Do Journalists Tell The Truth?


Bit of a rhetorical question really, as I have already formed my own opinions. A copy of a British newspaper handed out on Etihad airways, “The Daily Mail”, was enough to remind me that it’s nothing to do with reporting truth.

Well even the above sentence wasn’t “the truth”. Actually, I had to pick up the newspaper from a stand prior to boarding the plane, so technically it wasn’t “handed out”. It was self-service so wasn’t actually even offered. It might have been if I’d been flying business or first. But I wasn’t.

Funny how short-cuts in writing could end up being “not the truth”.

DonCharisma.org The Weekend Post
DonCharisma.org The Weekend Post

Perhaps there’s a broader question. With so many people valuing truth and honesty so highly, how come there is so much rubbish printed, that’s frankly just spun to suit the writer or the writer’s bosses agenda ? Or more’s the point how come people actually keep on lapping this crap-soup up ?

It seems an odd paradox that people who say they demand truth, actually seem to the large extent to prefer to read what is not truth. More they seem to be reading a collective paradigm, which is rehashed and reworded in a million different ways. Well that’s certainly how the “The Daily Mail” seems to me.

Reminds me of the Michael Douglas film, “Falling Down”, near the end the detective says to Bill (the protagonist) :-

Sergeant Prendergast: Is that what this is about? You’re angry because you got lied to? Is that why my chicken dinner is drying out in the oven? Hey, they lie to everyone. They lie to the fish. But that doesn’t give you any special right to do what you did today. The only thing that makes you special is that little girl. Now let’s go. Lets go!

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106856/quotes (edited)

Have to admit that line in bold made me laugh, it’s a good humoured way to think about the whole thing – we get lied to all the time, but not going to let that spoil my enjoyment of life !

Perhaps I should explain a little about the movie. Bill loses his job, his family etc, and is living at home with his mother. He was once a successful man, working on cutting edge stuff, with a lovely family, even has a personalised licence plate on his car. He had status, success and security. Somehow he’s managed to lose it all. One day he’s had enough of “eating shit”, and goes on a rampage, presumably as some sort of rectification or reassertion of his self-respect. He tries to right wrongs in his strong actions, but sadly ends up being the bad guy. Two wrongs don’t make a right ?

And why was Bill angry ? Because he’d invested his whole life in a paradigm that wasn’t “true”, every bit of his comfort zone was a crock and well bullshit, not to put too fine a point on it. It’s humiliating, it’s frustrating, it’s strikes at all he holds good, sacred and dear. In the case of someone with nothing to lose, the fallout is potentially immense. In “Falling Down” Bill finds his inner warrior, but unfortunately, it’s way way over the top and far far too much.

And who’s really at fault ? We all need to seek out the truth ourselves, through our own experience. So most responsibility rests with Bill for not having sought “the truth”, and swallowed some of the bitter pills along the way. However I think one needs to temper that with at least some value placed on innocence and trust. So it’s not clear cut. What is certain to me is that blaming other people for having been lied to probably isn’t the solution. Enlightening oneself is.

So it’s an interesting question, for opinion. Perhaps a better question would be – “Why do journalists lie?” or “Why do people lie?” or “Why do people believe lies?” but hey this is my blog, maybe I’ll blog about that later …

Perhaps I will learn something, the journey is of interest to me, not so much the destination. I’m interested in your opinions, not looking for solutions, support, advice or help, I don’t need and I don’t want. I’ve already formed my own opinions, and my paradigm works for me. Preaching won’t “save” me, but sometimes mentors and friends change or refine my perspectives. So have some respect if you have something to add.

Warm regards

DC


Notes for commenters:

Comments are invited. BUT you are reminded that this is a public blog and you are also reminded to think before you press the “post comment” button. 

Good manners are a mark of a charismatic person – so please keep comments civil, non-argumentative, constructive and related, or they will be moderated. If you feel you can’t comply, press the “unfollow” button and/or refrain from commenting.

I read ALL comments but can’t always reply. I will comment if I think there’s something that I can add to what you’ve said. I do delete without notice comments that don’t follow rules above. For persistent offenders I will ignore you permanently and/or report you.

