Alec MacGillis, who now works for online outlet ProPublica and appeared on a panel ahead of receiving Long Island University’s prestigious Polk Award.

The hard-hitting journalist nabbed the honor for his reporting on the rebellion of working class America as it shifted to support Trump, which he compiled into a lengthy post-election explainer called “Revenge of the Forgotten Class.”

But he got his start working the beat, grinding out several stories a day, getting police blotters at the eight-four, and covering community meetings, including a graduation at Long Island University — crucial work that helps journalists build trust with residents, he said. And the loss of good local newspapers and the journalists they produce was a paramount reason why many people stopped believing unfavorable Trump news reports and instead deemed questionable stories as credible.

“If people in their communities don’t see journalists on a regular basis — people working hard covering communities at City Hall, at the school board, at the court house — if they don’t see [Lauren Gill] with her notepad trying to get the story right at the town meeting, instead the story becomes just the national figures who they see on TV or maybe swooping in now and then for a story. And here in red America that builds massive distrust,” said MacGillis.

He was joined by fellow award winners David Fahrenthold, the Washington Post reporter best known for breaking the Trump Access Hollywood tapes story, and Marina Walker Guevara, who was part of the team behind the Panama Papers.

Along with expounding the significance of local news, they also agreed that journalists need to make complicated stories palatable to people who don’t have the time to read them by filling people in on the backstory, adding graphics, and going on television to talk about their reports.

And Trump’s “fake news” accusations and branding of journalists as “enemies of the people” makes it important for reporters to take extra steps to make their stories transparent so people can understand the process behind getting a scoop.

Fahrenthold — who Trump personally called a “nasty guy” — said it’s now more important than ever for reporters to make sure they are getting the story right so people don’t have a reason to mistrust them.

“The only thing we have is our reputation for truth and fairness and it’s so easy to lose that,” he said.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Gary from Fort Greene says:
This guy is as loopy as the rest of his tribe. Local and national journalism collapsed a long time ago, when its leftward bias became so obvious that even the media could not deny it. We don't need to see a beat reporter furiously taking notes, because the story always comes out the same and we have stopped believing it.
April 9, 2017, 2:34 pm
Morris from Mill Basin says:
Gary, you're a worthless piece of trash that needs to be thrown away down into the sewer where you come from. I am personally interested in slitting your throat so that you can never make any of your ugly sounds again, and I will put that on my to-do list the next time I get to Fort Greene. Then the Brooklyn Paper will be covering your gruesome death, and the commenters here will be cheering, you excrement-filled lump of garbage.

David Farenthold has won the Pulitzer Prize for his excellent and amazing reporting on Trump's lack of charitable donations and the crooked doings of the Trump Foundation.

Gary has won the prize for being a bag of feces.
April 11, 2017, 9 am

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