Relative Truths

Convener: Scott Libin

Participants: Karen, Peggy

Submitted by: Scott

That’s a shorthand reference to a concept that is more complicated in its fullest sense.  We talked about the potential and limitations of the notion that truth is not always as objective a concept as traditional journalism has considered it; that it can be subjective, relative and even evolving.  A critical question is what role research, fact-checking, sourcing and other established journalistic practices play in the more complex context of community or “citizen-based” journalism.  What is the relationship between (to borrow from Kovach and Rosenstiel’s The Elements of Journalism) “assertion and verification”?

We examined the notion that journalism has moved from an arrogant, at times paternalistic attitude that “news is what I say it is,” in some cases all the way to pandering on the part of news organizations willing to broadcast or publish anything people will watch, read or otherwise consume.

We explored the idea that collective journalism challenges the model of disseminating news from a central source outward to many recipients…  with a model involving a more co-equal relationship among many sources who are also recipients.   This raises questions about a heightened need for media literacy and smart consumerism — an ability to assess the nature of news according to content and source, benefiting from greater transparency on the part of journalists.

Peggy shared a story about skepticism expressed by those who have had unsatisfactory experiences with people who billed themselves as open-space practitioners.  She said that those legitimately trained in OS had often considered the concept of certifying practitioners, but had ultimately concluded that to do so would create a barrier that, on the whole, might do more harm than good.  She suggested this might parallel proposals to certify journalists as professions as the fields of medicine and law do their practitioners.

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