Most decent people already know how to behave respectfully. Thank you for your co-operation on the above.

Warm regards, Don Charisma



104 thoughts on “Do Journalists Tell The Truth?

  1. Sadly papers and news channels are more interested in ratings/sales than the truth. Whether its factual or not they’ll print whatever story satisfies that goal. A lot of the media is also bias to one political party so they’ll spin news items in the favour of their party of choice to keep their readership happy.

  2. My mother takes the Daily Mail, avidly consuming the ‘health’ pages to find out the latest thing that’s going to make her ill and possibly kill her. I keep telling her the only thing that’s going to kill her is the Daily Mail itself, by frightening her to death.
    BTW, thanks for following ‘Millie’s’ blog!

    1. You are welcome 🙂 … and yes I suspect after a few months of reading the daily mail I’d need a grave or a psychiatrist … and they call mad people mad ! … the readers (and writers) of the daily mail must be certifiable …

  3. I think maybe too often, (although to me, once is too often), it becomes a case of the tail wagging the dog. Readership numbers get lower and publishers start to write towards what was previously most read. In North America, the fairly recent development of people only watching TV networks that cater to their biases is now almost the norm. Unfortunate ignorance is then the side effect – and the dog.

  4. Interesting blog.. Unfortunately with “truth” there are versions of it, and interpretations of it.. All we can do is be accountable for our own truths and interpretations and hope we’re asking the right questions if not satisfied that required information needs have been met for the formulation of a truth.
    ..I hope that came out right, as I’m wonderfully wordy today…
    Cheers, as always, I enjoy your posts.

  5. Great post! My fingers were poised over my key board to add some thoughts and then I read the closing words on blogging ettiquet. It really struck me: not only do the papers publish words that lack integrity we live in a culture that lacks respect (for lack of a better word). Really got me thinking….thanks for that!!

    1. You are welcome, and I do welcome comments that are adding to what I’m saying … the disclaimer is for morons that just seem to have lost their basic ability of respect …

      Warm regards DC

  6. Despite never having taken ethics (I’m not a real journalist anyways), I still maintain my sense of journalistic integrity. Everyone has their own agenda, in life and in business, so the truth that we see is simply their agenda. I’m a graphic artist at a small weekly paper where we often have “Special Editions” focused on one topic (Cancer awareness, veterans, education, senior citizens, how to spend money locally, etc) that my boss will use to get her information across. If a horrible story breaks and it’s about one of our advertisers, we cannot mention one disparaging peep of it, lest the advertiser choose to advertise elsewhere.

    Here’s my boss’ hidden agenda. For the education special edition, we used a photo of small children taken at a college campus to signify the direction many will go and the importance of getting there. However, one of the kids was wearing an ARMY shirt. She had me Photoshop the logo out. I did it because that’s what she pays me for, but it hurt me and I lost a lot of respect I once had for her. It hurt me because I have family members who have served in the military for years and it felt like their contributions were being discounted. It also hurt because it was my own nephew, whose mother was in the Army for many years. She did not want the military to even be an option because it supposedly discounts the value of an education. The schools are also anti-military in the urban setting where our newspaper is offered. I understand why she had me do it, but my work and my relationship with her has not been the same since.

    1. Thanks for responding and integrity is important, agreed 🙂

      Yes that’s a tough one, your boss has had to make a decision and it goes very much against what you feel. I don’t know what the word for that exact situation is, but it sure is frustrating when it’s happened to me. And thanks for sharing the kind of things that happen as a “real life” journalist, as I’ve never worked as a journalist so don’t know !

