Page 69 - Print 21 Magazine March-April 2019
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Doris Prodanovic
Truth, do tell
The media may be the gatekeepers of news, but the gatekeepers of truth are in control elsewhere. Doris Prodanovic speaks with investigative reporter Stephen Davis about his latest book, Truthteller, and the ways in which we are being deceived.
Truth-seekers unite
In addition to the toolbox, and embedded through each chapter of Truthteller, Davis calls on
both reporters and readers to understand the challenges facing journalists today. Whether it is word of mouth, virally spread online or published in print,
the ease of finding and sharing disinformation as news has taken over our lives, says Davis, and we are drowning in it so much that in any given week, a quarter of people share something that is not true, and do so knowing it is not true.
“It is so easy to spread falsehoods, and you can doitinanumberof sophisticated ways.”
“The challenges journalists
face today come in two parts,” he says. “Firstly, we must persuade people of the value of journalism
in their lives, and secondly, we have to persuade them to pay for journalism. The key is to explain to the public this value. If you expect free news, you will get propaganda, press releases and falsehoods
in reporting.”
The framing of the truth in news may differ from each publication to broadcast to social media post, but perhaps this culmination of content asks us, as readers, to think about issues and content critically and question what we are read, see,
and hear more than ever.
To engage in the search for truth encourages the need for it to be discovered, known, and shared, with the potential to benefit communities beyond the ones
we know.
Davis says, “It has been grim
for the industry in recent years but one matter stands true – good journalism takes time.” And with time, perhaps the truth will not be so hard to find. 21
Truth remains stranger than fiction, but where can it be found? Disinformation and falsehoods are shared
endlessly. Content creation and consumption is 24/7. Conspiracy theories are the foundation of multiple possible realities, all
up for debate in plausibility and accuracy. Within the clout of fake news, investigative journalist, author, and educator Stephen Davis draws from his three decades of experience in his new book Truthteller, describing nine methods of deception, which aid in preventing the reportage of truth. From ‘the art of character assassination’ to ‘delay, delay, delay, until everyone gets bored’, Davis introduces his theories into a toolbox glossary, corroborating his own journalistic experiences within each practice of deception. So which one is being used on us the most?
“I would say ‘shoot the messengers’ is the most effective of the nine,” says Davis. “It is so easy to spread falsehoods, and you can do it in a number of sophisticated ways. If we take whistleblowers
as an example, they can find their reputation damaged instantly, and if it is damaged enough, people
will stop believing what they are saying. Otherwise, the ‘value of distance’ is another tool that is most useful.”
Experiential value
Truthteller features an extensive range of anecdotes, primary documents and insights into Davis’ investigative reporting experience from around the world. During
our conversation, he highlights
his time in the Amazon rainforest. Davis spent several months in Brazil, uncovering how oil giant BP was involved in major deforestation in the late 1980s, and explains
how media organisations today
are unlikely to have the same field reporting opportunities.
“Without the resources available for reporters to travel, observe and report on distant areas and communities, it makes it easier
for dictators, corporations and other leaders to keep the cameras away and get away with whatever
is really going on,” says Davis.
“The combination of that lack of resources, and the people who need to be held accountable finding clever ways to deceive us, is a recipe for disaster for truth and news.”
era: Media manipulation rife by the spinmeisters says Davis
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