In a speech for the U.N.’s World Press Freedom Day, Secretary-General António Guterres warned that truth is being attacked by those who try to blur the lines between fact and fiction, science and conspiracy. It is not easy to make distinctions, he said. “They are deliberately aiming at the destruction of truth and good sense. They are spreading disinformation, hate and conspiracy theories to confuse people,” he said.
This is a serious warning and a major problem for the media. But it is not easy to fix. The problem started long ago when it stopped being possible to distinguish journalism from a political polemic. Now, it is commonplace for a journalist to call themselves a political activist and be hired by TV shows and talk shows. This makes it a lot harder to tell the difference between journalism and politics, which leads to all sorts of problems as we are witnessing today.
There are also journalists who rely too much on their own biases to do their jobs well. They may be very well-meaning but their own personal prejudices taint the reporting. They can end up spouting their bile under the pressure of time constraints. Ultimately, the result is a piece of news reporting that is less than honest and more like propaganda.
Whether journalists realize it or not, it is also important to remember that truth is a property of language. This is the basis of much philosophical discussion about truth, involving both analytic and factual approaches. A few years ago a leading philosopher declared that the whole notion of truth had become redundant. He was right, but for the wrong reason. The truth about a proposition is its corresponding reality, and the test of whether it is true or false is in the results it has. If a proposition increases confusion, uncertainty or evil in the world in which we live, it is not true.
The original purpose of journalism was to serve the public by informing citizens about important events, issues, and characters. Journalism can play a crucial role in a democracy by holding institutions accountable and by exposing wrongdoing. It can also help to highlight social problems and empower the citizens by giving them a voice. This is why the founders of the United States incorporated the freedom of the press act of 1791 in the First Amendment to the Constitution .
Despite the many changes that have occurred in the practice of journalism, these principles remain. Whether it is through the Internet or through traditional media outlets, the basic job of journalists remains the same: to collect and disseminate accurate information in order to educate and inform the public.
My mission and goal is to bring light to what we may have forgotten. The Truth that can help us live our best lives. Too often, we are led to believe only one way of thinking is the correct way. We should always remember we each have our own voice and when relevant, use it. Knowing and trusting your source is imperative.
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