We’ve all heard about truth in advertising, but do the same rules apply to journalism? If you look at current news outlets, you have to wonder. The general public tends to get only part of the story, whether it’s about the war on terror, the presidential campaign, or Russia opposing Georgia and Ukraine joining NATO. Every major news organization claims to provide complete, unbiased information. Yet, if you dig a little deeper into the stories, you’re likely to find a vast wealth of information that the media never reported. Occasionally, that information contradicts some of what the news report said.
So where does that leave the general public? Those who don’t realize that the news doesn’t always tell the whole story will base their opinions on whatever spin the media outlet chose to put on a particular story. Those who dig deeper will wonder if it’s some kind of conspiracy to tell the public how to think instead of handing them the facts and letting them form their own opinions.
The big question is what can be done about the skewed reports being presented as the whole truth. Writing letters to the editors of newspapers and presenting the facts left out of the articles is one option, though there’s no guarantee the letters will be printed. Blogging about a particular story is also an option, though the people most likely to read the posts are the ones looking for the information traditional media failed to mention.
I think the best option is staying informed yourself and offering the truth whenever the subject comes up in conversation. Sharing how you learned the information is a great way to get others to dig deeper than the morning paper and the evening news. The more people we can motivate to look past the partial story to the full truth, the better the chance that the media will realize they can’t control the flow of information any longer. With the internet, there are so many sources of information that a person can be well informed without going anywhere near traditional media.
By now, I’m sure you’re wondering what all of this has to do with writing. It’s simple; whenever we write, we’re passing along ideas and information to others. We need to be sure we have the facts straight, even when writing fiction, because our work could be the only place the reader will learn about the subject. Yes, fact-checking can be time-consuming, but think of how much better your writing will be for it. You’ll also be much more well informed about whatever your topic is if you take the time to dig deeper to find out the whole truth.
Keep researching and document where you found the information. That way you can point anyone who questions the facts you present to the source where you found them. Also, be aware that alternative news sources, such as blogs and message boards, are not always completely accurate. Use your common sense. If something sounds questionable, check it out through reputable channels like government agencies, professional journals, and, yes, even traditional media. They may not always give you the whole story, but what they do give you has most likely been checked out and found to be true.
Most importantly, ask questions and keep learning. The better informed we are, the better our society will be.