If there ever was a time when truth was under fire, it most surely is in 2020.
From reactions to the pandemic to the U.S. presidential election, the news is greeted with apprehension and disbelief. When the truth is under fire, trust becomes next to impossible to maintain, creating a dangerous playground for despots and dishonourable people.
This may be part of the thinking behind the slogan “champion the truth,” developed for National Newspaper Week, recognized from Oct. 4 to 10 this year.
Of course, the notion of championing the truth is nothing new to reporters – that is their job. Very early in journalism school the training to decipher fact from fiction is instilled in them. Checking sources, verifying details – it’s all part of the job as a journalist.
Great effort is taken within these pages to differentiate news from editorial opinion. Every once in a while, a reader not versed in the difference between news and opinion will express a concern. Once the difference is explained it is well understood that news is about facts and opinion is a reflection emerging from that news.
We remain lucky in many respects as a community newspaper. More often than not, we know the actors, the groups and personalities that make the many communities across Wellington County so unique. We will likely never come across a controversy large enough to earn a Michener Award, but we will have informed residents fully about items of interest in the community they call home. There is great reward in that service.
As COVID-19 continues to unfold, it has been rewarding to see the extra effort of our editorial team as they post stories daily online and put together our print publications each week. They are invested in doing a professional job, capturing morsels of interest at local council meetings that will make differences to how people live and enjoy their community. From time to time there will be larger stories where decisions impact the very fabric of townships and towns. That more involved news is covered and from time to time opinions are expressed on what can sometimes be considered touchy subjects. Editorials are often a starting point for discussion, followed by letters to the editor.
Championing the truth becomes a larger problem as local becomes regional, provincial, national and international. Dailies, online news and broadcast news all vie for attention. As more players entered that news space, revenues dwindled and news budgets got cut.
Bob Cox, chair of News Media Canada, opined recently that readers appreciably returned to traditional news sources as the pandemic took root. There is hope for the truth and newspapers’ role in sharing that information.
A sound bite is one thing, a meme another, but to fully understand issues and what is going on requires a nominal investment. A subscription in some cases, yes, but the larger, less easily accomplished challenge is to take the time each day or week to source out quality news. Support that operation so they can keep doing good work you can rely on.
And if that subtle plea were not enough, consider this moment of melancholy we found ourselves in this past weekend.
As most people readily know, U.S. President Trump was hospitalized for a positive COVID-19 test last week. The day that occurred we talked with literally dozens of people, of whom the vast majority suggested the whole thing was a PR stunt.
History will eventually chronicle the facts of this affair, but what struck us as a point of sadness was the general public seeming to have reached a dangerous depth of cynicism.
The “fake news” seeds planted four years ago to counteract modest efforts to hold Trump accountable have yielded the bitterest of harvests: no trust, blind trust, mis-trust.
Support news by journalists – champion the truth.