Who owns the truth?
: This is not a good day for big, old, traditional news media. It is, however, a good day for the truth.
The BBC accused the Blair government of lying about war when, in fact, the BBC lied about Blair. Now Lord Hutton has handed the Beeb its privates on a platter and we wait to see whether the blind, pompous, and self-righteous heads of BBC News — Gavyn Davies, Greg Dyke, and Richard Sambrook — plus the alleged reporter who started all this, Andrew Gilligan, first repudiate the lies, second apologize for lying, and third quit in shame. See many posts on this below.
And in New Hampshire, the big old media guys were proven way wrong today when the voters did what they said for months the voters wouldn’t do: vote for somebody other than Howard Dean. See John Podhoretz, below.
So the press didn’t give us the facts because, in one case, they lied and, in another case, they were just wrong.
The real mistake — the real sin of hubris here — comes when the press acts as if it owns the truth.
Nobody does. Many people try — some more honestly, earnestly, and reliably then others — to find the truth. Some people, like Andrew Gilligan and Jayson Blair, try not to.
But in the end, the truth is a high standard, hard to reach, and an honest soul will admit to failing to reach it, or least to the need to keep trying.
This is what I mean when I say (too much, I confess) that news is a conversation. It’s not as if, once the oracle who owns the press or the broadcast tower speaks, we have heard the truth and can stop the search for it. Of course, we can’t. It takes time and openness and curiosity and effort and a great deal of back and forth with contributions from many diverse sources and viewpoints adding onto each other to perhaps pile up to the truth.
Yes, the web and weblogs, with their ability to reach out to unlimited sources and viewpoints, can help with that process. They are no more the truth’s sole salvation that big media was. But they can more loudly announce when big media fails.
The mistake, again, is acting as if you own the truth, for when you fail, the fall is a long one. The BBC acted as if it — not its government and not American media, either — owned the truth. And now it is in free-fall.
All of this is simply to say that in this new media world of instant updates with the ability to change and correct news at any time and with many viewpoints and the ability to link to them anywhere, it’s more important than ever for the media to be transparent and open and to recognize that the news is a two-way street and the truth is a process.
So rather than ending newscasts saying, “That’s the way it is,” perhaps the best thing to do is to open newscasts saying, “We don’t know but we think…”