Journalism, ‘Truthiness’ and Participatory Cultures

In the CTS session with Dene and Andrew, we looked into Journalism and Truthiness, with participatory cultures.

Journalism, is the product of the activities, assessing, gathering, creating, and presenting news and information. The purpose of journalism is defined by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel in The Elements of Journalism as, “is not defined by technology, nor by journalists or the techniques they employ.” Rather, “the principles and purpose of journalism are defined by something more basic: the function news plays in the lives of people” (“American Press Institute“).

What are the required elements for the journalists to create a good piece of work? According to the book The Element of Journalism:

  • The essence of  Journalism is Discipline of verification
    • Journalists should take transparent approach to the evidence, therefore precisely any bias (personal or cultural) would not affect the accuracy of the work.
  • Must strive to keep the significant interesting and relevant
    • Journalism is said to be ‘storytelling with a purpose‘ (The Elements of Journalism).
    • The content must balance between what the readers want to know, and what they don’t know, cannot anticipate but in need of.
    • The quality of journalism is measured by how the work engages with the target audience, and enlightens it.
  • Must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise
    • Carries out public discussions
    • Accuracy and truthfulness also require that the public discussion not neglect points of common ground.
    • Fairly represent varied public’s viewpoints and interests and place them into context, rather than specifically highlighting on conflicting fringes of debates.
  • Must serve as an independent monitor of power
    • Journalists are established for responsibility of examining unseen corners in the society.
  • Must maintain an independence from those practitioners have covered
    • The core of reliability is said to be ‘independence‘.
    • Journalists must not be seduced, intimidated nor compromised by any outside factors that could possibly affect the content of the work.
  • Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth 
    • “All truths – even the laws of science – are subject to revision, but we operate by them in the meantime because they are necessary and they work” (‘The Element of Journalism’, Kovach and Rosenstiel)
    • Journalism seeks a practical and functional form of truth
    • Jounalist should be as transparent as possible about the sources provided in order for the audience to judge and assess the information from their perspectives.

If journalism’s first obligation is to the truth, but is that the same as truthiness?

Truth, is defined as(“Truth – Definition Of Truth In English | Oxford Dictionaries“):

  • The quality or state of being true
  • A fact or belief that is accepted as true

But as for truthiness, it is defined as(“Truthiness – Definition Of Truthiness In English | Oxford Dictionaries“):

The quality of seeming or being felt to be true, even if not necessarily true.

Although in journalism, opinions should be kept objectively and remain its independence without outer influence, as well as facts and truth, but is truth always desirable for the society? Will people still read the works with content that don’t match their belief in what is ‘true’, or perhaps ‘right’ or ‘wrong’?

For most cases, people would prefer truthiness covered by stories. Instead of reality being revealed to them, people would rather face what they felt to be true, even if it’s not necessarily the case. They would rather look at things that are being packaged with glamorous stories, instead of directly face at truth that may not be as appealing.

For journalism, people may define one as successful for being unbiased, and factual. However, although being successful, it would not attract and seduce the audience’s interests as much as one factual story that has been, perhaps twisted or exaggerated, or being given a specific point of view for certain audience to agree with. “So much for Objective Journalism. Don’t bother to look for it here–not under any byline of mine; or anyone else I can think of. With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.” (Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72)

As Kevin Rose, an American Business man said, “Since news breaks on digg very quickly, we face the same issues as newspapers which print a retraction for a story that was misreported. The difference with digg is that equal play can be given to both sides of a story, whereas with a newspaper, a retraction or correction is usually buried“. Malcolm X, an American activist, had also mentioned, “The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses“. In modern days, it is hard not only for journalisms, but also other news and media, to be completely neutral about the information they want the audience to perceive, which therefore careful selection of essential information must be filtered before believing it.


“Kevin Rose Quotes”. BrainyQuote. N.p., 2016. Web. 11 Nov. 2016.

“Malcolm X Quotes”. BrainyQuote. N.p., 2016. Web. 11 Nov. 2016.

Thompson, Hunter S. Fear And Loathing. 1st ed. San Francisco: Straight Arrow Books, 1973. Print.

“Truth – Definition Of Truth In English | Oxford Dictionaries”. Oxford Dictionaries | English. N.p., 2016. Web. 11 Nov. 2016.

“Truthiness – Definition Of Truthiness In English | Oxford Dictionaries”. Oxford Dictionaries | English. N.p., 2016. Web. 11 Nov. 2016.

“What Is The Purpose Of Journalism? – American Press Institute”. American Press Institute. N.p., 2016. Web. 10 Nov. 2016.

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