The Claim for Truth (updated)

Different reflections on the same "reality" - can any of them claim "Truth"? ©pc britz

Different reflections on the same "reality" - can any of them claim "Truth"? ©pc britz

I just read a great article by Jay Rosen online about a journalist formula referred to as he said, she said stories. He argues that this strategy has no future in the time of web-based reporting.

While the article was interesting and very helpful for me as a young journalist, the terminology employed around opinion, knowledge and truth made me cringe. I couldn’t help but comment on it.
Is it ok for journalists to claim Truth (with a capital T?) Are they not subject to the same principles of knowledge that science is and that render falsification, but not verification possible? Or am I being too liberal? (or not liberal enough?)

What’s your opinion on this? Truth or truth? Universal knowledge or theories and hypotheses?

Update: April 13th, 2009:

Jay Rosen has responded to my comment on his site. I’m not sure whether he didn’t really understand me making the point that “truth” is ALWAYS a matter of interpretation or whether he just felt I was hijacking his page.
I still feel truth can (maximum) be what a bunch of people agree upon as true (majority consensus) – but it is then only true for these people. Readers, however, don’t have to agree with a reporter’s interpretation. How can there be general truth?
Indeed, as he points out, he has not used the word truth as a noun. Yet, several of his colleagues have done so. And only if his definition of “truthful” means “no intentional lies or lack of information” I can see how I have failed to interpret his use of the term.

For me it boils down to this: A journalist is supposed to inform readers and thus support opinion building. In this, she is free to deliver her own interpretation of events and “facts”.

The question is: Is it fair to call these interpretations “truth” or even “truthful” when the main of the audience hasn’t even heard/read the interpretation, leave alone agreed to it?

Another Update April 13, 2009:
It seems I’ve triggered quite a debate among Rosen’s readers. John Walcott for example seems to have taken my issue seriously. I can’t say I agree with everything he says, but its a step towards discussion.
I do think we create our own reality. What he points out as facts are realities that have been agreed upon as true taking the place of a different truth that prevailed before.

April 14, 2009:

I have responded one more time to the discussion on truth. I might have been a little to jumpy on the issue of truth, but I do believe that many journalists (and other individuals) are too quick to consider their statements as true without considereing the possibility of error on their side or conflicting evidence (or what society has agreed upon as evidence).

I need to stop writing these comments though, they take up too much of my time – I hardly get all my stuff done. It is just that this particular issue has been bothering me for a long time and I have had many conversations on it.

    • pc britz
    • April 27th, 2009

    “The truth, as it turns out, is a weighted average of view points, and to understand it appropriately is to need the weights.”

    Ryan Avent asks “What good is the News?”

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