Covering Trump: The Presidency and the Press in Turbulent Times

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December 2, 2016 

4:00 to 5:30 p.m. 

B1580 Blau Hall
Ross School of Business

Event is free and open to the public

A panel of national journalists and a political science expert will offer analysis about the presidential election and the tempestuous aftermath during a public discussion at the University of Michigan.

The focus will be on criticism of the media, what journalists, pollsters and political experts missed, and the path forward in covering an unprecedented presidency and divided country.

Lynette Clemetson, director of Wallace House at U-M, said it is important to hear from reporters who have covered the presidential election from the beginning.

“It is even more important to turn our attention to what comes next,” Clemetson said. “We are entering uncharted waters. As much as news organizations need to to examine their coverage priorities, news consumers need to become astute in assessing the flood of information coming at them and the role and function of a free press in society.”

The panel includes alumni of the U-M Knight-Wallace Fellowships for Journalists who covered the campaign and will report on the transition, as well as a former Livingston Awards winner and a U-M expert who follows elections and voting behavior.


Craig Gilbert is the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Washington bureau chief and author of “The Wisconsin Voter” political blog. He has covered every presidential campaign since 1988 and has written extensively about the electoral battle for the swing states of the industrial Midwest. Gilbert was a 2010 Knight-Wallace Fellow.

Vincent Hutchings, U-M professor of political science, is an expert on public opinion, elections and voting behavior. He studies demographic change and its effect on voting behavior and how campaign communications are designed to appeal to various group identities.

Tracy Jan is a national political reporter who covered the campaign for The Boston Globe. She focused primarily on the GOP, including Christian evangelicals, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. This month, she joins The Washington Post to develop a new beat on the intersection of race and the American economy. Jan was a 2015 Knight-Wallace Fellow.

Laura Meckler is a staff writer with The Wall Street Journal where she covered the Democratic presidential primary and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. She has reported on presidential politics, the White House, changing American demographics, immigration and health care. In 1999, she received a Livingston Award for national reporting.

Katie Zezima is a political reporter for The Washington Post where she covered the Obama White House years. She chronicled the campaigns of Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Texas Senator Ted Cruz from start to finish and before switching to enterprise reporting on social issues riling the election in its final months. Zezima was a 2012 Knight-Wallace Fellow.

Jon Morgan, an editor in the Washington bureau of Bloomberg News since 2010, will serve as moderator. He was a 2001 Knight-Wallace Fellow.

The event is being presented by Wallace House and the College of Literature, Science and the Arts.

Watch video of the event»

The Livingston Lectures with Adrian Chen

The Livingston Lectures“Russian Trolls: Is an Underground Online
Army Manipulating U.S. Politics?”

November 30, 2016 | 7:00 PM
WGBH, Yawkey Theater
One Guest Street
Boston, MA

Event is free.
Reception with speakers following the discussion.
RSVP required»

The Livingston Lectures present an evening with David Greene, host of NPR’s “Morning Edition;” Adrian Chen, winner of the 2016 Livingston Award for International Reporting; Vasily Gatov, media researcher and author; and Raney Aronson-Rath, executive producer of PBS’s Frontline.

In 2015, journalist Adrian Chen’s New York Times Magazine story unveiled a shadowy internet trolling organization in St. Petersburg, Russia, and raised the subject of the Russian government embracing social media to influence public opinion. For that story, Chen received the 2016 Livingston Award for International Reporting. The panel will discuss Russia’s current role in the U.S. presidential election and examine how power and money work to distort social media, a presumably pro-democratic tool.

David Greene is co-host of NPR’s “Morning Edition.” Previously, Greene was an NPR foreign correspondent based in Moscow covering the region from Ukraine and the Baltics, east to Siberia. Greene has been a Livingston Awards judge since 2013.

Adrian Chen is a staff writer for The New Yorker. Previously he wrote about the internet and technology for New York, Wired, The New York Times Magazine and other publications.

Vasily Gatov is a Russian media researcher and author based in Boston. He has more than 28 years of professional experience in domestic and international media and is currently working on a book about censorship in Russia.

Raney Aronson-Rath is the executive producer of PBS’s Frontline. Under her leadership, Frontline has won every major award in broadcast journalism. For more than a decade, she has been a Livingston Awards judge.

The event is co-sponsored by WGBH and Frontline.


Knight-Wallace Fellows Travel to South Korea

Seoul, South Korea CityscapeThe Knight-Wallace Fellows will travel to Asia for the first time since expanding our international news tours beyond North America in 2000. On December 10, our Fellows will board a flight to Seoul. They will gather knowledge of politics, economics and the present situation in South Korea, while also learning about culture and history.

