Last Thursday, Audrey Cooper, Editor-in-Chief of the San Francisco Chronicle, visited the University of San Francisco’s Master of Arts in Professional Communication program as part of the Spring Speaker Series event at the downtown campus.
Audrey was the first woman in the 152-year history of the San Francisco Chronicle to lead as Editor-in-Chief. When Audrey was appointed to her role in 2015, she was the youngest woman ever named as top editor for a major U.S. newspaper-based company. San Francisco magazine called her one of the city’s most powerful women. Editor & Publisher magazine named her one of the world’s Top 10 Women to Watch, and Advertising Age named her one of their Top 40 under 40. Audrey has been featured in Cosmopolitan magazine’s 50 Fearless Women as well.
Audrey prioritized investigative, explanatory journalism, and she restarted her newsroom’s investigative team. In her role, Audrey also developed an in-house incubator program to explore new types of digital journalism.
We are living in the age of relentless, round-the-clock news cycles where a constant stream of news is being thrown at us all the time. With the rise of fake news, news media has faced high levels of distrust.
It is a challenging time to be a journalist, let alone a leader of one of the most renowned newspapers in California. During her talk, Audrey shared this inspiring quote that she recalls daily.
“We must be alarmingly enterprising and startlingly original. We must be honest and fearless. And we must spark a revolution.” – William Randolph Hearst, 1887
As the Chronicle’s leader and Editor-in-Chief, Audrey lives by this statement and leads the institution to bring forth transparency and deliver honest information to the San Francisco community.
Audrey highlighted that journalism ethics is what distinguishes actual journalism from journalism platforms like social media that are out there. These platforms are changing the habit of news seeking and increasingly making individuals lazy and unmotivated to seek out richer information.
Social media platforms are not providing individuals with informed opinions. Therefore, news journalism should be informative, encouraging debate, and not just providing good news because news should not always align with your beliefs. Ethical news is about reporting honest stories that are both informational and empowering.
And when it comes to social media, fake news is becoming inevitable. Audrey believes that propaganda can be true, but fake news was created as clickbait and to reinforce political intent. To counteract fake news from a journalism standpoint, Audrey suggested that proving sources, elaborating on how the news is reported, and being transparent as well as thorough with the process of reporting is key in her journalism ethics and practice.