Blog 3

Truth or Lie?


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After listening to the podcast “Retraction,” I find myself thinking about journalism in general, and I question how much of what I read and hear is actually the truth. I feel as though this is a commonly discussed issue amongst American citizens. How do we know that what we are reading in the newspapers and listening to on podcasts or on news channels is actually the truth—not an exaggerated version of the truth or flat out fabrications? Furthermore, how do we know that journalists do not leave out an entire set of pertinent details? Unfortunately, my guess would be that many journalists do not convey the 100% full story. I especially believe that now, since I was entirely convinced of Mike Daisey’s story in his original podcast. Clearly, after listening to “Retraction,” I realize that he lied numerous times throughout it. This makes me wonder…how much of what I read and listen to on a daily basis is the truth?

Hearing Daisey admit to feeling “sick about it,” after the his monologue was put on the air for This American Life, and listening to him say “stories should be subordinate to the truth,” I wonder what makes journalists such as himself fabricate stories in the first place? From what Daisey says in the “Retraction” interview, it seems as though he was a little too focused on creating a dramatic story from his visit to Shenzhen He went a little too far, though. He exaggerated the truth (as in inflating the number of factories he visited) and completely lied about certain details (for example, when he talks about factory workers drinking coffee at Starbucks). Furthermore, I could not believe he did not ask for Kathy’s permission, in advance, to speak about her in his monologue. Not only is that probably illegal, but I think it is pretty unprofessional for a journalist to do.

I read an interesting article online from The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard titled “Journalism’s First Obligation Is to Tell the Truth”—Excerpt from “The Elements of Journalism” by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel. The article states: “Truth, it seems, is too complicated for us to pursue. Or perhaps it doesn’t exist, since we are all subjective individuals.” This quotation conveys the idea that we only have access to the words that journalists provide us. This affects epistemology, or the knowledge of knowing, because we use the information we are given to add to our ‘knowledge database.’ Furthermore, we take what we know to create meaning. Whether what we “know” is actually the truth is sort of up in the air and up to each individual to decide for him or herself.

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“Journalism’s First Obligation is to Tell the Truth”

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3 thoughts on “Truth or Lie?

  1. Adri, I had the same initial reaction in terms of questioning the legitimacy of the various news reports we see everyday. As Jenna pointed out on my blog post, Daisey was performing his monologue as theater, not journalism, which is an important point to remember. However, I still think this does not get him off the hook for what he did.

    The quote you use from the article by Kovach and Rosenstiel is enlightening as well. What we perceive to be truth is truly only a factor of the lives we lead and what we hear and see. If we were lied to our entire lives, we would still believe those lies to be truth.

  2. Dan, that is an interesting way to think about it. It’s scary to think that we could be lied to throughout our lives and believe it to be the truth. It really makes you more aware of what you read and listen to, and reminds you to be careful in how you react to it. I think that people today need to research topics in more depth before they believe what they see and hear to be the real truth.

  3. Humans can’t view the world and interpret it from a completely unbiased perspective. We all have different backgrounds, values, experiences, and incentives which cause us to view our surroundings from varied lenses. Journalists interpret fact to make an adaptation of the truth. However, I believe that journalists should not fabricate fact. On multiple accounts Mike Daisey falsified his experience. To me this is not journalism. Furthermore, even as a theatrical performance a disclosure should have been given.

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