Wallace House Director Lynette Clemetson ‘10, who worked as a foreign correspondent in Hong Kong, is pleased to take the class to Korea. “Exploring journalism, politics and culture in other parts of the world is a cornerstone of the Knight-Wallace Fellowships. I am thrilled to be expanding the program’s travel into Asia. Wallace House has welcomed so many talented journalists from South Korea to Ann Arbor over the years. How wonderful that we can now take our Fellows to Seoul to connect with our accomplished alumni network there.”

Ten classes of Fellows visited Turkey under the leadership of KWF Board Member Ferhat Boratav, editor-in-chief of CNN Turk. We were planning to go to Istanbul again this December when a new travel warning was issued in early November: The State Department ordered the departure of family members of employees posted to the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul “based on security information indicating extremist groups [were] continuing aggressive efforts to attack U.S. citizens in areas of Istanbul where they reside or frequent.” With a heavy heart and thinking of our alumni and friends in Turkey, we decided to cancel our trip.

Clemetson talked about expanding travel to Asia from the first day she arrived in Ann Arbor. But she wasn’t expecting to do it so soon. With only five weeks to departure, a trip to Korea seemed like a difficult adventure to pull off. But after current Fellow Jin Kim helped arrange a conference call with our journalism partners at Seoul’s Press Association, the Kwanhun Club, the proposal turned into a fun and exciting proposition.

We were assured that it would be possible to put together an informative and eye-opening trip for our Fellows on short notice. Kim has been working for the past month as the liaison between our Korean partners and Wallace House. And our alumni in South Korea moved into action right away, too.

“I just moved to Seoul in April for a new adventure covering the peninsula for Stars and Stripes newspaper. I am looking forward to showing KWF ’17 my new country,” said Kim Gamel ‘15, an American foreign correspondent who spent many years in Russia and the Middle East. Gamel immediately started planning our trip to the border between the two Koreas and arranged a roundtable with U.S. military stationed in South Korea.

Jaepil Noh, KWF ’16, is working tirelessly behind the scenes to schedule our week in Korea. He is trying to take the week off work to be with us. “I will show our Fellows various aspects of Korea especially focusing on its political situation. The DMZ tour will expose them to the past and the future of Korea. I will take them to historical places so they can better understand the long history of Korea. Just come and enjoy!”

Our schedule now resembles a typical Wallace House news tour:

  • Seminars about policy, politics and economics in Seoul
  • Dinner with Fellowship alumni and foreign correspondents
  • Seminar with Newstapa (the Korea Center for Investigative Journalism partnered with current Fellow Bastian Obermayer for The Panama Papers)
  • Tour and seminar at Samsung
  • Trip by express train to Gyeonju, the capital of the ancient kingdom of Silla
  • Travel to the DMZ, the Korean Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea

And of course, we are keeping with our news tour traditions of going to places at the most interesting time:
Since changing our plane tickets from Istanbul to Seoul, the protests calling for the Korean President Park Geunhye to resign have grown. In the past, Fellows have experienced protests in Argentina, Brazil and Turkey. They saw the Canadian oil production tank in Alberta.

Now we will arrive in South Korea in the middle of a fascinating political crisis.

“So I plan to take you to the square where Korean people gather on Saturdays to demand that the President steps down,” said Noh. “The demonstrations are peaceful and people are enjoying them as if they were a festival. If you see them, you will see how humorous and witty and great the Korean people are.”

We are curious and excited to discover Korea, and very thankful for all the help our partners and alumni are giving us.

Here’s to new adventures with KWF ’17!

Apply for a Knight-Wallace Fellowship

Mosi_call to apply

Applications are open for the 2017-18 Knight-Wallace Fellowships for Journalists, and there has never been a better time to apply. We are adapting how the fellowship works, infusing new ideas into some of the longstanding qualities that have made our program unique. And we are expanding our connections to the larger journalism world, ensuring that our programs and activities are responsive to the changing needs of news organizations and to the needs of journalists who want to build new and deeper skills.

Our goal at Wallace House is simple. We seek to sustain and enrich journalism by sustaining and enriching journalists. We believe that there is a tangible benefit to stepping away from the grind for a period of focused study and collaborative sharing of expertise. And we know that benefit extends far beyond the individual journalists chosen as Fellows. It flows back into the news organizations and broad networks from which our Fellows come.

If you’ve seen images of Wallace House, you may have felt the pull of its quaint, Craftsman charm. It is true; we have a uniquely warm and welcoming home base. But the best part of what happens here is the mischief and boundless possibility we foster inside our walls. Journalists can be creatures of habit. So our program is intentionally structured to shake up routines to challenge assumptions and to nudge people out of professional and personal ruts. We seek to unsettle, and in doing so to empower our Fellows to envision new applications for their talents.

