Rappahannock resident Leslie Cockburn’s talk was titled “Fake News and False Stories” — and Cockburn has blown the lid off of a lot of both during her journalistic career. Just as (real) news was breaking in Big Washington last Friday evening that ultimately led to the National Security Adviser’s resignation days later, Cockburn spoke before a packed house at the Little Washington Theatre.
The Trump presidency was a recurring theme at this “Second Friday” talk, which outgrew the series’ usual venue at the library and included lively participation from the audience of about 200. “Trump’s use of fake news is so bold, so blatant,” but government attempts to manipulate the news are far from new, Cockburn said, recounting her experiences covering U.S. involvement in Nicaragua and Iraq, among other places. “For 35 years, my job was trying to figure out what was true,” the former “60 Minutes” and “Frontline” producer said. Now, in the Facebook age, should dubious news sources be regulated? An emphatic no, said Cockburn. “I think we need free speech.”