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Covering President Trump and the Bathroom Bill: Thursday’s Show (January 26, 2017)

Last week, Senior White House Adviser Kellyanne Conway introduced America to the term “alternative facts” after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer claimed – despite contradictory evidence — that Trump’s inauguration gathered the largest crowd ever for that event. Suddenly the press was faced with calling out blatant lies. That’s not something seasoned journalists enjoy […]

Houston Matters microphonesLast week, Senior White House Adviser Kellyanne Conway introduced America to the term “alternative facts” after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer claimed – despite contradictory evidence — that Trump’s inauguration gathered the largest crowd ever for that event. Suddenly the press was faced with calling out blatant lies. That’s not something seasoned journalists enjoy doing – or even do that often.

In the pedantic world of the written word, “lie” is about intent and news people aren’t comfortable with establishing motivations hidden inside someone’s head. In fact, NPR’s senior vice president for news, Michael Oreskes says NPR will not use the word “lie” as it’s much too close to someone’s opinion of a matter.

“I think the minute you start branding things with a word like ‘lie,’ you push people away from you,” he said.

So, looking at journalistic ethics in this new age: how does the profession confront lies without professing an opinion? On this edition of Houston Matters, we ask how journalists can navigate this new landscape and accurately report when presented with disinformation. Is “lie” really a bad word in an article? And why doesn’t honest reporting seem to stick right now? To discuss this, we talk with Lindita Camaj, assistant journalism professor at the University of Houston, and Julie Mason, a former Houston Chronicle reporter who now hosts The Press Pool on SiriusXM’s POTUS channel.

Also this hour…

The Texas “Bathroom Bill”

Earlier this month (Jan. 5, 2017), State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, a Republican from Brenham, introduced a so-called “bathroom bill” for consideration at the Texas Legislature. Senate Bill 6, aka the Texas Privacy Act, is unquestionably controversial. It would require citizens to use the restroom associated with the gender on their birth certificate. Patrick said in a statement that “this issue is not about discrimination — it’s about public safety.” But others disagree, saying it discriminates against transgender Texans and that it could be bad for business. Other states that have adopted similar laws have faced the withdrawal of major events from their cities.

We explore the economic implications of the proposed bill with Phillip Jones, president and CEO of Visit Dallas. The organization is part of a campaign called Texas Welcomes All, a coalition of businesses and tourism industry leaders aimed at promoting diversity in order to help Texas businesses, Then we hear from Dr. David D. Schein, director of graduate programs at the Cameron School of Business at the University of St. Thomas.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

We take a closer look at the play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which is onstage at the Hobby Center through Jan. 29.

Houston Matters offers a free daily, downloadable podcast here, on iTunes, Stitcher and various other podcasting apps.

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