Thursday, July 28, 2011

How can journalists know the truth? A Twitter dialogue My response to David Akin's Blog Post about the safety questions raised in recent WiFi research.

The ground of this epistemological issue goes way beyond the binary opposition between objective and subjective, a relationship grounded in empiricism assuming that there is a knowable reality or truth and that the problem is a simple one of just discovering how to know it. Bias and expressions of values in a journalist, subtle or not, still assume that there is indeed some sort of objective truth or given reality.

My perspective is a post-structuralist one that says all reality and truth are, to use Derrida's phrase, under erasure - that is, we have to use these terms in discourse even though what they signify or represent really isn't directly accessible. We can never know them directly. We construct them through our various meaning-making systems - notably language, a cultural and social process, which precedes thought. This is known as a productive rather than an expressive theory of language, the latter identified with empiricism. We produce or construct meaning, not express it. We produced reality and truth, not express it. This principle lies beneath even the editorial choices and opinion disguising strategies of ordinary and not so ordinary journalism.

At least you're open about possibilities. I'm not sure we can say that about other "opinionated" journalists obsessed with "evidence-based" reporting. What's evidence? What's a fact? The only way these arrive to us is through the mediation of the cultural prism of language, through discourse, through a meaning-making system. You are the site of meaning.

Yes, an overwhelmingly academic and probably irritating answer!!!! You can see why Twitter is no place for such a difficult response as this. Forgive me: if I didn't admire your work, I wouldn't bother and, no, I did not major in philosophy as one of our respondents thinks.

1 comment:

  1. So words like "truth" or "reality" aren't really referential: they only have differential meaning within a language system. You could argue, then, that that which carries weight as "truth" in the world is really a result of rhetorical skill, the ability to use language well and to construct, with or without intention, persuasive discourse Language is power.