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Q&A with Daniel Lippman: Impact Journalism

Daniel Lippman is a reporter for POLITICO and a co-author of POLITICO’s Playbook. He sat down with Firespring and spoke to us about Impact Journalism.

Journalism is often referred to the “fourth estate.” As a journalist, what is your role in ensuring reporting remains authentic and impactful to your readers?

I wake up with the mission to tell my readers the story of what’s truly going on in Washington and in politics, and I do it without any preconceived agenda. I just want to shed light on what’s actually happening behind the scenes in the corridors of power. That usually means un-packaging the sausage being made in D.C. and holding those in power accountable for their actions. They would, of course, rather have their own narratives drive their message, but because mainstream media is independent, we’re a check on their power. I also hear from readers all day long about what they’re interested in and what they are curious for me to dig into and investigate further.

What part does journalism play in community dialogue and influence?

We in the media are narrating the first draft of history, and people look to us to understand the events around them, especially in the age of Donald Trump with a super-fast, 24-7 news environment. The newsletter I co-write, POLITICO Playbook, is a way for those in the beltway and circles of power, politics and public policy to send signals and messages to each other. Playbook is a communal forum for our readers because they view themselves as movers and shakers in their fields. If you want everyone in D.C. to know something, you try to send a message through Playbook.

Recently, brands have made a concerted effort to demonstrate the social impact they are making within their communities. As a reporter, does an authentic internal culture encourage stronger brand loyalty for you?

I try not to think too much about brand loyalty for myself personally. But what I can say is that the topic du jour for many in corporate America is to make their companies as socially responsible as possible because both their customers and employees demand it. That can often be tricky because companies are money-making operations at heart. But companies that are more socially responsible are usually engaging in these efforts at least in part to keep their customers happy and because it benefits their bottom line—and also gives them more of a credibility runway when, at some point, a company has a crisis, which unfortunately seems almost inevitable for most. (The caveat to that is there are a number of customers who believe companies shouldn’t think too much about social responsibility and brands should just focus on making a good product. As in the old saw, good government is good politics.) I’m lucky to work in journalism, which is inherently a socially conscious profession. So, every day we have a responsibility to inform and educate society at large, which is a public service of its own.

How does journalism continue to be an unbiased agent of change and conversation in a credible fashion with the continued rise of social media?

Social media is an outlet for us to promote our stories to a bigger audience in a more personal, intimate manner. The core of reporting has stayed the same: building sources and using them to obtain accurate information has not changed that much with social media. My biggest reporting tool is my phone, and I make dozens of calls every day to people to ask them what’s going on. That said, it seems wise for journalists to remember to refrain from too much commentary and stick to reporting facts whether on social media or in the pages/pixels/airwaves of their main journalistic outlets.

What is the conversation occurring in newsrooms about how to adapt to the need to report quickly in an ever-shifting news cycle, yet deliver provoking long-form journalism?

This is one of the perpetual struggles at the core of modern journalism. Many journalists love to devote lots of time to long-form features, but the news often interrupts you when you’re in the middle of a longer story. And readers want news delivered immediately, as does the business model that’s developed with the rise of online journalism at the expense of print. POLITICO’s attempt at resolving this tension is to publish all kinds of journalism: we have a breaking news team that’s covering breaking events in the political news cycle, and we have many other reporters who are covering beats, working on scoops and writing features and investigative stories.

If you want to learn more about what authenticity means for your business, you can read our blog post, Authenticity in a Hyper-Curated Age


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