BPR Interviews: Davis Richardson

Davis Richardson is a freelance journalist and media strategist whose reporting has been featured in Vice, Business Insider, Fox News, the Washington Examiner, and Wired. He is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and an alumni of the America’s Future Foundation’s Writing Fellows Program. At Sarah Lawrence he studied political theory and writing and held internships with Interview Magazine, IFC Films, AOL, and the U.S. House of Representatives.

BPR: As a freelance journalist, how do you capitalize on the freedom the internet grants to spread political views? What about our political climate has made unregulated Internet news sources so popular?

DR: It’s great but there are a lot of problems. I think that we’re living through a Renaissance period, where technology is improving rapidly and we don’t yet know how to communicate effectively with it. There’s an influx of stimulating and intellectual content out there. There’s a breakdown with young millennials when it comes to political affiliations. The traditional two party system has been shattered. You have Progressives, Establishment Democrats, Establishment Republicans, Neo-[Conservatives], and Alt-Right Trumpians. I want to be someone who goes from one environment to the other. I have progressive views and Republican views, so I’m trying to navigate how those manifest themselves in different stand-alone ecosystems to cross-pollinate ideas that the other side wouldn’t necessarily have gotten.

BPR: Journalism as a field has historically been controlled by the rich and powerful. As journalism becomes more accessible, could or should any system be devised to preserve the basic freedom of creating journalistic content while avoiding any negative consequences?

DR: I think it’s impossible right now, because at the end of the day, that comes down to the consumer. At the end of the day, media is a good in a market that we consume. Do the [consumers] want to get both sides? Do they want to get that cross-pollination of different ideologies and beliefs, or would they prefer to remain in their stand-alone ecosystem? There was a great piece in the New York Times Magazine that looked at how Russia was leveraging a lot of that animosity and it’s interesting how they’re inflaming both sides of the spectrum. We think of [this issue] because of the Trump and Russia ties—alleged Russia ties—that [the influence] is more so on the right, but it’s spreading on the left as well. So it’s not that I think policing shouldn’t happen, but it can’t happen right now, and I can’t say I know what it could look like.

BPR: There’s always been audience-centric, sensationalistic reporting, and it’s worsened as technology has become accessible to more radicalized groups. Do you see the radicalization of the media continuing, or will something bring us to demand more balanced reporting?

DR: I actually started writing a piece [arguing] that eventually we’re going to see a backlash from the tribal nature of partisan politics. Unfortunately, my thesis was completely wrong. Everyone I spoke to disagreed with me, and it’s actually getting significantly worse. And that’s just the reality. It’s more and more people wanting to create their own echo-chambers. And we’re only going to see more of that. That being said, I do think that there’s an uptick in investigative reporting that has been surging since Trump’s election. So maybe this is [the backlash].