How does it all work? Our magic happens through a mix of academic immersion, Fellowship seminars, adventurous travel and good old-fashioned down time and bonding. An average week could include:

  • An entrepreneurship class with MBA students in the Zell Lurie Institute in the Ross School of Business
  • A course in screenwriting, environmental justice or the history of Hip-Hop music and culture
  • A private workshop on encryption with experts from the School of Information
  • A storytelling seminar with a visiting journalism leader from Vox Media, The New York Times or NPR
  • A family-style dinner for 25 featuring Caribbean rice and peas, Southwestern root vegetable enchiladas or German sauerkraut and beef, all prepared in the Wallace House kitchen by your fellow Fellows.

And that is an average week on campus. On our travel weeks, we work to extend that same dynamic mix of intellectual stimulation to group trips outside of Ann Arbor. We may be exploring the burgeoning business, arts and culture scene in Detroit, or picking apples and hiking in Northern Michigan. In this 2016-17 academic year we are taking our Fellows to South Korea and Brazil where we will meet with journalists, political leaders, business executives, academic experts and cultural influencers.

If it sounds fun, it is! But don’t be fooled into thinking of it as “time off.” Yes, it is time away from your day job. But our schedule and expectations are rigorous. Fellows often find themselves overwhelmed by our plentiful offerings and exhausted by the syncopated rhythm of the days. There is a method to our approach. We believe you can absolutely hit upon a career changing idea working with a preeminent environmental scholar at the Graham Sustainability Institute. But we also believe your ah-ha moment might come while sledding down a bodacious hill with your kids in the depths of a Midwestern February, by meeting a K-Pop impresario in Seoul, or by exploring a contemporary art museum in the Brazilian rainforest.

We believe that awakening the mind and the senses produces sharper, more engaged journalists, and that sharper, more engaged journalists produce better journalism. It’s not rocket science…though our Fellows have access to plenty of those, too, through the university’s world class Aerospace Engineering Department.

Who are we looking for? Fellowship classes — like news organizations — are at their best when they contain a vibrant mix of backgrounds. Our program is designed to help Fellows learn from one another as much as from the academic and journalism experts who work with us. That means we’d like our applicant pool to include: daily reporters and bloggers; narrative and investigative reporters; web, video, audio and social media producers and editors; broadcasters and podcasters; visual and data specialists; designers and developers; engagement editors; and entrepreneurial project and product visionaries. We’re a mid-career fellowship, so you need at least five years of experience working for news organizations or as a freelancer.

If you’ve been thinking of applying, now is the time to do it. Take it seriously. We know you are journalists, and you are hard-wired to procrastinate until painfully close to our deadlines. Our international application period closed on December 1. For U.S. applicants, the deadline is February 1. Don’t wait too long. We only take a small number of Fellows each year, and the process is highly competitive.

Do your reporting. Talk to former Fellows and get working on your study plan. If you can, talk with your editor or manager about a project you could pursue that would benefit your newsroom or help your organization address a pressing challenge.

Don’t fall back on clichés and what you think the selection committee will like. Take some time to really think about your passions, your skills, and something you’d like to achieve in your career. We are enthusiastic about the role our program has to play in the future of journalism, and we are looking for people who want to get their hands in the clay.

There is no place quite like Wallace House and no program quite like the Knight-Wallace Fellowships for Journalists.

We welcome you to apply.

Go to the Application »

Lynette Clemetson is the Charles R. Eisendrath Director of Wallace House.

María Elena Salinas and Stella M. Chávez Appointed to the Livingston Awards Judging Panels

María Elena Salinas and Stella M. Chávez

Wallace House is pleased to announce the addition of María Elena Salinas and Stella M. Chávez to the Livingston Awards’ judging panels. Salinas, anchor, Univision News joins the Livingston Awards national judging panel. Chávez, education reporter for KERA, an NPR affiliate in Dallas, joins the Livingston Awards regional judging panel.

Salinas is the co-anchor of Univision Network’s flagship daily newscast “Noticiero Univision,” and weekly newsmagazine “Aquí y Ahora.” Called the “Voice of Hispanic America” by The New York Times, she is the most recognized Hispanic female journalist in the United States. Salinas began her career in broadcast journalism in 1981 as a reporter, anchor and public affairs host for KMEX-34, the Univision affiliate in Los Angeles. Since then she has received many prestigious awards for her work including: The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ Lifetime Achievement Award; a Peabody Award; a Gracie Award for Outstanding Anchor; seven Emmy Awards; a Walter Cronkite Award; an Edward R. Murrow Award; the “Intrepid Award” from National Organization for Women (NOW); and the 2013 Outstanding Achievement Award in Hispanic Television by Multichannel News and Broadcasting & magazines.

