By Natalie Adams
Eileen Murphy, Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications for the New York Times, discussed her role within the news industry, how she responds to accusations of “fake news,” and tips on how to stand out as an employee or intern, while visiting Arundel on Friday, March 8th.
Murphy, who currently lives in Manhattan, is from Long Island, New York and attended St. John’s University in Queens. She explained that she was not exactly a stellar student in school and originally never planned to go into journalism, but was inspired by one of her college professors. Murphy got an internship with NBC while in college and explained, “one job led to another,” which resulted in her working for news organizations full time and eventually the New York Times, starting in 2010.
While discussing how she got into journalism, Murphy stated that she had several temporary positions before getting hired permanently. She explained, “I always made sure that people knew I was interested in learning more,” and that bosses notice who stays late and puts in extra effort. She said the best thing you can do is “ask questions…ask people how they got started, ask them what they do… just show people you’re interested.” Murphy emphasized to students they should never be afraid to ask questions, even if they are just an intern, because that kind of involvement will make them stand out. She also stated that no matter what field students choose to go into, “everyone has ten percent of their job that they hate,” and recommended that, as an employee or intern, students should figure out what their boss does not like to do and find a way to do it for them.
As Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications, Murphy’s job is to “speak on behalf of the [New York Times] to the outside world.” She does “crisis communications,” which entails correcting and apologizing for any errors in reporting done by the New York Times. In relation to claims of “fake news” that the New York Times receives, Murphy explained that a team is organized to investigate the claim and if it is determined that an error was in fact made, which is not always the case, she then works on how to resolve the issue. “There’s reactive PR and proactive PR,” said Murphy, and her job requires both.
Murphy commented that there has been a striking increase in “fake news” recently, which she attributes to social media, like Twitter. She explained that information and opinions are shared instantly through social media, which leads to consumers following unreliable sources. Murphy recommended students be extremely careful with what they post on social media, a point that she also emphasizes with colleagues and interns at the New York Times.
Another source of “fake news” Murphy touched on was bias within the industry. When asked what bias exists within the New York Times, Murphy responded that it began as a metropolitan-focused paper and transformed into a national and now global news source. She explained that this history contributed to the New York Times having a slight bias toward metropolitan issues. However, Murphy stated, “I think your bias sometimes impacts how you read a story,” and that people tend to follow sources that confirm their beliefs. Murphy stated, “I think we need to challenge ourselves and read stories from all different points of view,” as a possible solution to the issue. She also explained, “everybody has a bias,” but, “it’s the job of a journalist to keep that bias in the background and not let it impact their work.”
Murphy explained that even though her path through journalism was not a direct one, she “wouldn’t change it for anything,” because “journalism has the opportunity to shine a light on a lot of problems.” She said, “the primary reason that people work for the New York Times is that they believe in its mission,” and that is true throughout journalism.