"PBS NewsHour" anchor Judy Woodruff speaks at Trinity University. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Faced with an onslaught of news and information, some of which is not credible, citizens need to pay close attention and make informed decisions, said Judy Woodruff, a veteran journalist and news anchor of more than three decades.

Best known as the anchor of “PBS NewsHour,” Woodruff spoke at Trinity University’s Laurie Auditorium on Tuesday night as part of the university’s Maverick lecture series. 

Her speech centered on the state of the news media and the most recent developments in Washington, D.C., the impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, and the 2020 presidential election. 

Before the lecture, Woodruff said that it’s important for her to use such speaking opportunities to “talk about what’s currently happening, because that’s what I do – I’m a daily journalist.”

Woodruff, who is also the managing editor of “PBS NewsHour,” said her aim is to “talk to some extent about where I see the news media going and what kind of shape I see it in.”

“Journalism,” she said, “just plays such an important role in our democracy.”

Woodruff spoke about the impeachment proceedings underway by the House Intelligence Committee, urging the audience that this process “is something the American people have to pay attention to.”

With witnesses testifying publicly this week about events surrounding the Trump administration’s official and unofficial dealings with Ukraine, she succinctly laid out what is currently known and not really known about the accusations that Trump tried to use his influence over the Ukrainian government for political gain. 

She surmised that the U.S. House of Representatives likely will vote to impeach Trump, but the Republican-majority Senate is likely to acquit him, allowing him to remain in office.

“We will see, because what we know today is a whole lot different than what we knew just a few months ago,” Woodruff said.

Pivoting to talk about the media’s role in our democracy, Woodruff noted that “these are not times that lend themselves to clarity,” a nod to the widespread phenomenon of fake news.

Before her lecture, Woodruff told the Rivard Report that “there’s a whole lot of information floating around right now that isn’t backed up with any kind of evidence. There are new news sources that just seem to sprout up every day … and they may make claims that turn out to be untrue.

“We have to be vigilant and work hard to get as close to the truth as we can, as journalists and as citizens.”

She echoed those same sentiments in her speech, saying, “We are counting on you, the American people” to make informed decisions.

Sorting through all of the information available today is akin to “drinking out of a firehose,” she said.

Still, she said, it is necessary that citizens and journalists alike commit to the task of finding truth and weeding out untruths.

She also spoke about each of the major candidates in the crowded Democratic primary field. After sharing some relevant polls and a few cautious predictions, she cracked that she had “a strong prediction: the Democrats will pick a candidate at some point.”

The audience responded with laughter.

When asked, before the lecture, what kind of faith she had in American democracy heading into the 2020 elections, Woodruff paused only a moment before offering a measured answer.

“American democracy is fine,” she said, “but that doesn’t mean we don’t have some hard work to do, that doesn’t mean we don’t have to be vigilant.”

James Courtney

James Courtney

James Courtney is a freelance arts and culture journalist in San Antonio. He also is a poet, a high school English teacher and debate coach, and a proud girl dad.