Chávez is a reporter at KERA, the NPR affiliate in Dallas. She covers education and has reported on major news stories, such as the shooting deaths of five police officers in downtown Dallas, the Ebola outbreak in Dallas and the migration of unaccompanied minors to Texas.  She has won several state and national awards, including a Livingston Award in 2007 for her Dallas Morning News’ series, “Yolanda’s Crossing.” The co-authored stories reconstruct the 5,000-mile journey of a young Mexican sexual-abuse victim from a small Oaxacan village to Dallas. For that series, she also received the Dart Award for Excellence in Reporting on Victims of Violence, the APME International Perspective Award and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists Print Feature and Online awards.

“We are honored to have these two talented journalists joining our esteemed judges,” said Wallace House director Lynette Clemetson. “The Livingston Awards draws exceptional applicants from all over the country. Having judges with far ranging experience and regional expertise helps us tap into the full breadth of new voices and excellent journalism our awards seek to recognize.”

The regional judges read all qualifying entries and select the finalists in local, national and international reporting categories. In addition to Chávez, the regional judging panel includes: David Greene, host, “Morning Edition,” NPR; Stephen Henderson, editorial and opinion editor, Detroit Free Press; Shirley Leung, columnist, The Boston Globe, Raney Aronson-Rath, executive producer, “Frontline,” PBS; and Amy Silverman, managing editor, Phoenix New Times.

The Livingston Awards national judges review all final entries and meet to select the winners in local, national and international reporting. In addition to Salinas, the national judging panel includes: Christiane Amanpour, chief international correspondent, CNN; Ken Auletta, media and communications writer, The New Yorker; Dean Baquet, executive editor, The New York Times; John Harris, editor-in-chief and co-founder, Politico; Clarence Page, syndicated columnist; Anna Quindlen, author; and Kara Swisher co-founder and executive editor of Recode.

Regimul zilei. Regimul de somn și de veghe permite într-adevăr organismului clic să se refacă pe deplin. Prin urmare, dacă există probleme cu erecția, trebuie să vă revizuiți programul pentru a avea un somn bun (cel puțin 8 ore pe zi).

Livingston Award Showcase: The Impact of Journalism

Three Livingston Award recipients reflect on the effect their winning work has had on policy and people’s lives.



Closeup of armed security guard's gun in holster“Hired Guns” Spurs Reform in California Law

By Shoshana Walter, 2015 co-winner for national reporting

When we first began reporting on the armed security guard industry, we hoped the investigation would be eye-opening.

As a nation, we have become increasingly reliant on armed guards. They are often a go-to solution after mass shootings, robberies and street violence. But few people are aware of the poor regulation and oversight of guards with guns – a patchwork system of state laws that require little training and vetting, and too often leave guns in the hands of guards ill-equipped to use them.

The “Hired Guns” project not only opened eyes, it prompted change. In September, Governor Jerry Brown of California signed reforms into law. The new regulations make California’s oversight of the security guard industry one of the strongest in the country.

Among a raft of changes, the law requires armed security guards to pass a mental-health evaluation, a standard for police officers across the country. It also calls for state regulators to take action against an armed guard if he or she is discovered to be mentally unstable, violent or a threat to public safety. Previously, regulators rarely investigated security guard shootings, choosing instead to act only after a criminal conviction. The new regulations also require inspections of firearm training facilities, a move that could eradicate fraudulent programs that allow guards to purchase certificates without actually learning how to use their guns.

We are proud to have received a Livingston Award for this project. The only thing more rewarding is knowing that the stories had an effect on public policy, and will hopefully improve public safety for years to come.

Shoshana Walter and Ryan Gabrielson won the Livingston Award in the national reporting category for the Center for Investigative Reporting series, “Hired Guns,” an investigation of the haphazard system of lax regulation, weak screening standards and little to no training for armed security guards. Walter and Gabrielson compiled data on every state and uncovered cases where violent felons, mentally ill individuals, and former police officers with civil rights violations were able to obtain jobs as armed security guards.




US Lawmakers React to Mike Baker and Daniel Wagner’s Clayton Homes Investigation 

By Mike Baker, 2016 co-winner for national reporting

After we published our initial Clayton Homes stories in the spring of 2015, lawmakers in Congress cited our work during debate over a plan that would weaken consumer protection laws. The New York Times referred to our investigation in two editorials, using the findings to argue that the protections for mobile-home buyers should remain in place. So far, they have. And the first question Warren Buffett faced at his annual gathering of Berkshire Hathaway shareholders was about our Clayton findings.

After our later coverage exposed how Clayton preys on minority customers, members of Congress called for the Justice Department and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to investigate. U.S. Representative Maxine Waters said she was “appalled” by the “sleazy and deceptive practices” identified by the article. The CFPB said in February it was “evaluating actions” to take in response. The Justice Department is also reviewing the matter. Lawmakers have since asked the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to examine how Clayton treats its employees and customers.

