Incoming Georgetown University freshman Gabe Fleisher (COL ’24) joined a panel of student journalists on a “Meet the Press” roundtable May 28 to scrutinize universities’ plans and policies for the fall semester.
Moderated by “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd, “Meet the Press: College Roundtable” features panel discussions with college journalists, focusing in particular on issues affecting higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic. The five-part series will air weekly on NBC News’ YouTube channel and Snapchat, and on NBCUniversal’s streaming service, Peacock. For the program’s pilot episode, Fleisher and two other college journalists questioned Howard University President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick and University of Arizona President Dr. Robert C. Robbins about their plans to reopen their universities.
Fleisher said he hoped to highlight relevant student issues surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic on the program.
“I know students across the country have a lot of questions and concerns about going back to college in the fall and think many universities haven’t really answered them,” Fleisher wrote in an email to The Hoya. “I’m particularly interested in pressing both college presidents about what makes them confident it is safe to return for in-person classes and whether they think the price of university tuition should be lowered if some classes and experiences are going to be altered because of coronavirus.”
Fleisher, who plans to major in government and minor in journalism, has acquired significant fame in the realm of political journalism for his “Wake Up To Politics” podcast and daily newsletter. The newsletter, which boasts 50,000 daily readers, summarizes and analyzes U.S. political news. In 2019, Fleisher scooped news of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s (D) presidential campaign bid, derailing DeBlasio’s intricately planned launch.
Despite the common distinction between professional and student journalism, students produce valuable and commendable reporting, according to Fleisher.
“Student journalists are still journalists, full stop — and so many of them are producing amazing work that is breaking news and shedding light on important stories,” Fleisher wrote in an email to The Hoya. “No one’s journalism should be discounted because of their age or level of education; instead, everyone’s work should be considered equally and regarded as impressive and important no matter if the journalist is a student or a ‘professional journalist.’”
During the 20-minute conversation, Fleisher pressed Frederick on Howard’s reopening policy and the university’s plans to ensure student safety. Student journalists Sami Sparber from the University of Texas at Austin and Aiyana Ishmael from Florida A&M University followed up with inquiries about the presidents’ plans to maintain student health and attract prospective students. In response, Frederick and Robbins mulled over different plans and possibilities for in-person instruction.
College journalists can fill an important informational void and serve their localities as local print newspapers continue to flounder, according to Todd.
“With more local news outlets going out of business or drastically cutting back their coverage, student run college papers are going to be an important source of accountability for these growing news deserts,” Todd wrote in an email to The Hoya. “There’s a need for robust local journalism and college students who are aspiring professional journalists can fill a real need.”
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, student journalists have an invaluable role in reporting on student issues and ensuring university accountability, according to Fleisher.
“Additionally, since colleges are being watched incredibly closely for how they plan to respond to the pandemic, I think the situation offers a perfect opportunity for student journalists to hold their college administrations accountable and bring answers for their peers,” Fleisher wrote.