CHEYENNE – Dana Perino, a Fox News host and former press secretary for President George W. Bush, told a group of Wyoming school children that, for the most part, she trusts mainstream news outlets.
“Anything I see from the Associated Press, the Wall Street Journal and my colleagues here at Fox News, I feel like I can go straight to air with that,” Perino said Wednesday afternoon during a webinar hosted by Wyoming State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow and the Wyoming Department of Education.
“For the most part, I believe the main media outlets – the New York Times and the Washington Post. You might disagree with how they approach something, but the accuracy is usually pretty good.”
In January, Balow spoke with Perino on Fox News about the potentially harmful effects President Joe Biden’s temporary ban on new federal oil and gas leases, could have on education funding in Wyoming, which relies on mineral royalties to fund schools.
But that wasn’t the focus of Wednesday’s discussion.
Students from three Wyoming high schools – in Ten Sleep, Chugwater and Fort Washakie – joined the webinar and were able to ask Perino, who was born in Wyoming and attended public schools in Colorado, several questions about today’s media and political landscape.
“What are some of the important ways media and politics have changed over the course of your career? And do you think these changes have been good or bad?,” asked a high school senior from Ten Sleep.
“I don’t want to be wishy-washy, but I think the changes have been both good and bad,” said Perino, who recalled growing up in the 1970s and ‘80s reading newspapers like The Denver Post long before social media became the element of news dissemination it has during the past decade. “To go from no social media to a media that’s almost controlled by social media within four or five years, that’s remarkable. I don’t necessarily think that is a good thing.”
Perino emphasized that getting the facts right in a story is the most important part of journalism, and said she would “die” if she reported inaccurate information. Social media, she added, has both increased the pressures to beat the competition and raised the stakes of getting things wrong.
“One of the things the current media environment does (is) increase peer pressure. Among journalists, if you get it wrong, it’s so mortifying and embarrassing,” she said. “It makes me extra careful, but that doesn’t mean everybody is extra careful.”
A student from Fort Washakie High School, where students have produced a documentary about missing and murdered indigenous women, turned the conversation to women in leadership. “What are some major issues faced by women today? What types of programs, majors or jobs would best prepare us to lead in our own communities?”
Perino said studying history is an asset to achieving almost any goal.
“To know your history, it makes you a better thinker. Also, history repeats itself – so there’s that. Also, it will make you a better writer,” she said. Perino has authored multiple books, including 2021’s “Everything Will Be Okay: Life Lessons for Young Woman (From a former young woman).”
“Too many people come out of school and they’re still learning how to write,” she said. “If you’re a better writer, you’re a better communicator. If you’re communicating better, you’re more persuasive in getting attention on the issues you talked about.”
In closing, Perino gave this advice to the handful of high school students tuning in.
“Focus in the next 10 years on investing in your future, whether you go to college or decide to go to a trade school or maybe you’re going to start you own business or join a family business. For the next 10 years, really apply yourself,” she said. “That will set you up for career success so you can enjoy adulthood a little bit more. I worried my 20s away, and I beg you not to do the same.”