Photo Credit: Facundo Gastiazoro
Welcome to the Truth
Welcome to the Truth issue. Remember when you were a kid and you were told to “always tell the truth”? Good advice, but the word might be a bit misleading. For a fairly common word, the concept is actually tricky to pin down—
and the jury’s still out. Philosophers debate it furiously, and will likely continue to do so for a very long time.
Truth isn’t necessarily the same for all people. Religion is a good example. For those who believe, God is a Truth. And for atheists, “there is no god” is also Truth. Perception, perspective, belief, and experience all serve to create truths that are individual. Yet the word is used to mean “honesty” and as a handy placeholder for “fact”.
What about truth in writing?
Public trust in the written word is deeply ingrained in our culture. It’s as if the act of publishing something in print makes it true. Maybe it does. Or maybe truth just doesn’t matter anymore. After all, the Oxford English Dictionary picked “post-truth” as its word of the year for 2016.
Whether we acknowledge it or not, we rely on the truthfulness of journalism. We regurgitate what we read like toddlers echo their parents. And many of us accept fact as truth. But truthfulness and factual reporting are not exclusively dependent on each other. As author and activist Maya Angelou said, “There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure truth.” Some of the most truthful things I’ve read have been fiction. And I’ve read plenty
of fact-based journalism almost entirely devoid of truth. Seem contradictory? Look at it this way: What wasn’t reported? Whose point of view didn’t make it into the article? Read between the lines—the truth is often found there.
The real danger is when news masquerades as fact, and in reality it’s commentary or opinion. Which, in a way, is most news. Because there is no such thing as objective journalism. Everything writers do is subjective: selecting subjects to interview, choosing which quotes to include, even deciding the order of paragraphs. Whether or not a writer strives for objectivity—and good journalists do—all of those choices represent bias.
That said, truth can be delivered on a platter of 26 letters, sprinkled with a handful of punctuation marks. Hallelujah. Yeehaw. And if Truth in writing means honesty, then those writers who present their words (and inherent biases) openly—whether fiction or non-fiction—are indeed worth reading.
We live in an era of “fake news” and “alternative facts”, a world in which we can acquire vast amounts of information daily and have access to writing of every kind. Maybe we do exist in a post-truth era (it certainly seems that way when it comes to politics) but that makes truthful writing that much more important. It also means there’s a shared responsibility: you, as a reader, have a responsibility to question, to be sceptical, to discern; and we, the writers, have a responsibility to be honest and forthcoming, and to always write Truth.
Heavy times call for heavy words. I think I’ll fix myself a drink. Or maybe a sandwich. Lighten things up a bit. If Truth can be found at the bottom of a bottle, it can also be found in the crumbs of a vanished sandwich. Is any of this true? Don’t trust me.