Mike Baker of The Seattle Times,and Daniel Wagner of The Center for Public Integrity and BuzzFeed News, won the Livingston Award in the national reporting category for “The Mobile-Home Trap, an investigation into the predatory practices of Warren Buffett’s mobile-home empire. The series revealed how Clayton Homes, a part of the Berkshire-Hathaway conglomerate, and its lending subsidiaries target minority homebuyers and lock them into ruinous high-interest loans.



St. Petersburg, RussiaKremlin Denies Role in Russian Trolling

By Adrian Chen, 2016 winner for international reporting

The Internet Research Agency’s (IRA) English-language activities appeared to halt immediately after my feature was published. The write-up also forced the Kremlin to publicly address the agency for the first time. At a press conference in June, a spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin denied any knowledge of, or involvement with, the agency. Since then, Lyudmila Savchuk, one of the subjects of my story, sued IRA for labor violations and was awarded one ruble in damages. It was a symbolic judgement, but a small victory for Savchuk, as it proved the agency’s existence and her employment there.

Adrian Chen won the Livingston Award in the international reporting category for his New York Times Magazine feature, “The Agency,” a story about the Internet Research Agency, a social media trolling organization located in St. Petersburg, Russia that was responsible for spreading pro-Kremlin propaganda and manufacturing false stories of environmental disasters in the U.S.

Lynette Clemetson Interviews Molly Ball


By Lynette Clemetson

Molly Ball ’10, has emerged as one of the most prominent political reporters of the 2016 election season. As a staff writer for The Atlantic, her unsparing analysis of the campaigns, keen observations of society and dry wit have made her a must-read for political junkies. They’ve also made her a favorite of cable news programs and Sunday morning political shows. In addition to following her richly textured stories from around the country and her quick takes on the news of the day, Ball’s tens of thousands of social media followers also delight in her frequent selfie posts, where she makes fun of her glamorous TV makeup then notes that it is time, once again, to “Face the Nation.”
And yet, Ball didn’t grow up watching “Face the Nation,” or any of the other political shows on which she is now a regular. Her family didn’t own a TV.

I asked her about that, as well as a few other things, when she visited Wallace House in September to deliver the 31st annual Graham Hovey Lecture. Her topic, of course: Election 2016 – The Great Disruption of American Politics.

Lynette Clemetson: Many people feel they are getting to know you this election cycle through your television appearances, as much as through your writing. And yet you have a very distant relationship with TV. What’s the importance of television for you as a journalist?

Molly Ball: My parents are retired college professors. My mother felt very strongly that television rots children’s brains. So I was the freak in school who didn’t know what any of the television shows were. The downside of that is that to this day I am culturally illiterate. I’ve never seen an episode of “Happy Days” or “Saved by the Bell.” But the upside is that my consciousness of stories and of narrative was formed by reading books.

Television is not my job. I don’t get paid for it. I just want to have interesting conversations with people. I’m just trying to get my head around what’s happening in this country. America is a puzzle that I’m always trying to solve. I do that by flying around the country and talking to people and seeing things happen, by being a witness to events and then trying to tell that story to other people in a way that makes them think or sheds light on things. The medium really doesn’t matter when that’s what you’re trying to achieve. It can be Twitter, it can be, it can be “Meet the Press” or it can be an article in a print magazine. Which does still exist.

Clemetson: Speaking of print, you have different audiences with different habits there, too. Do you approach the print and digital versions of The Atlantic differently?

Ball: I think I write in the same voice in both publications. What I love about The Atlantic is that since it was founded in the 1850s, it’s been the magazine of the American idea. I like stories that are about ideas, not just about personalities or events. Not “This happened and that happened,” but “What does it mean? Why is it happening? What’s the context, the history, and what does it tell us about the bigger picture?”

Inside The Atlantic, we refer to things as “Atlantic-y.” You know it when you see it. It’s that combination of smart and fun, high and low, in a way that is both enlightening and shareable, which has the great virtue of working really well in our current online marketplace. It doesn’t matter if the thing is a listicle or a photo meme or a 300-word blog post or a 3,000-word story. It’s just about having that sensibility.

Clemetson: How did the Knight-Wallace Fellowship help shape your career?

Ball: The fellowship changed my life. I was stuck. Stuck in a newspaper business that no longer had any sort of upward mobility, at least not for me. I had been banging my head against the wall trying to move up for so long. I thought maybe I should take the hint the world was trying to give me and just get out of journalism altogether, which would have been both heartbreaking and difficult, since I didn’t know how to do anything else. This has been the only thing I knew how to do since I was 12 years old and started a newspaper in my neighborhood in Colorado.

The journalism business had been saying no to me for years and years. And suddenly, at Wallace House, I was in this place where the answer to everything was yes. And it absolutely restored my soul and showed me there was a path forward in journalism.

Clemetson: Was that path immediately clear for you?

Ball: I still didn’t know what that path was when I left the fellowship. Nine months after I left Las Vegas and moved to Ann Arbor, I still didn’t have a job anywhere. But the fellowship restored my sense of possibility and my confidence that I belonged.

