By JAYNE JACOVA FELD
In the fall of 2015, Scott Nover took the semester off from college for a coveted internship in the Obama White House communications office. A political communications major at George Washington University, Nover, 21, spent hectic 12-hour days serving as a conduit between staffers and the press, conveying critical information about the Affordable Care Act, climate change policy, and other administration priorities to meet reporters’ demanding deadlines.
While it was undoubtedly the experience of a lifetime for the civic-minded Cherry Hill resident, Nover left his stint at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with the understanding that he was not cut out for government work.
“I realized I wanted to be one of the ones writing the stories, not spinning them,” he said.
This epiphany also inspired Nover to create MediaFile, an online publication focused on analysis and criticism of news media. The student-run website launched at the end of August 2016, at the start of his senior year and just as Presidential election coverage was in hyper drive. Since its start, MediaFile’s 35 writers and editors have not been at a loss for interesting subject matter. From the rise of fake news to a profile on controversial firebrand commentator Tomi Lahren to advice for rookie reporters during the age of Trump, MediaFile has made waves in the insular world of press criticism. Professional media critics at the Washington Post, Politico and CNN Reliable Sources have referenced its stories on their own shows, blogs and columns.
“It’s an opportunity for students for years to come to work their journalist’s chops–not reporting on the latest university scandal or campus football game but to have a chance to write about the media,” said Nover, who serves as editor-in-chief.
At a time when public opinion of the media has sunk to new lows, and the newly elected President has labeled mainstream media outlets, including CNN and the New York Times, as fake or failing news, Nover said students, at least at GW, are energized.
“A lot of people very much believe in the mission. They’re interested in seeing it succeed,” he said, noting that much of his focus this semester is on a succession plan, fundraising and creating an organizational structure to keep MediaFile in play long after he moves into his first real job (hopefully in journalism) and beyond.
For those who knew Nover back when, his foray into media criticism may be surprising. The Cherry Hill East graduate didn’t do much muckraking in high school. Rather, he was a trumpet player and singer, involved in every band and orchestra and choral group he could fit into his busy schedule. Still, he grew up in a politically engaged household. News shows were always on TV and political discussions involved the whole family, he recalled.
Now back for their second semester, MediaFile staff is as busy as ever. Among Nover’s recent submissions, he penned a piece dissecting President Trump’s so-called war with the media, relabeling it a “war with the truth.”
“With Donald Trump in the White House, everything is a media story. He is a media story,” said Nover.