In Georgia, you can turn on the television right now — "right now" being defined as any time of day before the Jan. 5 U.S. Senate runoffs in that state — and find a political ad.
"Everybody is coming here," Cameron McWhirter, an Atlanta-based staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal, recently told students in Ms. Gately's AP Government class. He added that an estimated half a billion dollars is being spent in what are intense and divisive races that will determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.
McWhirter spoke with Thayer English and History classes (virtually, via Zoom) as part of the Benelli Writing Center's Visiting Writers Series, which was originated in 2014 by Upper School History Faculty and BWC Director Karen Jersild. He discussed the recent presidential election, the ongoing Georgia runoffs, the power and the responsibilities of the media, and the inherent dangers in a politics where facts themselves are in dispute. In between one of his class visits, McWhirter spoke to Georgia's embattled governor.
The journalist and author urged students to "read everything with a careful eye" and said one of his biggest concerns is people who go to their respective corners and self-select the news they want to hear.
"That's what we should be worried about," he told Gately's class.
Asked how reporters like himself should handle this new reality, McWhirter said he believes that "repeating facts, repeating the truth, ultimately wins."
"People don't buy The Wall Street Journal because they're interested in my opinion," he said. "They want to see facts."
He also emphasized many of the interesting parts of his job, including meeting new people and learning about different topics. Interviewing people, he said, is something he enjoys.
"Most people want to talk to you," he said. "Most people want to tell their story."
A 10-year veteran at The Wall Street Journal, McWhirter covers regional politics and news from Atlanta. He is the author of Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America.