The most important thing for journalists in their profession is to provide separate and independently gathered information to citizens; if there were no other reason to have a First Amendment, that is reason enough, Bob Schieffer said during the seventh annual Schieffer Symposium on Wednesday night.
The symposium, with about 1,100 in attendance, featured prominent media professionals as panelists and one of the best panels the symposium has had, Schieffer said. The panel included Brit Hume, an Emmy-winner and senior political analyst for Fox News; former Florida Congressman and host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Joe Scarborough; co-host of “Morning Joe” and New York Times best-selling author Mika Brzezinski; and Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of online publication The Huffington Post.
Schieffer moderated the discussion as panelists discussed an array of topics ranging from social media to politics.
Political discussion focused on a potential Republican nominee for the upcoming presidential election and the possible government shutdown in Washington, D.C., in the coming week.
Scarborough said in a new Wall Street Journal/NBC news poll, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is the early front-runner, with entrepreneur billionaire Donald Trump coming in as a close second ahead of many tea party members.
Hume said he suspected Trump would not get the nomination but that he might catch the “I’m going to be president” fever, seek a third party ballot and cause problems for the Republican party.
Huffington pointed out that a discussion on a hypothetical competition between President Barack Obama and a strong Republican candidate that nobody could name was not what should be focused on.
Brzezinski said, “People have invested a lot of hope in the whole concept of Obama. And for whatever it’s worth, it’s going to take a strong individual candidate to really knock that down…
“There isn’t one [candidate],” she said. “They’re all flawed. And it seems surprising to me that there isn’t kind of a clear set of candidates on the Republican side, especially given how people feel.”
Hume said he thought it will matter less who the Republicans nominate and more how the American people feel about Obama at election time. The issue would be whether the public wanted to replace him or not, he said. Brzezinski said some in the White House were getting ready to blame a government shutdown on the Republican party if it did indeed happen Friday.
Scarborough said he did not believe a shutdown would occur.
“You’ve got John Boehner who doesn’t want a government shutdown, you’ve got Barack Obama who doesn’t want a shutdown, and I think that reality will probably bring this thing in for a landing,” Scarborough said.
The panelists engaged in some humor regarding Twitter after Schieffer asked if Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets were getting news out too fast.
Scarborough responded by excusing himself to tweet a picture of Huffington and to record a video of the crowd.
Hume explained he had a private account to follow breaking news, followed by Huffington asking his account name to “follow” him.
Scarborough said Twitter could be a great tool if used the right way because the news feed is extraordinary. He explained that in 10 minutes, from his bed, he could be brought up to date on things happening around the world.
The symposium ended with Schieffer stressing that in today’s changing media landscape the role of journalism has not changed, but the responsibilities that journalists have to report the truth remains the most important.
“If we ever reach a point in this country where we don’t have independently gathered information, which is just as important and just as crucial to a democracy as the right to vote…we will have a democracy of sorts but not a democracy that we have come to know,” Schieffer said.