Journalist Dan Abrams shared stories from his career, covering some of the country’s most high-profile lawsuits, while attending the Carolina Theater in Greensboro on November 2, 2022 as part of Elon Law’s Distinguished Leadership Lecture Series presented by the Joseph M. Bryan Foundation .
Journalist Dan Abrams is certain of at least three things about the American justice system and its media ecosystem:
- The mainstream news media is ideologically left-leaning and will not recognize their biases, particularly in story selection and reporting decisions – but the stories themselves are factually correct, which the right-wing media refuse to recognize.
- The ability for very wealthy people with unlimited funds to file lawsuits against news organizations over stories they don’t like, even if those stories are accurate, poses an existential threat to a free press.
- Cameras belong in the courtroom, although the likelihood of that happening in the United States Supreme Court – which bans them – is all but non-existent anytime soon.
“The reason is obvious to me,” Abrams told an audience in downtown Greensboro as the first speaker in the 2022-2023 Elon University School of Law Distinguished Leadership Lecture Series presented by the Joseph M. Bryan Foundation. “They don’t want to be recognized on the street. Period.”
Of course, Abrams said, cameras were a disadvantage for the administration of justice in the 1995 criminal case in which he is best known for his coverage on court television: The People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson.
“People should be able to see the person who represents ‘the people,'” Abrams said. “But if you want to give an example against cameras in the courtroom, it’s the OJ Simpson trial … because the lawyers were very focused on where the camera was and what the coverage was. In almost no other case is this the case. You forget the camera. The camera just sits there and people forget about it.”
Elon Law’s first community event returned to the Carolina Theater on November 2 for the first time in three years with a visit from Abrams, whose successful career has spanned coverage of several crucial trials and court cases that shaped American history.
Two hundred people attended the hour-long program, during which the media entrepreneur chatted with Elon Law Professor Enrique Armijo, a First Amendment scholar, and answered questions from viewers.
Discussion ranged from how Americans perceive the court system based on what they consume from the media, how information is shared on social media, where there are no filters to ensure its accuracy, and why he believes that Voters are tired of hearing about the January 6 Commission.
“Democrats have pleaded ‘democracy is in peril,’ and it’s not working,” Abrams said. “People care more about the economy and their wallets and crime than a theoretical comment about ‘democracy is in jeopardy’. That’s not to minimize everything. Because it’s real! The people who don’t even commit to saying they will accept the results of this election are bananas and scary. But there has to be a time, a place, and a way to talk about it so it doesn’t feel like you’re doing it just for political reasons.
“I think that’s the challenge. … I think it’s more important to look ahead than to look back.”
Abrams is CEO and Founder of Abrams Media, Host of “Dan Abrams Live” on NewsNation and “On Patrol: Live” on Reelz, Chief Legal Affairs Correspondent of ABC News, Host of SiriusXM Radio’s “The Dan Abrams Show: Where Politics Meets The Law” and host and executive producer of “Court Cam” and “Taking the Stand” on A&E Network.
He previously co-hosted ABC’s Nightline, hosted “The Abrams Report” and the acclaimed “Verdict with Dan Abrams” on MSNBC, hosted the premier series “Live PD” on A&E Network, and was senior correspondent for NBC News. Abrams was also general manager of MSNBC, where he oversaw a period of unprecedented growth.
A graduate of Columbia Law School, Abrams has published numerous articles in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, The Yale Law and Policy Review, ABCNews.com and Mediaite.com. He is co-author, with David Fisher, of several best-selling books about lesser-known processes of major importance in United States history.
The program included remarks from Elon Law Interim Dean Alan Woodlief and Leadership Fellows Vanessa Garcia L’22 and Todd Bowyer L’23. Garcia and Bowyer previously interviewed Abrams on Zoom in the days leading up to the show.
“Our 2022-23 lecture series focuses on law and media. As a journalist major, I’m particularly interested in the intersection of these two fields,” said Woodlief. “The issue is timely as we find ourselves at a time when many established institutions, including the courts and our legal system, are suspicious or skeptical. … We are pleased to have Mr. Abrams with us tonight to discuss the media’s role in explaining and demystifying our courts and legal system, and perhaps sometimes defending and sometimes holding the same institutions to account.”
Elon Law’s lecture series continues on January 19, 2023 when The View’s Sunny Hostin visits the Carolina Theater for an evening program. The series concludes on April 12, 2023 with an evening visit from FOX News’ Shannon Bream.
Both events are free and open to the public. Although tickets are not required, attendees are encouraged to come forward to let law school administrators know they are expecting them and to help send timely updates or other important information.
The Distinguished Leadership Lecture Series is an integral part of Elon Law’s commitment to learning, advocacy and leadership. Sponsored by a generous grant from the Joseph M. Bryan Foundation in Greensboro, NC, the series brings accomplished leaders from a variety of disciplines to Elon to share their experiences and perspectives with students and faculty.