      Warm regards

      DC

  7. After studying (just a little bit) of philosophy, wold religion and world history, i realize that there is no such thing as truth. The famous dead white male philosophers of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries have convinced me of that. Truth is subjective. It is filtered through our individual perceptions and varies based on how we receive sensory data and process it cognitively. Truth varies depending on one’s nationality, gender, age, neuropsychology, social status, personal social ideologies, etc. Currently, a scientist is researching how subparticles of matter can move backward through time, change the past and therefore change the future, while they’re still existing in the present. Human’s can never know absolute truth because we are limited by our five senses. We can’t see what’s going on in ultraviolet or the invisible neutrinos from solar winds passing through our bodies. We can’t see what’s happening in other dimensions of our multidimensional universe (read string theory). We have hardly explored our own universe, much less the multiple universes that exist (according to quantum mechanics). Our perception of absolute truth is so minuscule and subjective that only a god-like consciousness could know what real truth is. Christians from two-thousand years ago would call modern-day Christians heretics. In their strict patriarchal society, it was taken for granted that women were inferior to men (which we realize today is not true, though who knows what “truth” people will believe a thousand-years from now in regards to gender?). There’s so many philosophical, sociological and scientific truth today that we take for granted… that weren’t truths just a few decades or centuries in the past. So that’s my take on truth. I think everyone needs to find their own truth and try and build it on a good moral bedrock so that it does good and not harm. But that’s the problem with real truth. It’s harsh, honest and doesn’t pander to our morality, which is based on human self-interest. Just look at nature. It’s harsh and brutal in contrast to our genteel human standards. I think our human “truth” is nothing more than a warm comforter we put on to feel safe and secure. I think that most people can’t handle real, objective truth, because it is raw, brutal and honest and doesn’t pander to our human needs and insecurities.

    1. Good thoughtful response Peter, hard to add anything as mostly it’s logical and makes sense to me. The question of truth is probably the subject for another post later on, I was just toying with a few journalists on this one 🙂

    2. Peter, My thoughts exactly! I always laugh when people quote the line from A Few Good Men
      “Truth? You can’t handle the Truth”
      I always think, “Other than my own truth, for this moment, what Truth actually exists?”
      Truth, like the universe, is an ever changing, ever re-defining, ever growing thing – – but doesn’t stop us from wanting to obtain it – – – 😀

  8. TF Ruiz’s course, “The Terror of History – Mystics, Heretics & Witches” opened his course lecture with the observation that the moment we became self-aware enough to understand our own mortality and how vulnerable we were in a hazardous world that often defies our understanding, we immediately became adept at finding ways to calm our own Terror – – – (through laws, science, religious practices, art, etc.)

    His take on our motivations as a species came to me as you asked why we lie and why we believe lies – – I think it’s tightly interwoven with our need to deal with our mortality and the ultimate fragility of our lives in a world that is often hard to traverse through

    1. Like that response, very highbrow 🙂 and yes build a paradigm to protect ourselves from reality, that entirely makes sense to me, almost how I’d have explained it, if I’d had the words !

      Thanks

      DC

      1. Durn – I try to avoid being highbrow whenever possible, and yet, I cannot think of a better reason for lying – to ourselves, to others and engaging in listening to them – – – :)So highbrow, this time, it must be! LOL

      2. No worries for you – I’ve fled back to the inner room of my spiritual self to make sure I”m not falling into elitist, snobbish, arrogant ways – – – ROFL!

        The road of self-improvement is never ending and can become the Highway to Hell with the least bit of encouragement! 😀

      3. You’re funny 🙂

        And I didn’t detect anything that had pride in it, it for me was well expressed and showed intelligence …

        Yes, I reckon one should take plenty of charisma breaks, they are just as important as being charismatic in the first place …

        Warm regards

        DC

      1. Yes…. sometimes the lies and darkness of this world get me down. And the only thing which saves me is focusing on that which is not a lie and is beyond words and definitions; then i can clearly see the lies and the dream reality and be ok with it.

        Don, i realize i have left out the “a” in Charisma in my reply… the reason is because i have always associated Charisma with “Christ” energy! ^_^

  9. Well, I wouldn’t say all journalists are liars per se. I have studied journalism myself and one of the most important lessons I came with was the importance of accuracy in facts. The Daily Mail is probably one of the poorer representatives of British journalism, with its over-emphasis on sensationalism and general ‘knee-jerkery’. If journalists nowadays fail to accurately check their facts, sources etc. it’s often do to laziness, heavy workloads or top-down manipulation from editors and advertisers dictating the news agendas. Unfortunately I can’t do anything for those sorts of people, but in my blog I try and be both accurate and careful in how I report. Lying makes my skin crawl and the same should apply to every journalist. But oh well, this isn’t an ideal world.
    Maybe it’s better to switch to the Guardian, Independent or one of those alternative/smaller news outlets. Very interesting piece on the nature of public lying though, DC…a great read.

