Temple Flags

With the ascension of Donald J. Trump to the presidency, there are more questions than ever about the relationship between the press and the nation's highest office.

The School of Media and Communication is fortunate to have one of the country's leading experts in the field on its faculty as a visiting professor.

Todd Brewster, a distinguished author, journalist and American history documentarian is teaching a course on "The Press and the Presidency" this semester.

For Brewster, who spent a decade at Time, Inc. and another at ABC news, the topic blends 21st Century technology with issues dating back to the earliest days of the republic.

"We have the same conversation in new terms in every generation," he said in an interview. "The press as a check on power has been there since the beginning."

At the same time, the press is changing and the presidency is changing.

"We've entered into a digital world," he explained. "The campaign showed us that in spades. The conventional media have been losing their supremacy in the journalistic empire for some time now. Digital media is the echo chamber.

"But those of us who are teaching need to be reminded that there are standards of journalism that need to be reinforced."

He noted that libel law is one of the hallmarks of U.S. freedom.

Brewster taught History of Electronic Media, Journalism and the Law and Law and Ethics of Digital Media in the fall semester, and came up with the idea of the Press and the Presidency, realizing it would be important and interesting but ultimately not quite as interesting as it turned out.

While much attention has been given to Trump's contentious relationship with the press, Brewster noted that both major candidates were far less accessible to the press than their predecessors.

"I felt that whoever was the new president, it would be exciting. But what I didn't know is that we would have Donald J. Trump as president, a man who has an historic hostility for the press."

A native of Clifton, N.J., Brewster grew up in Indiana and graduated from Indiana University.

From 1980 to 1991 he worked on the monthly and weekly Life magazine as a senior editor, commissioning stories, planning issues and editing and writing, including occasional pieces for Time and Sports Illustrated. Topics included national politics and the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe.

From 1994 to 2003 he was a senior editorial producer at ABC News in New York, producing two major documentary seriesĀ  with the late anchor Peter Jennings, "In Search of America" and "The Century."

He cites the latter as his proudest journalistic achievement. A companion book, which he co-authored with Jennings, sold over 1.6 million copies and was on the New York Times' Best Seller List for 48 weeks despite a $60 price tag.

The documentary, shown on ABC and the History Channel, was the longest documentary series in the history of commercial TV, some 15 hours on cable and another 12 on the network.

His 2014 book "Lincoln's Gamble" traced six months of Lincoln's presidency, from July 12, 1862 to Jan. 1, 1863, when the 16th president issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

Brewster has also served as the Don E. Ackerman Director or Oral History ay West Point, where he established a video archive featuring hundreds of interviews with veterans from World War II to recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

His earlier teaching experience includes visiting professorships at Western Connecticut State University, Cooper Union, and also at Wesleyan University, where he taught First Amendment law to undergraduates. This followed a year as a fellow at Yale Law School.

But the 2016 campaign has proved to him that teaching can be a greater challenge than before.

"The students repeatedly say to me, 'It's all biased, '"he said. "That's a dangerous thing. There are facts that don't get transformed by your point of view.

"Those of us who are teaching need to be reminded that there are standards of journalism which need to be enforced.

"It's a danger when we believe there's no there there."