Oxford English Dictionary’s Word of the Year for 2016 is post-truth, defined as “the condition in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
It is another reminder that professional, honest journalism has never been more important.
To protect the institution of journalism is to protect the very notion of truth. It requires the ability to differentiate between gossip and news. Journalists must go out and earn your trust every day, with each issue, with every story. They must be willing to put in the hours, build the relationships, talk to the people, go through the files, and attend the meetings. Journalists are tasked with helping the public understand the larger story.
Journalists must agree to an implicit compact with their readers: We will report the truth, and in doing so we will demonstrate our trustworthiness. We will be mindful that our stories can impact reputations and we will take that responsibility seriously. We will separate our editorial responsibility from the business of maintaining the viability of an independent newspaper. We will never print “advertorial” pieces; you will know when you’re reading a paid piece. We will listen, corroborate, and report.
It is not a journalist’s job to incite, but to inform. We will not deal in innuendo or personal attacks. To do otherwise is not journalism, it’s click-bait cowardice. We want the same calm from any professional. We don’t want the surgeon hyperventilating because of the risks of the operation she is about to perform. Journalists must remain measured, accurate, and objective.
You are a party to this contract as well, dear reader. Be skeptical. Insist on accuracy and accountability. Demand truth and eschew “post-truth.”
So let’s raise a glass to a post-post-truth 2017. After this past year, I think we could all use a drink.