ABC’s John Quiñones in Madison for UW-Madison’s Diversity

Modern Day News
By Jonathan Gramling

John Quiñones, ABC News correspondent and host of What Would You Do, is an All-American
success story. A fifth-generation Mexican American from San Antonio, Texas, Quiñones went from
helping his parents pick crops as migrant farmworkers to first generation college student through
the Upward Bound program and earned a BA in speech communication and a master’s in journalism
from the Columbia University School of Journalism. Quiñones worked his way up through the world
of broadcasting from his first job as a radio news editor in Houston, Texas to WBBM-TV in Chicago to
ABC News in 1982.Quiñones visited Madison on November 2-3 to be the keynote speaker at UW-
Madison’s Division of Diversity, Equity and Educational Achievement’s Diversity Forum.

The Capital City Hues was able to interview Quiñones the night before. The following are excerpts
from the interview:

On the challenge of journalism during the Trump presidency
ABC Newsman John Quiñones (r) with Wisconsin Institutes for
Discovery Development Director Derrick Smith at a reception
before UW-Madison’s Diversity Forum
“It’s made us bolder. It’s made us more committed to telling the truth because that is what it comes down to. Journalism is all about muck racking, getting out there
and finding out whether what the government is telling us is true or not and letting the chips fall where they may. I think it’s been emboldened. I don’t cover politics
personally, but the folks at the White House, they are on over drive, fact-checking and shining a light on what might not be true sometimes.”

On the divergent reporting of facts
“We’re under attack in many ways. When the president calls the media ‘The Enemy of the People,’ that puts a target on our backs. And people believe that. That’s
what is most distressing to me, not that one person can spew these things without any real basis, but that there are folks who believe that and follow that and
applaud that. It’s a tough time for journalists in this country. I’m really proud of my colleagues who are out there day and night trying to do the best they can. But you
are right. The truth is now ill-defined.”

On the attacks on the media
“You have to be really careful these days. Again, I’m not at the rallies and covering politics. But there are people like Jim Acosta from CNN who have been accosted
by folks who think that he is not telling the truth or that CNN is not telling the truth or ABC or CBS or NBC. They do have to be more careful. But again, my hat goes off
to them because despite all of the threats, they are persevering. It doesn’t make sense because really all we are trying to do is enlighten the American people.”

The blurring of the line between editorial and objective reporting
“I think the demarcation line between editorial and regular storytelling has absolutely gotten blurred. The fact is you watch Fox and in many ways, it is very pro-
Trump. But you watch CNN and they are real antagonists. I happen to think that folks at CNN are really trying harder to get at the truth. But the fact is that so much of
what they do comes across as anti-Republican or anti-Trump. You have now people on television saying things and taking an editorial stand that wasn’t the case
when I started. When I started, we had Ted Koppel on Nightline. It was a great debate show. But you knew that Ted was solid as a journalist. He wasn’t taking sides.
He would say it with all respect. Now we’ve lost a lot of that. And a lot of people who are coming across as journalists on television are really editorializing to the
right or to the left. And I think the American public then is confused or, with good reason, starts saying, ‘I don’t believe you because you are on one side or the other.’
The line is very blurred.”

The fracturing of the news audience
“The large broadcasts have the largest audience of the evening news. David Muir, who is our anchor, is the leader in the ratings and the number of people watching
us. But there is no denying that the viewership has gone down every year at the networks because now the viewer has so much more to choose from. We used to
come home and watch Peter Jennings or Tom Brokaw or Dan Rather on the 5:30 p.m. news. Now we get news on our phones. So we no longer have to rush home
and find out what has happened in the world today. We get it immediately. Also there are how many channels, a thousand channels on cable and streaming
services? Everyone is a journalist it seems. There are blogs now. I think it is good that we have so much coverage out there, but you have to consider the source.
And many times, the people writing these things are not trained journalists and you have to be very careful of where the source of your news is coming from. But
there is no denying that viewership has slowly gone done. We’re lucky at ABC to have shows that do very well starting with David Muir on the evening news and of
course on Good Morning America and Nightline.”

Staying true to the mission of the media
“I think the way around that is if we just stay true to the mission of broadcasting and writing stories that challenge the authorities where they are wrong and applaud
them when they are right. And if it is a matter of national security, be careful not to jeopardize that. The great anchors like Peter Jennings, Dan Rather, Barbara
Walters, Walter Cronkite and Diane Sawyer had such credibility because they never violated that trust. And in journalism, that is all we have is our integrity. As soon
as we say something that can be perceived as taking sides or being one way or the other or screaming at the authorities, we start to lose some of that and the
American public no longer believe in us. I think that is what is happening. We’re so divided on television now. I don’t think that is the case certainly at the three
major networks. I think the news divisions are still doing a great job. But when you have news 24 hours per day, whether it is MSNBC or CNN or Fox, you’re bound
to have commentators who loudly take one side or the other and I think that angers the viewer. And there is a sense of mistrust.”

Maintaining integrity
“People want to make such a pronouncement of yourself as a journalist and attract attention to yourself, that you become famous for it. The problem is the camera
doesn’t blink as Dane Rather once wrote. It doesn’t blink. It captures you for what you are. And I think the viewers can tell when someone who is pretending to be
bringing them the news is faking it or doing it for his own aggrandizement if you will. But there is some of that. We can become so obsessed with eyeballs and
getting the most number of eyeballs out there that sometimes we lose sight ourselves of the mission that we have, which in the end, again, all about just telling the
truth, telling the truth as clearly you can and as honestly as you can.”