    Vijay

    1. Hey Vijay, and I think I’d agree, that journalists aren’t liars per se. I’ve met some here on wordpress, and they are good people as far as I can make out – yourself for instance.

      I stopped reading newspapers and watching the news quite a few years ago. So it’s a real contrast to my daily life to read the utter rubbish printed in the Daily Mail … I’d rather be “reading” FHM or a girlie mag and probably get more out of it …

      I think what does bother me is just how close people come to lying without actually lying through spinning, omitting, sensationalising etc … however I do find myself doing these things from time to time, as illustrated near the beginning of the post …

      It’s not an ideal world, but understanding it as best one can makes it a happier place, well for me at least 🙂

      Warm regards

      DC

      1. Yes it’s true what you say about spin and manipulation. I can well understand it being a part of human nature generally and one which comes to the foreground in certain media expressions and outlets. Even the politicians of our time are spin machines churning our verbal garbage. I can definitely understand your sentiments though regarding people mishandling the truth, and I agree with you as well about using understanding to try make the world a happier place.

        Thanks for the reply (and the compliment too), DC

        Vijay

      2. Thanks Vijay, I’m getting more or less “over it”, reading between the lines is very essential, is my conclusion. Forming ones idea of the truth is the only way forward !

        Warm regards

        DC

  10. I have been in this kind of business and know a little from inside.
    I will mean, it is up to, where you work as a journalist. A serious newspaper or one of the daily sensation-newspapers.

    There are good and less good newspapers and bosses there, who decide, how honest it is necessary to be. Great headlines are selling newspapers, but serious newspapers are also able to write in a good way.
    I have been in the branch, and all depends of money, more or less.
    Few leaders don’t care about the headlines alone, and those newspapers are mostly being reading from educated people.
    I don’t say this to be bad, but the more education you have, the longer articles you could find interesting to read. This is facts.

    Many people a little up in the age, who never had the possiblitity to get an education, when they were young, mostly don’t find the interest in reading more deeply articles.

    Honesty are unfortunately not so important, when some people compare the incomes. Money talks.

    This article is very interesting Don, and I think, I could continue for long time here, but I chose to stop now.
    Irene

    1. Thanks Irene, and I understood that money is a big factor in determining what’s printed. I also understood that the expected readership is also written for. Sounds right to me 🙂

  11. I agree with the person who commented about sensationalism. It’s so sad but there is a generation out there that sees the ease of life our parents had slipping away…jobs are not as easy to come by, there is more violence in the world, and I think sensationalism like reality shows and headline news provides an escape for minds that are overridden with technology and navigating through daily in life because it’s so busy. Plus, it takes more resources and time (which equal MONEY – ah yes, the almighty currency) to get good news. Plus, the media (at least here in the states) are so biased on both sides. They’re worried more about ratings than they are quality of news. It’s all about who gets it first.

  12. As a journalist, I can tell you that newspapers and institutions such as government agencies, public services and most businesses and corporations all make strange bed fellows. The institutions rely on journalists to coney the image, spin or hype they want, just as much as we rely on them for information to write the stories. Thisn isn’t to say that when information is omitted that journalists don’t sometimes fill in the blanks or wrangle the story a bit. I can also tell you from experience that even a tape-recorded conversation is no guarantee that someone isn’t going to deny having said something. Often, it’s more a matter of them not believing what they said — or how they said it — and not wanting to admit it. At the same time, sadly, “news” in general hasn’t evolved into a watered-down, headline-oriented mess driven by the pressure to be first, regardless of accuracy. And just as sadly, it seems to be what people want. No one is winning here.

