Monday, August 31, 2009

The Costliness of Truth

At its essence, journalism cherishes truth as its first and most critical pursuit. A good reporter—for all her limits and flaws—will dig and dig until she has a sense of the truth of a story. If she gets it right, she can invite both praise and criticism. What thugs, after all, want to be found out? But that is what drives us, what motivates our need to know. In fact, from their ground-breaking book, The Element of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect, authors Bill Kovach & Tom Rosenstiel say this: "This basic desire for truthfulness is so powerful, the evidence suggests it is innate. 'In the beginning was the Word' is the opening line of the Gospel of St. John in the New Testament. The earliest journalists—messengers in preliterate societies—were expected to recall matters accurately and reliably, partly out of need. Often the news these messengers carried was a matter of survival. The chiefs needed accurate word about whether the tribe on the other side of the hill might attack."
Yes, it costs to pursue the truth; it costs time, safety and often reputations. It can even be dangerous, as we know from the hundreds of journalists worldwide who risk their lives regularly getting to the truth of a story. Yes, truth is costly. But imagine how costly it would be—and sometimes is—to our culture if reporters did not pursue it.

No comments:

Post a Comment