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CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski Visits JAMS Students, Talks Journalism in 2017

By Adam Zaki

Published: February 22nd, 2017

In Professor Jason Silverstein’s “Tools of Storytelling” class on Friday, the senior editor and founder of CNN’s KFILE Andrew Kaczynski provided insight on how to scavenge the Internet for information on anybody, from any time. While discussing how he got to CNN and what he and his team do there, Kaczynski gave students an opportunity to learn firsthand from one of the pioneers in modern journalism.

A college dropout, Kaczynski attended both Ohio University and St. John’s University, but never received a degree from either institution. Instead, his career began on YouTube, after he started posting old videos of politicians saying contrary things to their contemporary positions. Kaczynski was hired by BuzzFeed in 2011 after his videos which included findings on presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney produced viral reactions.

Kaczynski’s most recent viral findings were old recordings of The Howard Stern Show, on which President Donald Trump has appeared numerous times over the last few decades. Several heinous quotes by Trump were found in these tapes and were used against Trump during his campaign. Stern adamantly denied leaking the tapes on his show, and his claim was deemed to be true; it was Kaczynski and his team that were able to dig up the tapes from the internet and publicize Trump’s comments.

“Don’t assume people have done the work, it is often just there,” said Kaczynski, who has made a career off of digging through the internet for dirt on those in the limelight. Kaczynski preached taking initiative, and really taking the time with sorting through sources to find facts.

“I double, triple check everything,” said Kaczynski, whose findings have embarrassed many politicians throughout Washington. U.S. Senator Rand Paul even challenged Kaczynski to a duel in 2013 when Kaczynski accused Paul of plagiarizing speeches from Wikipedia. This moment is commemorated on Kaczynski’s Twitter bio, which reads, “Once challenged to a duel by Rand Paul. Likes Cats.”

“I thought what was most intriguing about [Kaczynski] is that he embodies everything a journalist should be, someone who informs the public of the truth,” said Sandy Mui, a student in Silverstein’s class. “He does this by using unconventional methods. Rather than reporting about current events, [he] digs much farther back to find the unpopular truth that he brings to light.”

After telling students about the various types of software and government resources that are accessible to anyone with an internet connection, Kaczynski provided information and words of wisdom to JAMS students who are not only studying contemporary journalism, but are studying journalism’s function in 2017 and beyond.

Now in charge of his own team at CNN, Kaczynski called the arrival to the media conglomerate “a good move” after being asked whether or not he felt he had sold out after leaving BuzzFeed.  “One thing led to the next,” said Kaczynski, who now is in charge of what is arguably the most unique and innovative form of journalism currently being practiced.

Kaczynski’s hour lecture concluded with a 30-minute question and answer session with students. His appearance was followed by a hands-on exercise that involved performing digital archive internet research, as students were able to practice what Kaczynski and his team do on a daily basis.

The future of journalism is dependent on individuals such as Kaczynski who use the internet as a source of truth, policing politicians and their statements. As JAMS students at Brooklyn College are learning the most contemporary journalism curriculum Brooklyn College has to offer, a hands-on interaction with a trailblazer of the industry is an experience that students in Silverstein’s class will remember throughout their journeys through the field of journalism.

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