COLUMBIA, Mo. (Oct. 14, 2022) — Major Garrett, chief Washington correspondent for CBS News, will deliver a lecture and discussion next week at the Missouri School of Journalism on the subject of the 2020 presidential election and truth in journalism. Part of the Gerald M. Boyd Lecture Series on Politics and Press Responsibility, the lecture and discussion will be held Thursday, Oct. 20 from 5:30 – 7 p.m. in the Reynolds Journalism Institute’s Palmer Room.
The topic of the lecture is drawn from his newest book, The Big Truth: Upholding Democracy in the Age of the Big Lie, which seeks to educate the public and journalists alike about the process of counting and certifying votes and the army of volunteers who make it possible. Inspired by the 2020 presidential election, in which more people voted than at any time in U.S. history, he wants to share what he has learned about the process of administering an election and what it takes to successfully manage such a high turnout during the height of a pandemic, in part as a response to the proliferation of misinformation and heated rhetoric around the subject.
“Election administration — how we cast count and verify votes — is a story worth telling, but people who write about politics tend to focus on the result of the election,” Garrett said. “I overlooked this part of the American political experience for decades, and now I’ve realized that we have filled that vacuum of knowledge with waste product. Sewage.”
Garrett’s discussion about how to replace that vacuum with facts will hardly be his first visit to the School’s campus since graduating from Mizzou with dual degrees in journalism and political science in 1984. A consistently engaged alumnus, he is the president of the Missourian Publishing Association — under which the Columbia Missourian is owned as a 501c3 non-profit — and frequently returns to the School to speak with journalism students.
“Election administration — how we cast count and verify votes — is a story worth telling, but people who write about politics tend to focus on the result of the election. I overlooked this part of the American political experience for decades, and now I’ve realized that we have filled that vacuum of knowledge with waste product. Sewage.”
This time, Garrett — who also served as a White House correspondent for Fox News and CNN prior to arriving at CBS — hopes to impress upon students the importance of reporting facts accurately, especially when covering divisive events that attract misinformation.
“Nothing matters unless you’re accurate,” he said. “Everything else is secondary. When talking about election administration, there are immovable facts about the process that can absolutely be verified.”
But his desire to share the insights he’s gained throughout more than 30 years in the industry goes deeper than his commitment to accuracy. In giving back to his alma mater, he is paying forward the education he credits for setting him on the path to success.
“The most important decision I made in my entire life, not even close, was to come to the Missouri School of Journalism,” he said. “I had a lot of ambition but not a lot of knowledge, so any time a journalist came to the J-School to speak, I stopped what I was doing to go listen to them. I basically sat at their feet and listened. Now, if I can have at least a marginally positive impact on anyone thinking about this work, it’s worth it.”
The lecture and discussion will conclude with a book-signing opportunity.
More from the School of Journalism
This event is just one of the opportunities next week for students to hear from celebrated working journalists and strategic communicators. On Oct. 19, this year’s Missouri Honor Medal honorees will hold master classes throughout the day to share experiences and lessons learned in the industry.
Updated: October 14, 2022