ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Tom Hamburger was part of the Washington Post team that recently received the Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the Trump campaign and administration’s ties to Russia.
The recognition follows his decades of reporting in D.C. And he was honored earlier this month with an induction into Brighton High School’s Hall of Fame.
He talked with Adam during his visit about his roots and job:
Adam: There’s an opinion out there that the national press isn’t necessarily equipped to handle this kind of administration where you don’t have media briefings, you don’t any degree of cooperation, they call you the enemy of the people, what’s your response to that?
Tom: I’ve worked in Washington since the 1980s, I’ve never seen anything like this before. There’s no longer the decorum, at those White House briefings that do exist. The relationship has broken down quite considerably. Our role model goes back to Ben Bradley. And the way we respond, is sort of in the way we’ve been really (our role models suggest this) is we have a job to do. We’ve done this before. If we get attacked, we’re not going to respond in kind, we respond in the way that we always have, which is to ask questions, to keep probing, and we’re basically news reporters with a job to do.
Adam: One thing that doesn’t seem to change when I look at the polls, the average of the approval and disapproval of the president. We see all of these stories, what’s your take on what you’ve seen from your colleagues and yourselves, producing these stories, and the needle doesn’t seem to move?
Adam: So we are of course very much aware of that … and it is quite stunning, and it’s a couple of things to me. One, is that the Nixon era, you also found even as some of the most serious complaints were raised against Nixon, his popularity also held among Republicans, and some presidential historians tell us that, there was a long period when it was roughly comparable. And the approval ratings fell, dramatically after the White House tapes were released, and Republicans, including Barry Goldwater, eventually came forward and said this is serious. The public mind’s did change, there seems to be now, a much more hardened aspect to the polarization and the partisanship that we’re seeing.
Adam: How did you get your start in journalism?
Tom: I got my start at Brighton High School working at the Trapezoid newspaper. I was interested in the news as a kid, and in current affairs/public affairs and politics. And it struck me — as a kid, I remember — as a great gig, that you would get paid to do what you and I do, which is to ask people questions, satisfy your curiosity, and in a sense educate yourself and educate other people.
Adam: For newspapers, it’s obviously a tough time. The Democrat and Chronicle has seen numerous staff cuts. Where do we go from here?
Tom: There is still a lot of hunger for the news, for reliable information, and with that kind of demand there has to be a way for this to work economically, and I think that there will be a way, and my hope is that we are going to see a renaissance in the news business. We just have to figure out the economics of it.