Matt Lauer is a failure of a journalist

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks with 'Today' show co-anchor Matt Lauer at the NBC Commander-In-Chief Forum held at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space museum aboard the decommissioned aircraft carrier Intrepid, New York, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

On Wednesday, September 7, NBC hosted a presidential forum moderated by Matt Lauer on the Intrepid in Washington D.C. The forum was supposed to be a discussion of United States national security issues to help characterize the differences between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The night did not end up as a simple forum, but instead as a platform for Trump to continue to spew his vitriol. Lauer let the forum get completely out of control and failed as a journalist.

Matt Lauer is a veteran television journalist and one of the hosts of the Today Show. He is one of the well-known television personalities to host a forum during the national presidential campaign trail. As a “veteran” journalist, Matt Lauer should know how to ask unbiased questions and challenge both candidates, as it is important for voters to hear both sides. Lauer did the opposite of that. He spent almost two-thirds of his 30 minutes with Hillary Clinton grilling her about her email scandal. When an audience member was finally able to ask a question, Lauer decided to remind Clinton that time was scarce and she had to answer as quickly as possible.

With Trump, it was as though Lauer was a different person. Lauer asked Trump questions that many would consider to be easy, and allowed him to ramble on and on without ever telling Trump that he was short on time. Lauer never interrupted Trump or asked him to be more direct, something that he did to Clinton multiple times throughout the forum. Worse than all of these things, however, Matt Lauer did nothing to actually fact check Trump. When Trump said that he never supported the Iraq war, Lauer was silent, although his statement has been disproved multiple times.

Matt Lauer is an experienced journalist who has been working for more than 20 years in his field. Somebody with his experience should know how to conduct an unbiased interview, figure out both sides of a story and ask balanced questions. Instead, he showed his bias. For whatever reason, he decided that his questions would be directly pointed at giving Clinton a tough time while letting Trump off the hook.

It is hard to find a valid explanation for this. Lauer only focused on the controversial, hot topics that everyone has been talking about. At a forum discussing the defense and use of military, Lauer spent almost no time letting Clinton actually talk about the use of military. This may have helped raise his own rating, but it nothing to help the public make any real decisions.

Journalists have a duty to inform the public about what is happening in the world. They have a job to tell untold stories, not repeat the old. Good journalists talk about all of the issues that people should know about. Even if they are not as interesting or good for ratings, they are important. Matt Lauer had duty as a journalist to host the most unbiased news forum that he could. Journalists have a duty to write about the truth and to fact-check when a blatant lie is told. Lauer didn’t do that. Instead Lauer let the chance at fame get the better of him. He helped contribute to the endless number of complaints against Clinton and the rapid support for Trump.

Journalists have a job to tell the story. Matt Lauer had the job to give an unbiased forum that would help allow people to make a decision on who they want to vote for president. Lauer had the chance to add to a great story about the election. Instead of reporting on a story, Lauer became the story. He didn’t fact-check Trump and he pushed Clinton harder than anyone else. In that respect, Lauer is a failure of a journalist.          


Amar Batra is a senior staff photographer and opinion’s contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email amar.batra@uconn.edu.