A new visiting professor was introduced to the college on Tuesday, Feb. 9 in the Honors Center by the Department of Digital Media & Journalism, the James H. Ottaway Sr. Visiting Professorship in Journalism and the Honors Program.
Eyal Press, the 2016 Ottaway Professor, is an author and journalist who will be teaching a course this semester titled “Reporting on Divisive Subjects.” The class is designed to expose students to notable journalists who have explored topics in which opinion is strongly divided and teach students how to report on polarizing issues.
“This is an exciting program. I like events like this,” said President Donald P. Christian who was present at the event and talked with Press. “We have wonderful faculty and not to underrate them but a full-time journalist like Press impresses me and brings new light to the school as a visiting professor.”
When Press is not teaching his class controversial topics in journalism magazines such as the debate of whether a journalist should be objective or subjective, he writes for The Nation and The New York Times.
“What gets clicked and shared has personality in it, has a voice, and people respond to that,” said Press at the event, touching upon his style of writing and intentions in the world of journalism.
Press has written two books: “Absolute Convictions,” which was awarded Booklist Editor’s Choice of the Year, and “Beautiful Souls.”
“We admire people who stand by their principles,” Press said. “But in actuality society finds these types of people troubling.” In Hebrew, the term “beautiful soul” means “bleeding heart,” which reflects the views of the characters as sensitive and willing to cause discourse in society, best seen in an Israeli soldier who refuses to serve in the occupied territories, as told by the book.
Going forward, Press is working on a third book detailing the world of moral dilemmas and how people are spun. Additionally, he is in the process of producing several magazine stories, one of which involves prisons and will be published by The New Yorker.
A question posed at the event was “Can you lie to a source?” Press answered, “I believe I need to get the story,” continuing that he sees the ends justify the means when it comes down to deceiving a source.
In one scenario, Press met up with a Catholic woman in Buffalo who was pro-life to talk about her views in contribution to a piece he was writing. Press identifies as pro-choice but needed her side of the argument and therefore initially neglected to inform her of his position let alone his background: the son of a man who worked at a well-known abortion clinic in Buffalo. Eventually she figured him out, but luckily he got the story.
“You should always make the best argument possible for the other side,” Press said. He mentioned that he tells his students this frequently because the key is to put yourself in their shoes, which will strengthen your reporting regardless of whether or not you agree.
“It’s been interesting and fun so far. I’ve enjoyed interacting with students and other professors who are passionate about journalism,” Press said about his time here so far. “As a writer you work alone so working here is a great relief. I engage with students and teach what I love.”