White House correspondent April Ryan talks new age of journalism on ‘fake news’ panel

Close to 350 people attended the panel made up of professional journalists.


White House correspondent April Ryan shares her experiences covering the Trump administration. Katrina Scales | Contributing writer.

Elyscia Saint-Hilaire and Katrina Scales

To honor national Constitution Day, current and former South Florida journalists discussed the rise of fake news alongside White House correspondent April Ryan Tuesday.

The event featured: associate political science professor Kevin Wagner, former foreign correspondent and current journalism instructor Ilene Prusher, Palm Beach Post editorial page editor Rick Christie, former Palm Beach Post managing editor Tom O’Hara, and his wife Rosemary, who’s an editorial page editor for the Sun Sentinel.

Ryan was the first black female correspondent in the White House press corps and was named 2017 Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists. She currently serves as a political analyst on CNN and is the Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks.

In March of this year, Ryan made national headlines when she asked then-press Secretary Sean Spicer how the White House would improve its image. Spicer accused her of having an agenda and told her to “stop shaking her head.”

One of Ryan’s main concerns in today’s world is the danger she believes fake news poses.

“There’s no time for fake news,” Ryan said. “The question is, what you choose to believe. If you continue to click on sensationalist news, you perpetuate the lie and keep it going.”

Her speech, titled, “Fake News and the Modern Presidency with April Ryan” was followed by a panel discussion.

“The internet has changed the dynamics,” Tom O’Hara said. “And, as April said, it’s now incumbent upon the citizenry to distinguish what’s real and what’s not.”

The speakers believed that the current presidential administration is partially to blame for the perpetuation of fake news. Rosemary O’Hara explained her belief that President Donald Trump’s social media behavior paved the road for web writers to publish inaccurate content.

From left to right: White House correspondent April Ryan, FAU journalism instructor Ilene Prusher, and editorial page editor of the Sun Sentinel Rosemary O’Hara. Katrina Scales | Contributing Writer

“Very quickly the term, ‘fake news’ was absorbed by our president and spun in the way that he takes labels, attaches them, and forever redefines something,” she said. “And fake news is the media that reports stories that he doesn’t like.”

Another consensus amongst the panelists was that fake news stems from people supporting information that agrees with their preconceived ideas and that there isn’t a clear line between opinion and fact in news reporting anymore.

“We want to believe it,” Ryan said. “But it’s upon us now to be able to figure out what’s real, what’s fake, and what’s opinion versus fact.”

After the panel discussed their issues regarding fake news in the modern era, Christie gave a few words on what some solutions could be.

“It comes down to personal responsibility as a news consumer to look to other sources,” he said. “Expand your sources and go outside of your comfort zone, stop being lazy and depending on one source.”  

History major Ashley Carrie attended the event and said she thought the panel didn’t cover any concrete solutions.

“I felt like, it was a conversation about, ‘Let’s get back to the good old days when newspapers were a big source.’ I was hoping they were going to address the fate of our pursuit for truth.”  

Ryan’s final words called for change as she addressed the almost 350 members of the community, staff, and students in attendance of the event in the University Theatre.  

“There is no time for fakeness, it’s time for reality, it’s time for a reality check, I want you all to aspire to inspire.”

Katrina Scales is a contributing writer with the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email her @[email protected].

Elyscia Saint-Hilaire is a contributing writer with the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email her @[email protected].