NPR reporter Sarah McCammon keynotes “It’s All Politics” event
Sarah McCammon, NPR’s lead reporter for Trump’s campaign for presidency, provided an analysis of the nation’s political climate during the 2016 presidential and midterm elections at KRCU’s “It’s All Politics” event on Nov. 13 in the Wehking Alumni Building.
McCammon stressed the role of journalism in society and the importance in objective and nonprofit journalism that is here to “serve the public, not to push an agenda.”
“To me, ultimately, journalism is such an important function of a democratic society,” McCammon said. “It’s such an important part of watchdogging those in power and providing a platform for people to have civil discussion.”
While covering the Trump campaign and the White House for four months, McCammon said she saw many precursors for what she would see for the following year and a half, and even today. People at Trump rallies expressed to her that they were uncomfortable with the way the country was changing and they didn’t feel safe anymore. She said they were frustrated with the “status-quo” and wanted something different, but at the same time, feared cultural change.
She said Trump would try to undermine the legitimacy of the press and question institutions.
McCammon said these are things that have only intensified since the campaign and the way people are feeling now are “echoes of patterns we saw in 2016.”
One pattern that was especially prominent during this election and in 2016 was the intensifying urban/rural divide and lack of trust in the government and media, McCammon said. Both sides could not understand how the other side could vote for their candidate.
“We seem to have almost two different cultures, two different views of the world, all in one country,” McCammon said.
However, just as the 2016 election had its patterns, the 2018 midterms may have shed light on new patterns. There are more women and people of color in Congress than ever before, which McCammon said is a huge factor.
“How does our public policy shift as more women and people of color, who traditionally have been underrepresented, slowly make these gains?” McCammon asked.
The Democrat side seemed to have a lot of energy at the midterms and optimism about some of the up and coming candidates, McCammon said, but they have a lot of work to do in the next few years in selecting a candidate for 2020 and figuring out an effective platform.
McCammon said the Democrats could use their newly elected majority in the House of Representatives as a way to “double-down” on holding the presidency accountable. However, many moderate Democrats ran on the message of inclusion, so they may attempt to bridge the gap and bring the country back together.
McCammon attributes her interest in objective journalism to the way she was raised. She explained how as a native of Kansas City, Missouri, who grew up in a conservative evangelical home, she was raised around a lot of strong opinions, which inclined her to try to understand why people think and believe the things they do.
“Somebody asked me — regarding my background — if I was a spy for conservatives. My answer is: I’m a journalist and ultimately my particular background and my particular beliefs — whatever they may be — are only relevant to the extent that we all come from somewhere and where we come from shapes our understanding of the world,” McCammon said.
She also was raised listening to a lot of NPR and people such as Rush Limbaugh, and said that exposure pushed her toward objective journalism.
“I became a journalist because I’m most interested in the questions and a lot less interested in trying to tell everybody the answers,” McCammon said.
She has received numerous regional and national journalism awards, including the Atlanta Press Club’s Excellence in Broadcast Radio Reporting honor in 2015, and her coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign earned her an invitation inside a closed-door meeting between evangelical leaders and Trump.
McCammon originally was hired as a political reporter for NPR in 2015, but now says she does a little bit of everything. She is currently covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions for NPR’s national desk and her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights and the intersection of politics and religion.
“It’s a fascinating time to be covering and following politics,” McCammon said.