Journalist Dan Abrams shared stories from a career covering some of the nation’s most high-profile legal battles when he visited the Carolina Theatre 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 sure of at least three things regarding America’s system of justice and its media ecosystem:
- The mainstream news media leans left ideologically and won’t acknowledge its bias, notably with story selection and coverage decisions – but stories themselves are factually accurate, which right-leaning media refuse to acknowledge.
- The ability for very rich people with unlimited funds to file lawsuits against news organizations for stories they don’t like, even when those stories are accurate, poses an existential threat to a free press.
- Cameras belong in the courtroom, though the chances of that happening any time soon in the Supreme Court of the United States – which prohibits them – is almost nonexistent.
“The reason is obvious to me,” Abrams told a downtown Greensboro audience as the first speaker in Elon University School of Law’s 2022-2023 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 detriment to the administration of justice in the 1995 criminal trial where he rose to prominence for his reporting on Court TV: The People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson.
“People should be able to watch the person representing ‘the people,’” Abrams said. “But if you want to use one example against cameras in the courtroom, it is the O.J. Simpson trial … because the lawyers were hyper focused on where the camera was and the coverage. That is not the case in almost any other case. You forget about the camera. The camera is just sitting there, and people forget about it.”
Elon Law’s premiere community event returned to the Carolina Theatre for the first time in three years on November 2 with a visit by Abrams, whose prolific career has included coverage of several pivotal trials and lawsuits that have shaped American history.
Two hundred people attended the hour-long program where the media entrepreneur conversed with Elon Law Professor Enrique Armijo, a scholar of the First Amendment, and answered questions from audience members.
The discussion ranged from the way Americans perceive the court system by what they consume from media, how information is shared through social media where filters don’t exist to ensure its accuracy, and why he believes voters are tired of hearing about the January 6th Commission.
“Democrats have been running on ‘democracy is at risk,’ and it’s not working,” Abrams said. “People care more about the economy and their pocketbooks and crime than they do about a theoretical comment about ‘democracy is at risk.’ That’s not to minimize it all. Because it’s real! The people who won’t even commit to saying they’ll accept the results in this election are bananas and scary. But there has to be a time and a place and a way to talk about that so it doesn’t just feel like you’re doing it for political points.
“I think that’s the challenge. … It’s more important, I think, to look forward than to look back.”
Abrams is the CEO and Founder of Abrams Media, host of “Dan Abrams Live” on NewsNation and “On Patrol: Live” on Reelz, Chief Legal Affairs Correspondent for 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-anchored ABC’s Nightline, hosted “The Abrams Report” and the acclaimed “Verdict with Dan Abrams” on MSNBC, hosted the top-rated series “Live PD” on A&E Network, and served as chief legal correspondent for NBC News. Abrams also served as general manager of MSNBC, where he presided over a period of unprecedented growth.
A graduate of Columbia Law School, Abrams has published numerous articles in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, in addition to The Yale Law and Policy Review, ABCNews.com, and Mediaite.com. He is the co-author with David Fisher of several bestselling books about lesser-known trials of importance in United States history.
The program featured remarks by Elon Law Interim Dean Alan Woodlief, as well as Leadership Fellows Vanessa Garcia L’22 and Todd Bowyer L’23. Garcia and Bowyer had previously interviewed Abrams on Zoom in the days leading up to the program.
“Our 2022-23 lecture series focuses on law and media. As a journalism major myself, I am particularly interested in the intersection of these two areas,” Woodlief said. “The topic is timely, as we find ourselves at a time when many are distrustful or skeptical of established institutions, including the courts and our legal system. … We are excited to have Mr. Abrams with us tonight to discuss the role of the media in explaining and demystifying our courts and legal system, and perhaps sometimes defending and other times holding accountable these same institutions.”
Elon Law’s lecture series continues January 19, 2023, when Sunny Hostin of The View visits the Carolina Theatre for an evening program. The series concludes on April 12, 2023, with an evening visit by Shannon Bream of FOX News.
Both events are free and open to the public. While no tickets are required, attendees are encouraged to RSVP to let law school administrators know to expect them and to help with communication of timely updates or other important information.
The Distinguished Leadership Lecture Series is an integral part of Elon Law’s commitment to learning, lawyering and leadership. Endowed through a generous gift from The Joseph M. Bryan Foundation of Greensboro, N.C., the series brings accomplished leaders from a variety of disciplines to Elon to share their experiences and perspectives with students and faculty.