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EDITORIAL: Chris Cuomo's firing points to larger issues in journalism

While CNN did the right thing in firing Cuomo, structural problems remain that need to be addressed

As the Cuomo scandal has unfolded, serious concerns about journalistic ethics have come into focus.  – Photo by Pixnio.com

This past weekend, CNN terminated anchor Chris Cuomo, who hosted the network’s primetime 9 p.m. slot. He became embroiled in controversy after reports emerged of him helping his brother, former Governor Andrew Cuomo, respond to allegations of sexual misconduct. 

Reports of the Cuomo brothers colluding came out last year, yet it was not until a new report emerged last week that revealed Chris Cuomo had a bigger role in advising his brother than he let on.

Perhaps more frustrating, Chris Cuomo defended his actions by claiming that he was helping his family. On one hand, it is easy to understand the sense of loyalty one has toward their own family, but when given a position of power there are clear lines that cannot be crossed.

It is also quite concerning that both Cuomos come from politically connected and wealthy families that helped them get to where they are. To ignore that privilege and then to abuse it blurs the lines of journalistic standards and is beyond disappointing. 

While the Cuomos are in the news now, this type of unfair treatment and giving advantage to certain people is nothing new to the industry. Earlier this year, Adam Schefter, a sports journalist for ESPN, sent a drafted, pre-publication story, to the Washington football team's president

This type of collusion harms journalism and weakens the institution. Journalists are supposed to hold everyone accountable and bring their skills to bear on facts, reporting objectively on everyone regardless of their status. Journalistic standards emphasize fairness which leads to trustworthiness. Stories of journalists giving unfair advantages or working closely with the subject of their stories undermine the notion of fairness and lead to a lack of trust.

In a time as polarized as ours, in a moment with an abundance of crises, we need smart, fair, trustworthy journalism. When individual journalists fail at those tenants, the institution itself weakens. A weakened press is a weakened country — we have expectations and we need to hold journalists to that high standard. They must earn our trust. 

While CNN did the right thing in firing Chris Cuomo, there are certain institutional failures inherent in journalism, especially at the national level. Journalism at the national level is increasingly political, something that could erode their credibility.

Of course national journalism serves a purpose, and of course we should continue to rely on the national media, but we should also begin to look outward and invest more time and money into local journalism. 

Local journalists report stories close to their community — they invest their time in the people of their “beat,” they hold people in positions of public trust accountable. While these organizations have their own problems, local news cares more about the communities than national media for the simple reason that they live in these communities.  

One way to limit the frequency with which national figures such as Chris Cuomo or Schefter abuse their positions is to support local journalists. Instead of subscribing to CNN's various iterations of streaming services, invest in small local journalism. 

Local journalists at publications such as The Boston Globe have uncovered enormous stories and have made an impact on not just their communities, but the country as a whole and even the world.

The Boston Globe Spotlight Team, an investigative unit, uncovered, pursued and published the original story on the widespread sexual abuse and coverups of children perpetrated by Catholic priests. What started in Boston has had global implications. Local news did that.

Even at Rutgers, our own paper, The Daily Targum, has worked to hold University accountable — whether about coronavirus disease (COVID-19) funding or the ridiculous amount of finances going to athletics. Local news, whether in local cities or college towns, has the power to hold those in power accountable and keep their communities informed and at the center of such reporting.

One problem that emerges is that some communities do not have access to local news — news deserts dominate rural areas and historically disenfranchised communities. As such, they often only get news at the national level, or even worse, they only interact with news through social media. 

Every community needs access to strong, fair, trustworthy local news. We need to invest in local news: not just as an avenue to minimize the blatant abuses of power so frequented at the national level, but also to also center our own local communities. If we want to improve the national media, we can begin that process by investing in local journalists who care about the people they serve and value the trust of those communities.


The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 153rd editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.


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