    1. Thanks Ned, that’s a thoughtful response and I certainly gained something. Perhaps we have to think of it as “entertainment” as one of my other commenters suggested 🙂

  13. We’re lucky to have a whole range of different newspapers in London, all of which come with their own political bias. Print journalists are under enormous pressure to go for the most sensational angle because that, unfortunately, is what sells papers. Bad behaviour is rewarded by column inches while good behaviour gets ignored. My theory is that reality TV has taken over the media and, sadly, not for the betterment of humans. I guess the psychology is that we are meant to feel superior to the villains and idiots. But, of course, the nature of celebrity culture rewards the most extreme acts. Thanks for a great piece of writing!

    1. You are welcome, and thanks for that, definitely added to what I said 🙂 … I stopped watching news/ reading newspapers some years ago, and reality TV leaves me cold … so it’s always an odd contrast to my life when I’m visit friends who watch or “get handed” a newspaper to look at … I’m fairly sure I made the right choice 🙂

    2. PS and thanks for clarifying the reasons behind the spin/slant/sensationalist angle … Sometimes I do it myself on my blog, but that’s more for fun, see what I can get away with if that makes sense !

      1. I – like you – gave up on newspapers and TV news five years ago. I look at them if someone gives me one, but I get very tired of being told what to think. And I hate that “shouting” tone of most TV news. I watch no reality TV. But I have a few odd news feeds – France 24 and Al Jazeera among others – just so I will know if something really big happens. All in all, letting go of the noise of the media has left me feeling lighter and freer.

      2. I get my news on a need to know basis, and frankly most of it I don’t need to know. I find that other people I know enjoy digesting it so I’m only a chat with a friend away from finding out what’s what. It also helps to sort the liars from the truth tellers getting news this way. I get a feed about local news where I am, as there’s been political problems in Thailand, so for my personal safety I need to know what’s going on. Also follow some business news as it affects me financially.

        I see reality TV shows when I visit people and they have them on the TV. The voyeuristic fascination with the relationships of morons I find in itself largely moronic in itself. However I do see a plus side, that is learning social intricacies that could lead to better people. Many are blessed without large social circles, so hard to get this socially savyness in their daily lives.

        And being told what to think, like you not for me, god gave me a brain and I can figure it out for myself.

        I am constantly surprised when I post about issues that are on my mind and there are many others who are thinking about the same things.

        Warm regards

        DC

  14. Аз съм човек, който не чете вестници. Почти от 2 години не гледам телевизия. Не намирам нищо интересно там.Това е моят избор, личната ми свобода.А истината и лъжата съм ги намирала, достатъчно е повече да се мисли.Това не значи , че съм по- различна от всички други хора

    1. Аз съм напълно съгласен с теб за това, аз не чета вестници, гледам, че много телевизия вече … и това е голям шок, когато вземете един вестник, за да видите какво имам избягваш в системата!

  15. That’s one of my favourite movies. I’m one of those who gets extremely annoyed and irritated at the constant stream of untruths that surround us all the time, and I constantly wish for truth and honesty from those around me. I am however, educated enough to realise that few people are able to be totally truthful and honest, and I believe it is because people generally don’t want to face up to truth that might be unpleasant or necessitate them having to admit that not all is right in their world. We want to believe that all is rosy in the garden, that makes us happy, but we don’t want to have to do the work to make it really that way.

    1. Thanks Merita, I’m getting less irritated about being lied to, I believe it helps me make choices about who and what I’m involved with/in … And yes certainly it’s easier to look through the rose tinted spectacles, than create it that way 🙂

      Warm regards

      DC

  16. Good morning – I don’t get the British press here so usually do a quick peruse online – I signed up to be able to comment to the Daily Mail online a few years ago and I have noticed that when comments are moderated mine do not get included. Admittedly, there are often thousands of other commenters, however, I usually am the devil’s advocate and have come to believe that apart from truthful reporting, truthful commenting is also not a freedom held dear. Have a good week. Sally

  17. Newspapers aren’t about truth, they’re a form of entertainment. Truth in most issues would be an incredibly complicated thing to establish. All of our truths are different, and therefore is there such a thing as a unitary truth ? That said, some things are ‘less true’ than others, as I think may be the case with The Daily Mail !

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