My husband and I moved to Washington, D.C., in June 2010 with no jobs, an infant, and a small amount of savings. Politico hired me in late September. I was dying to cover the midterms because I knew the Harry Reid race backwards and forwards. The Atlantic hired me a year later.

Clemetson: Has this election cycle revealed anything to you about yourself as a writer, and as an observer of people?

Ball: There have been times in this campaign when I’ve actually felt that my reporting skills were atrophying because to write an amazing story about what’s happening right now in American politics you don’t need any kind of clever angle. All you have to do is point and go, “Holy crap, look at this.” But it’s a great story. And I feel like I’m learning a lot about America – not all of it happy. Those are the best stories, the ones that make you rethink your assumptions and question all you thought you knew about how this thing works. And having the tools and the confidence and the support to just go out and tell the story the way it needs to be told is an incredible privilege at a time like this.

Clemetson: Campaigns can make journalists cynical. You actually seem excited.

Ball: I’m more excited about journalism than I’ve been in a long time because the election is such a great story. There’s so much texture to it. There will be so many aftershocks. There are so many strands to pull out and explore. And they are going to last for so long after this election.

Four years ago, I was trying to find interesting angles on Mitt Romney, which was sometimes a challenge. I was looking ahead to the rest of my career, thinking, “Am I just going to be writing the same stories every four years until I die?”

But no, because it turns out this thing is always changing. And that’s really exciting and cool. The story most people want to read about an election is who’s going to win. But most of the time that’s the least interesting story. The more interesting story is what is happening out there in America. Who are these voters? What are they thinking? What does it reveal about our national character and society? And the extent of the disruption in this campaign makes me think that we are really at a turning point in American political history, and I don’t think any of us know where it’s going to end.

Rio Olympics Medal Moments

Six Knight-Wallace alumni share with us their own gold, silver and bronze moments covering Rio 2016.

Linda Robertson ‘07
Wayne Drehs ‘10
Sarah E.T. Robbins ‘12
Marcelo Barreto ‘99
Vahe Gregorian ‘04
Baris Kuyucu ‘07




Linda Robertson ’07

Sports Columnist, The Miami Herald


The Olympics have become so commercialized, bloated and pre-packaged for TV, that the soul of the Games gets lost among the VIPs. One of the highlights for me was reporting from inside Rio’s favelas, home to one third of the population in a city where extreme poverty is juxtaposed with extreme wealth. I watched the opening ceremony at an outdoor pub in Chapeu Mangueira, where residents expressed more enthusiasm for the Games than well-to-do cariocas. I wrote a story on Brazilian athletes who grew up in favelas and, with the help of some teenage street vendors, tracked down the childhood home of a judo gold medalist, Rafaela Silva, in the notorious City of God, where my driver had to declare solidarity with the drug gang that oversees the favela so he wouldn’t be harassed or shot. Silva’s relatives then took us around the neighborhood carrying a poster of her, and their friends offered us grilled kabobs while proudly posing for photos with the poster.


The media’s depiction of Rio was distorted even before the Games when certain outlets fanned panic about the Zika virus, which helped scare a few golfers away – or enabled them to use Zika as an excuse for not competing. Fear of terrorism has become de rigueur, as we saw before the Athens Olympics, when we were issued gas masks, and the Sochi Olympics, when a Chechen “Black Widow” had supposedly breached the security wall. Yes, Rio is a troubled, polluted city and no, it wasn’t ready for the Games, but things came together adequately. Press coverage became less sensational and more accurate as the Games progressed, even to the point that U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte was roundly criticized for exploiting Rio’s crime-ridden image to turn a drunken episode at a gas station into an armed robbery yarn. After three weeks, I had zero mosquito bites, only to return to Zika hysteria in Miami.


Had Dante created another circle of Hell, he might have called it the Mixed Zone. This is the area athletes pass through once they leave the field of play to meet the press, where we actually get to speak to Michael Phelps, Simone Biles and Usain Bolt. It’s a gauntlet of TV cameras first, followed by print media. For reporters, the Mixed Zone is akin to a rugby scrum. Lots of jostling and grappling to get in position to ask or shout a question to Neymar or Farah, or to hear the often unenlightening, unquotable answers. In Rio, there was some use of risers and microphones for athletes – which we’ve requested for years so your head doesn’t wind up in another reporter’s armpit and your ribs don’t get bruised by elbows – but alas, it remains an uncivilized way to conduct interviews. For the record, the magnetic Bolt consistently gives the best answers.

(Linda Robertson, sports columnist at The Miami Herald, covered her 13th Olympics, with Lillehammer still ranked Number 1, and Atlanta remaining in last place.)




