Truth in journalism
Journalism is popular – it sells. A lot of journalism calls for 'objectivity' however, without having a commitment to writing from truth. But can and does this work?
Absolute truth is a very rare and at times even ‘dangerous’ commodity in the context of journalism. Increasingly, journalism seems to have hopped out of Truth's pocket and crept into another darker, more devious and shadowy hole, hence there is even courage required in journalists to stick up for Truth – an act which can make one very unpopular and as it happens, even unemployable.
Yet to write a truly good piece is neither intellectually demanding, nor does one need be an academic genius to execute it. A responsible allegiance to Truth and Integrity ought to be what the Hippocratic oath is (ought to be) for medicine and a must for each and every journalist’s CV.
The beauty of sound and trustworthy journalism is that it allows those who write to record history as it happens. But if even just a single fact is presented falsely it prejudices the entire work.
What we witness more and more in journalism is if somebody is very much set in their ways about how they feel about a topic/person/place… then the facts that don't suit one’s own thesis get swept under the carpet. And so it would seem journalists can do anything they want so long as they write in a way that sells and makes people believe in what they read.
This organised corruption of truth has sabotaged not only journalism but also true democracy and truth. Today, true journalism has been overrun by the lowest form of popular culture and it is littered with misinformation, disinformation, defamation, lack of information, and even contempt for the truth. It would appear that the most reliable information in the press nowadays has been reduced to: year and date.
And yet, Journalism without truth is like fish with no water.
The side effects of irresponsible journalism on a person’s life can be very unpleasant because sadly the readers form an opinion of the subject of writing based on the things they read, not on facts. We keep exclaiming we want facts and we want truth but do we even bother checking/discerning the quality and accuracy of what we are reading? How often, if at all, do we demand a ‘second opinion’?
Imagine doctors (surgeons even) giving false diagnoses en masse! Although perhaps a phenomenon that has not occurred or will not, but when we are faced with the consequences of such appalling acts we are outraged, able to sue and in general there are paths that can lead to calling a person/persons to accountability, thus curbing such irresponsible and in some cases, lethal behaviours.
On the other hand, what we have allowed with this breed of false journalism is a case where the robber also acts as a typographer, attorney general, jury and the judge.
And if one thinks that the two examples cannot be compared given that one can take life away, consider again where such thought would came from. Indeed, killing a person by wrong medication or surgery is by all means terrible. However, pause and contemplate for a moment that ‘killing someone softly’ by ruining their reputation, work prospects, family and social life, their mental health and wellbeing, is also a form of ‘killing’. The difference is in ‘weaponry’ – no bullets, no pills, no knife, [no alibi] –– words only.
The other problem (irony) with journalism is when someone is being quoted – or rather misquoted – and then being asked to defend something one hasn't even said.
Ultimately, journalism is not meant to be about storytelling – rather, it is intended to be dealing with facts presenting. Making up stories and refusing to run real/true stories is a foolish game, a full-fledged advocacy. It is not journalism.
The whole point with journalism is to have the news delivered unbiased, yet there are those who can construct any wanton, needless, heedless story they desire. Deliberate injury of the sort inflicted by a picture story cannot be, and it is not, responsible journalism in any books.
The development of Internet and super fast communication technology has outpaced our comprehension of the detrimental implications of irresponsible journalism. It is through metaphors, symbols, sheer myths and copy-paste practices that journalists can make it about their agendas where a composite becomes a euphemism for a lie, rather than ensuring the work is all about facts and about Truth.
When once I asked a journalist why they were about to send to print a piece of writing littered with lies or refusing to hear the subject matter of the article to cross-check the information or to include both sides of the story, (after all that is what investigative journalists purport to do), their response was: “Because I can”
This type of blatantly dishonest reporting is disorderly. It is of dis-service to the public and to Humanity as a whole. And it surely should not go under the name of journalism.
Journalism is a great way to serve society, to have an impact on one’s community, to wake the public up, to serve a higher purpose. However, tremendous responsibility comes with this; responsibility that many are (yet) not prepared to embrace.