It is an interesting time to be in the journalism business in America. Many Americans are unsure who they can trust. And more “independent” journalists are popping up than I can ever recall.
With social media providing a place for people to provide information, the confusion only compounds.
Who can people trust?
So I wanted to just give a few words of wisdom.
But before that, I also want to explain a few things about how journalism should work — at least in my opinion.
We don’t have to, nor should we, agree with EVERYTHING we publish. This industry, if running from a healthy place, should be an arena full of different ideas.
For instance, my personal philosophy is that I believe individuals should be given all sides and all the information. I still trust the majority of Iowans to make the right decision as long as they’re given honest information.
I also think opinions from others should be published even if they may seem “out there” or like a “conspiracy theory.” We’ve seen more than enough “conspiracy theories” prove true lately.
The line, though, should be drawn when presenting things as “fact” that simply are not so. And sometimes that’s a fine line to walk, but it’s necessary.
Ultimately, a journalist — a good journalist — is someone who is skeptical. My old college professor always said if your mother tells you she loves you, check it out.
A good journalist also isn’t a cheerleader. A good journalist is capable of giving credit where it is due, and criticism where it is warranted. Things aren’t always terrible and things aren’t always awesome.
A good journalist, like a good official in sports, calls it as they see it.
But here is one key thing — a good journalist puts their name on what they write or allege. They do not do it “anonymously.” They own what they write. They have the facts to back it up when delivering things as hard news.
There is a rise in “anonymous” sources of information on social media — and that is dangerous. Much of what these anonymous sources say lacks proof. Much of it is speculation. And much of it may be rooted in a little bit of truth, but that little bit of truth quickly gets embellished.
Now, I am someone who does believe in writing stories with sources who wish to remain anonymous. But only anonymous to the reader. I obviously know who the source is and have done everything I can to confirm what they have said. But in this age of cancel culture, I understand as well as anyone the need for people to remain anonymous.
It is entirely different when the author remains anonymous. In that instance, nobody is responsible for the information being shared.
And too many people are too quick to eat up whatever they’re being fed by these anonymous individuals.
Actual journalists can’t just publish things on a whim because of these things called libel laws.
More importantly, we can’t publish things as facts when we’re not so sure. And if we do, we have to make clear it isn’t necessarily factual. Because credibility is all a journalist has. And when an allegation is made that is untrue, it damages that credibility. And that can only happen so many times until all credibility is lost.
And while the outlandish shot-in-the-dark type stories might intrigue readers, it doesn’t help those of us trying to actually tell the actual truth. At all. And it certainly doesn’t help the conservative movement when so many follow folks down rabbit holes that lead to nowhere.
My hope is that fellow conservatives take a step back from what they read or what social media pages they follow and utilize just a hint of the discernment God gave them. If someone is giving you information but is not willing to put their own name on it, you should have serious reservations about trusting that information.
They should be able to find actual journalists willing to publish that information while keeping them as an anonymous source. That isn’t difficult. You can literally send them to me.
But, there also has to be proof. Speculation isn’t enough.
That isn’t to say everything these unnamed keyboard warriors say isn’t true. But we need to make sure the information we are spreading is accurate. Because when we spread inaccurate information, our credibility gets shot.
Exercise a bit of discernment before falling for everything you read, folks. Know who your source of information is. Credibility is one of those things that, once it is lost, is extremely difficult to regain.