I have a confession to make. While winter resumes in Wyoming, I’m writing this week’s column from Florida. It’s currently supposed to be 82 degrees, but don’t worry, it’s cloudy so you don’t need to feel envious.
This is my last trip for a few months, and I’ll kind of miss the time spent in airports listening to the conversations of the day.
The goal of this trip was to attend the “Mega Conference” for the Inland Press Association Southern Newspaper Publishers Association and LocalMedia Association. The week included the typical cheerleading and the always exciting sharing of ideas, failures and success stories.
Throughout the conference, though, there seemed to be a buzz in the room regarding the industry as a whole and move from The New York Times and other organizations that focus on marketing journalism. The Gray Lady has launched its first branding campaign in decades, asserting the value of quality journalism.
If you’re a Facebook fan, The New York Times posted a video that focuses on that idea.
It starts by outlining what “truth” is, listing what some would call facts, and others would call false. Then, it says, “The truth is hard.” It’s hard to find and hard to know.
But, it’s also more important now, than ever, according to the news organization.
I’m not sure truth is any more important now than other points in history. For me, the truth is, was and always will be vital, especially to the health and success of democracy.
But, I understand what the Times is trying to say.
I won’t pretend the branding campaign isn’t, at least somewhat, politically motivated. The Trump administration has had no qualms about attacking the press.
But, the importance for “truth” goes beyond politics. I’ve shared my concerns about the emergence and prominence of “fake news” on these pages in the past.
My concern has only grown. Nearly every day, I hear or see somebody sharing a piece of “news” that just doesn’t sound right. Sure enough, when I start digging later, I find that often those nuggets of information simply aren’t true.
If you don’t quite believe that “fake news” is a threat, I encourage you to pick up the latest issue of Wired magazine. It includes several articles on the news industry, including one that focuses on individuals overseas who make a living perpetuating fake news. Fake news, my friends, is real. It’s harmful. It plays on our preconceived notions and emotions.
It will be up to us, American citizens, no matter our political beliefs or party affiliations, to seek the truth.
Don’t fall for the belief that truth is simple. Truth is complex. Gather your news from a number of sources that cover all spectrums. Arm yourself with information.
I know, as well as anybody, that time is a scarce commodity. Use some of yours to stay informed.