Wayne Drehs ’10

Senior Feature Writer, ESPN The Magazine and


In 16 years of working at ESPN, I’ve never interviewed an athlete more gutted after a defeat than defending Olympic wrestling champion Jordan Burroughs. Rio was supposed to be the Games that catapulted Burroughs to the level of a Michael Phelps or Simone Biles. Instead, he put everything he had into his training and preparation and didn’t even reach the podium. Afterwards, he had every reason to walk past reporters and decline their interview requests. But instead, Burroughs stood there for a good 10 minutes, tears streaming down his cheeks, answering question after question after question, trying to put into words what it felt like to know that he had failed to reach his Olympic goals. His first two words: “I’m sorry.”


Perhaps no moment of the last year better revealed the transformation that Michael Phelps has undergone outside the water than the fact that he wasn’t with teammate Ryan Lochte on the night of Lochte’s gas station adventure. Four years earlier, Phelps admits, he would have been there. But instead, when Phelps checked out of the Olympic Village late that night, he headed to a hotel where he was fast asleep with his fiancée, Nicole Johnson, and their three-month-old son, Boomer, while Lochte and three other U.S. swimmers were out on the town. “And there was nowhere else I wanted to be,” Phelps said.


The fact that a country with a struggling economy and soon-to-be-impeached president could pull off the Olympics without any major catastrophes proves, in many ways, how indestructible the Games truly are. Government corruption, human rights abuses, polluted water, escalating violence – none of it matters. The show must go on. In the end, that’s what the Olympics are – a global reality show. The host city provides the backdrop, consequences be damned. Ultimately, Rio’s legacy in the months and years to come will likely be to reveal how much this needs to change. The question is whether or not anyone will care to listen.




Sarah E.T. Robbins ’12

Senior Producer, BBC News


“Brazil is not for beginners,” they say. The best coverage of the big picture during the Olympics came from journalists who have spent significant time in the region. The South American bureaus of the BBC, The New York Times, and NPR produced crucial reports examining how Rio organizers missed the opportunity to improve the city for all of it’s residents and accounts on the rise in violence in Rio’s poorest neighborhoods, even as the military secured tourist areas.


Sports reporters have to tighten the screw at the right moment, and sports news isn’t always about sports – although there were plenty of great sporting moments at the Rio Games. Key stories about Rio’s doping lab, an alleged ticket-touting scheme and a deep investigation into the Lochte story uncovered important details that many journalists missed.


After Usain Bolt won the 100-meter dash, a photographer told me that he usually shoots fashion in Finland and was “surprised by all the elbows” from colleagues seeking to capture an iconic image of the World’s Fastest Man. Potential lesson for covering future mega-events: send news junkies.




Marcelo Barreto ’99

Chief Editor and Anchor, SporTV News (Brazil)


Carrying the Olympic torch. I always dreamed of doing it, but could never have imagined it would be like that: in my little hometown, Bicas, surrounded by family and friends. An unforgettable day!


Sharing the Olympic experience with family and friends. I was living in London during the 2012 Games and attended a few events with my wife and kids, but this time was special. I was almost never alone at the Olympic Park.


Interviewing Feyisa Lilesa. The Ethiopian marathoner was hiding in Rio after making a protest gesture against his country’s government at the finish line. I was the first reporter to talk to him.




Vahe Gregorian ’04

Sports Columnist, The Kansas City Star


With the ocean shimmering in the background and thousands shimmying within the venue, the nighttime atmosphere of beach volleyball at Copacabana was the essence of the promise of the Rio Olympics. The scene was an intoxicating reprieve from a series of logistical glitches that threatened to derail the Games – and a snapshot that will remain indelible even as we come to see the consequences of an emerging country in economic crisis hosting an event that has become too enormous for even the most modernized nations to manage.


The Olympics are an exhilarating, out-of-body experience for reporters to cover and one of the ultimate challenges in the business. I’ll be forever grateful to have had the privilege of attending 10 of them. It’s amazing to bear witness to people shattering the limits of what we think possible – lifting us all “to a better place to be,” as it’s put in one of my favorite movies, “Vision Quest.” But my favorite part of the Games has always been writing about local athletes, people you have the opportunity to really get to know and thus absorb the experience in an entirely different way – and, hopefully, convey.

So I expect what I’ll remember most about Rio was following wrestler J’den Cox of Columbia, Missouri, and his family after he won a bronze medal in dramatic fashion, and watching archery with Robin Garrett, whose son, Zach, won a silver medal in the team event. Zach fulfilled a dream that began when he was four years old on the family farm in Wellington, Missouri, when his father carved him a bow.


We in the media often report what could go wrong or might happen. Rio was projected as an impending apocalypse because of the spike in crime in the wake of Brazil’s economic meltdown. Sure, a vast police and military presence made it safer, but we failed to portray the hazards as being similar to any big city: some areas should be avoided, one should generally be alert, etc. Violent crime was improbable in popular areas, yet unnecessary fear kept many, including families of athletes, away. That was a shame.




