Truth is not subjective

John Walcott, Washington Bureau Chief for McClatchy was awarded the I.F. Stone Medalf for Journalistic Independence. He makes some really good points in his acceptance speech, where he reflects about the role of Journalists, in particular in light of the last years’ performance of the Media. I really like how he goes after the very damaging notion that “we cannot know for sure” seems to be the default setting. There’s lots of great stuff, but here’s a sample.

Why, in a nutshell, was our reporting different from so much other reporting? One important reason was that we sought out the dissidents, and we listened to them, instead of serving as stenographers to high-ranking officials and Iraqi exiles. I’m afraid that much the same thing may have happened on Wall Street. Power and money and celebrity, in other words, can blind you. Somehow, the idea has taken hold in Washington journalism that the value of a source is directly proportional to his or her rank, when in my experience the relationship is more often inverse. […]

That brings me to may last point: Relying on The Times, or McClatchy or any other news source, for all the truth is dumb, but it’s infinitely preferable to the pernicious philosophical notions that there is no such thing as truth, that truth is relative, or that, as some journalists seem to believe, it can be found midway between the two opposing poles of any argument. […]

Does the truth lie halfway between say, slavery and abolition, or between segregation and civil rights, or between communism and democracy? If you quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Winston Churchill, in other words, must you then give equal time and credence to Hitler and Joseph Goebbels? If you write an article that’s critical of John McCain, are you then obligated to devote an identical number of words to criticism of Barack Obama, and vice versa?

The idea that truth is merely a social construct, that it’s subjective, in other words, first appeared in academia as a corruption of post-modernism, but it’s taken root in our culture without our really realizing it or understanding its implications.

Really, if you have time, go read it. If not, make some time soon.

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