Extreme truth

Reporting fairly can be a fine line, and one not always easy to see.

“The truth is extreme, to make it moderate is to lie.”

These are the words which end a video by StormCloudsGathering.com called “The … (word removed) is about to hit the fan, Here’s the proof.”

The short piece presents a dire statement of the global situation and calls for people to begin the revolution by writing articles and creating videos providing information to counter the general propaganda being produced by western governments.

Now, I’m not about to get into a discussion in this small community newspaper about whether their claims of U.S. foreign policy and the U.S. Federal Reserve’s interest in maintaining the global dominance of the U.S. dollar is contributing to global instability and war.

But I was struck by the phrase at the end. I understand the tendency to want to moderate stories, to make them balanced by giving a voice to both sides of any issue when possible, but maybe this is not always fair, if the truth is extreme or shocking.

An example which comes to mind is the global warming debate.

It is one which went on for years, and even in some circles still goes on. There was a lot of information put out on both sides, and reporters, with the goal of trying to appear fair, presented both sides of the debate.

However, afterwards, there was a lot of criticism leveled at the media for this potential misrepresentation of the debate.

While there was a lot of information put out there for both points of view on whether or not global warming was a reality, in truth, an overwhelming majority of the scientific community has believed in global climatic disruption or global warming due to human impacts for a long time.

While reporters made an effort to present a balanced view, they also delayed the public’s acceptance and knowledge about potential impacts and the need for regulatory changes to address the problems, because the public was still not sure which side was correct. Or perhaps were hoping the truth was not so dire.

While certainty will never be an easy thing to find in scientific research, if a clear majority of climatic experts believe something to be true, is it really fair to present a “balanced” approach by giving equal presence in a story for both sides to speak?

So is the media doing a disservice to the public by moderating stories in these types of instances? Is the extreme truth sometimes the more fair approach, if it is closer to the likely reality?

The truth is often difficult to find amongst the propaganda, and it is never easy for people to hear or read things which potentially impact their picture of reality.

People don’t want to think what they have believed is wrong, and in the hectic busy lives of many people just trying to get by or deal with their own personal realities, intense global realities are overwhelming.

I can understand what the people at StormCloudsGathering are trying to say, that while sometimes the truth is ugly and hard to take, it should be shown honestly.

But I can also understand my perspective as a member of the media.

Alienating your audience will not likely help to get out a message any better either, but the media are not experts, and have to rely on experts for their information.

So in my mind, the goal is to strike some sort of a middle ground, and be brave in presenting information which, while sometimes hard to take, is truthful, but in a way which is fair and balanced and leaves room for discussion.

Sometimes the lines are fine, and sometimes we will get it wrong, but the point is to try.