Journalists can’t tell the Truth. Not that we are all inveterate liars, although there are some. And we have all, in my experience, lied to get a story.
It’s just that we do not have the tools nor are we in the circumstances that can lead us to make that bold statement that this is the Truth. We need to get the facts straight. We need to be accurate in our quotations. But the Truth eludes us.
Journalism is messy
We are not scientists. We do not have a clean laboratory in which we can reproduce the experiment and get the same answer time after time. We cannot put on paper or online a simple formula which states the Truth about the world.
We need to report about the world. We need to show how events change and unfold. We need to show how people are affected by these events and also make them. But claiming to be able to tell the Truth is a dangerous proposal.
Claiming to tell the Truth leads our readers, listeners and viewers to expect the Truth from us. And when they don’t get the Truth from us they are, rightly, disappointed. That, I believe, is the cause of much of the disquiet among readers, listeners and viewers about the media. We are not delivering what we claim to deliver.
What we can do is deliver a plausible explanation about the world in context. If we can get our readers, listeners and viewers to understand that this is the best we can do, then they will be satisfied. Or, at least less sceptical.
Truth a rod for our back
We often talk a lot about the objectivity of the media. Put that along with the search for Truth and we have made for ourselves a rod with which we are rightly beaten.
So let’s tell the truth: we can’t tell the Truth.