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Celebrating World Press Freedom Day

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New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman speaks at UD

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​Maggie Haberman (left), a New York Times senior political correspondent, spoke at UD on May 4 in celebration of World Press Freedom Day. She is pictured with Nancy Karibjanian, director of UD’s Center for Political Communication.​

The University of Delaware celebrated World Press Freedom Day on Thursday, May 4, with an appearance by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Maggie Haberman. The New York Times senior political correspondent joined Nancy Karibjanian, director of UD’s Center for Political Communication, for an event called “Byline,” sponsored by UD Journalism.

World Press Freedom Day was established by the U.N. in recognition of the fundamental role that journalists and media outlets play in promoting a free society.

More than 75 students and community members attended the event in Gore Hall on UD’s Newark campus. Another 290 joined online, including students from UD’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and Osher Institute participants at universities nationwide.

Presented as an informal discussion between Haberman and Karibjanian, the event covered issues ranging from the increasing polarization of the U.S. to the demise of local news. But the primary topic was former president Donald Trump. Haberman has reported on Trump since the late 1990s and is widely considered to be the most prolific reporter covering him. As Katy Waldman noted in The New Yorker, Haberman’s byline appeared on 599 articles in 2016; more recently, she has averaged about one article a day. The vast majority of these articles have been about Trump. Her 2022 book, Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America, became an almost instant New York Times best-seller.​

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Haberman met with journalism students before the event and shared insights on her career. ​

Trump called Haberman “Maggot Haberman” after the release of the book, issuing a statement that it was “yet another fake book by a reporter who knows nothing about me.” While Haberman said she lets such comments roll off her, she said her children were upset.

“It was hard for them when I was under attack by Trump, but they know I love what I do,” she said. Haberman and her husband, Dareh Ardashes Gregorian, a reporter for the New York Daily News, have three children.

Her one-word take on the Trump administration: “chaos.”

“Trump fostered chaos at his companies, his casinos and, once he was president, at the White House,” she said. “He didn’t understand the levers of power, and he didn’t care that he didn’t understand.”

Haberman also spent plenty of time talking about the nuts and bolts of journalism. Casey Nyman, a sophomore majoring in communication and minoring in journalism, asked a question about the newsroom culture at The New York Times.

Nyman and others in the audience appeared surprised when Haberman said that she is rarely in the newsroom.

“I covered the White House from New York, and today I am almost never in the newsroom,” Haberman said. “When I do go in, I get nothing done. I am just catching up with people.”

She referenced a recent op-ed that Maureen Dowd wrote for the Times called “Requiem for a Newsroom,” in which Dowd writes about how much reporters learn from the kind of sidebar conversations that don’t easily occur on Zoom.

But whether it happens in person or online, Haberman made clear that communication is core to her work. While she declined to say how she gets her sources to talk, she acknowledged that relationship building is key.

“This business is about talking to people,” she said. “If you are covering the White House — or City Hall, for that matter — it’s all about talking to people, people on the campaign trail or the people of this country.”

“Byline” was made possible with generous support from UD professor emeritus Edward A. Nickerson as a way to enable UD students to learn from prominent journalists.

“I have idolized [Haberman] for the past three years,” said Macayla Cook, a first-year student double majoring in English and media communication with a journalism minor. “It’s really, really cool that she is here on campus. Last week I heard [former White House press secretary] Jen Psaki speak at the Biden Institute. Our professors are insanely qualified and then we have these other opportunities to listen to professionals in the field.”

Cook asked Haberman a question about the future of journalism and the impact of artificial intelligence on journalism.

“AI is not going to positively impact journalism,” Haberman said. “In an ideal world, it shouldn’t have an impact, but what concerns me is people using it as their primary source of information.”

Haberman stressed the need for media literacy to be taught at a young age and the importance of being a savvy news consumer.

“You shouldn’t rely on just one website or TV show to get your news,” she said.

Haberman’s viewpoint resonated with David Redlawsk, chair of UD’s Department of Political Science and International Relations.

“Hearing from practitioners who deal with and address the challenges facing American democracy gives us better insight into what is happening,” Redlawsk said. “I completely agree with Maggie Haberman that media literacy should be taught in schools, along with more general civics education. I think a major issue today is that few Americans really know much about how government and journalism are supposed to work.”

The only time Haberman was at a loss for words was when asked what she does in her downtime; she eventually responded that she takes a walk around the block or watches a movie.

“I don’t have an off switch; I never turn it off,” she said. She glanced at her phone a few times during the event, although it wasn’t a breaking news event but family that proved to be the distraction.

“One of my kids sent me a text and it’s going to drive me crazy that I can’t respond for the next 45 minutes,” she said.

Haberman doesn’t see her intense schedule lessening any time soon, and she is fine with that.

“I want my daughter to see that her mom has a job she believes in. I want that for my sons, too,” she said.

She thinks that it is likely that Trump and Biden will be the presidential candidates in 2024.

“If the race stays on the current trajectory, it’s tantamount to two incumbents running against each other,” she said. “This is not the moment I want to step away.”

Watch a video of Haberman’s appearance.

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About E.A. Nickerson

​A former reporter and editor for the Associated Press, Edward A. Nickerson joined UD’s faculty in 1970. After retiring in 1991, Nickerson established a fund to support UD students. Countless UD journalism alumni credit their experience in Nickerson’s classroom as a roadmap to their success in the field.​

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​ Article by Margo McDonough, photos by Evan Krape 

Published May 11, 2023​

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