Baris Kuyucu ‘07

Head of International Sports, Anadolu Ajansi (Istanbul)


I watched every medal moment of our Turkish team – emotions, pride, excitement. I interviewed all of them. One highlight was spending time with the gold medalist wrestler, Taha Akgul, an exceptionally talented and passionate guy. I spoke with him and his lovely family just before he competed. After his gold-winning moment, we just hugged each other – nothing more needed to be said. It was unforgettable!


Thanks to a previous visit with Knight-Wallace colleagues, I know Rio very well. That is why I was so comfortable there as a journalist. Twenty-one days of working nearly 16 hours a day was tough. I organized every detail of my teams’ program. But it was a nice experience. I met so many wonderful Brazilian people and fellow Knight-Wallace journalists, Vahe (Gregorian ’04) and Linda (Robertson ’07). I am always so proud of being a Knight-Wallace Fellow. Go Blue!


Each day, I had only one or two hours of free time, except for five hours of sleep. So I walked every minute, got acquainted with the locals, tasted Brazilian foods, took many pictures, and hung out for midnight dinners with my team and new friends. We talked and shared so many things. This was the first time I reported from the Olympics. It was not easy, but it was so much fun. Rio rocks.

Knight-Wallace Fellows Lead History’s Biggest Journalism Collaboration

Current Fellow Bastian Obermayer (left) received an
email from “John Doe.” Knight-Wallace classmate
Laurent Richard (right) oversaw Premières Lignes
Télévision’s coverage of the Luxembourg Leaks in 2014.

In the winter of 2015, current Knight-Wallace Fellow Bastian Obermayer, deputy head of the investigative unit at the Süddeutsche Zeitung in Munich, received an anonymous email. “John Doe” offered a massive trove of data from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. Obermayer and colleague Frederik Obermaier soon realized that the 2.6 terabytes of data (11.5 million financial and legal records from 214,000 offshore companies) were too much for them to handle alone. They contacted Gerard Ryle ’06, director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), and asked for support.

Gerard Ryle
Gerard Ryle ’06, organized a global
newsroom and directed the reporting
and publishing around the world.

Through ICIJ, a secret database was established, a secure communication network was set up, and soon Ryle was leading a virtual newsroom. Three hundred seventy-six journalists in 76 countries searched through the files and shared information on who was hiding money. On April 3, 2016, the investigations were published simultaneously around the world as The Panama Papers. The first big revelation led to the resignation of Iceland’s prime minister over his ownership of an offshore company.

ICIJ put together an extensive website with stories, databases, videos, graphics and even an online game to help readers understand how tax havens work. The Süddeutsche Zeitung published a multimedia project in German and English. Obermayer and Obermaier’s book, “The Panama Papers,” was published in English and in 14 other languages as of this writing.

Edouard Perrin
Edouard Perrin ’16, had experience
investigating huge data troves
after receiving the Luxembourg

In addition to Obermayer and Ryle, one other Knight-Wallace Fellow Edouard Perrin ’16, of Premières Lignes Télévision in Paris worked on The Panama Papers.

Since April, The Panama Papers project has received many awards, including the Online News Association’s Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award, the Data Journalism Award in Vienna and the Barlett & Steele Gold Award. Worth magazine ranked Ryle number 55 of the top 100 most powerful people in the global financial world.

You can watch Ryle’s latest TED Talk about the story behind the biggest data leak and the largest international collaboration in the history of investigative journalism.



31st Graham Hovey Lecture

Molly Ball31st Graham Hovey Lecture with political reporter Molly Ball ’10


“Election 2016: The Great Disruption of American Politics”

September 12, 2016

Watch the video recording.


A prominent voice from the campaign trail, Molly Ball appears regularly as an analyst on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” CBS’s “Face the Nation,” PBS’s “Washington Week,” CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and NPR. She is the recipient of the Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting, the Sandy Hume Memorial Award for Excellence in Political Journalism and the Lee Walczak Award for Political Analysis for her coverage of political campaigns. The lecture addresses the upheaval of the U.S. political establishment and examine whether this is a fleeting or enduring phenomenon.

Ball previously was a staff reporter for Politico, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Las Vegas Sun and The Cambodia Daily. She began her journalism career working for newspapers in Ohio and Pennsylvania, as well as The New York Times and The Washington Post.

She earned a B.A. in English Language and Literature from Yale University. As a Knight-Wallace Fellow at Michigan, 2009-2010, she studied economic policy, government spending and taxation in Nevada and the effects of rapid population growth.

The annual lecture honors Knight-Wallace alumni whose subsequent careers exemplify the benefits of sabbatical studies at U-M. It is named for the late Graham Hovey, director of the fellowship program from 1980-1986 and a distinguished journalist for The New York Times.

Watch the video recording.