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Semafor LogoDiego Mendoza
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Current, former White House Press Secretaries speak about media’s role in democracy

Diego Mendoza is a Breaking News reporter. You can reach him at dmendoza@semafor.com. For politics coverage from Semafor each morning, sign up for our Principals newsletter — an insider’s guide to American power.

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Title iconThe News

In a panel discussion at Semafor’s Media, Government, and a Healthy Democracy event on Friday, White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart under former President Bill Clinton and current White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre discussed the role of the press in American democracy.

Here’s what they had to say:

Title iconJoe Lockhart

Lockhart said that in the internet age, “the hierarchy of news has been flattened,” and people are increasingly only consuming news from sources that validate their point of views.

He said that there is not one singular solution to this problem, but one suggestion is for journalists to recognize that they are only echoing narratives at face-value. He pointed to the coverage of the midterm elections, saying that “nothing changed” despite many outlets predicting a “red wave.”

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Title iconQuoteworthy

“The country faces enormous challenges that have neither a Democratic or Republican solution that’s obvious, and a lot of those issues tend to get ignored in the political coverage… When you are looking at the people who are just covering the politics of Washington, it tends to be issues that at the end of the day are not that important, but they feed into narratives that are very hard to shape.” – Former White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart.

Title iconKarine Jean-Pierre

During the discussion with Semafor, Jean-Pierre also discussed the relationship between the White House and American press, adding that President Biden would be open to doing more one-on-one interviews in the future after many analysts have pointed out that he has given far fewer than former presidents.

She said that the Biden administration has worked to improve the White House’s relationship with the American media, particularly with right-wing news outlets.

Title iconQuoteworthy

“I think the exercise of being at the podium everyday and having 50 reporters from all stripes…it is an exercise of democracy, an exercise of free press, an exercise of independent press,” Jean-Pierre said.

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