Brian Fallon, former national press secretary for Hillary Clinton’s LAW ’73 presidential campaign, joined a crowd of over 50 people in William L. Harkness Hall on Tuesday evening to discuss the need for new communication strategies in the age of social media.
Throughout the discussion, Fallon argued that the country must adapt to an environment in which people are increasingly turning to social media rather than traditional news sources for reliable information. Editors in chief from the campus publication The Politic, which organized and moderated the event, kicked off the talk by asking Fallon a series of questions before they opened the floor to other attendees. Questions touched on a variety of topics, including Fallon’s experience on the Clinton campaign and his current position as a political commentator for CNN.
“I think, overall, progressives need to figure out ways to break through what they call the ‘filter bubble,’” Fallon said. “Media polarization is not new … but social media has certainly accentuated it. And so it behooves all of us to figure out ways to consume information from all kinds of different sources and help ensure that our neighbors and friends are not just hearing and listening to things that come from their like-minded social circles.”
Fallon often reiterated what he sees as an important strategy for media “in the era of fake news.” Although some have criticized news outlets like CNN for inviting Trump surrogates to discuss politics on air, Fallon defended this as an effective approach because it allows more progressive political figures to scrutinize White House arguments before the American public.
“I think we are much better served by having more forums where [news outlets] bring two sides together and allow you to duke it out,” he said.
He also described the difficulty of publicly discussing political issues during the 2016 presidential campaign, especially when competing with then-Republican nominee Donald Trump’s frequent statements sent on Twitter. In regards to the news media in general, Fallon noted a shift from traditional political reporting toward a sports-style coverage in which news outlets focused more on “the horse race than what is actually at stake.” He attributed much of Trump’s success in both primary and general presidential elections to his ability to provoke audiences and set himself apart from other candidates.
Co-Editor-in-Chief of The Politic Madeleine Colbert ’18 said the event presented a good opportunity to talk not just about day-to-day news, but more broadly about how people consume news.
New Haven resident and attendee Ed Pikaart said he attended the talk out of curiosity about Yale students’ education in “a rapidly changing world” and because he was familiar with Fallon’s CNN commentary. He said that in his opinion, Fallon’s most important point concerned what Pikaart sees as the largest challenge facing the country: the phenomenon of “fake news” and the general distrust by the public of both mainstream news sources and White House statements.
Prior to joining the Clinton campaign, Fallon served as director of public affairs for former Attorney General Eric Holder.