I was driving across the US during the 2016 elections. I stocked up on podcasts, to push me through the inevitable stretches of dull landscape. Therefore, it was either in Texas or Oklahoma that I stumbled upon the most informative Seriously? by This American Life. The first, the first twenty minutes or so, revealed rampant inconsistencies between different news outlets, especially in the current election. Distressed by the glimpse into such high-consequence, blatant lies, I started wondering where I might find truth, which sources I could trust.
When I plopped in Santa Cruz, I started searching for writing courses and stumbled upon something I hadn’t considered…journalism. My first conversation with the professor proved I was in the right place, as he passionately preached the importance of accurate news.
Over the next ten weeks, I learned about going to the source to pull the truth right from the horse’s mouth. I learned about the journalist code, that any respectable journalist will strive to be objective, to present both sides of the story. I learned that most papers have liberal journalists, but conservative editors, a necessary balance. I learned what journalists have gone through to get accurate stories, from undercover reporting, to such tireless efforts as portrayed in the movie All the Presidents Men (about the Watergate Scandal and the reporters who brought it to light). And I learned which papers are the most trustworthy; those employing thousands of journalists collecting eye witness news and information every hour of every day.
Key takeaways: for the most reliable information, go see for yourself: to know if a story might be real, look to see if it is covered by many news outlets (if not, it’s probably BS): avoid sensational news. As far as who to trust, I came to choose a few news agencies based on their long commitment to integrity in journalism (many will disagree with these), such as the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and NPR news. It’s important to know where we’re getting our information. I think it’s good that people are being more discerning.
I doubt I will ever be a “hard news” journalist, as stress does not suit me, but it was nice to learn how to seek truth. The hard part on either side is allowing myself to see truth, even when it contradicts my beliefs. As Katie Couric said on a recent NPR interview, “We want confirmation, not information.”
I took this course in search of a reliable answer to the question, “How do I find reliable answers?” I had the opportunity to learn a little about writing the news from experienced, talented, and inspiring journalist Brad Kava. I also worked with a small team of dedicated students to produce a simple but quality paper, as often as we could get our act together and send it to the printers. We poured our hearts into it. Below are a couple of articles I wrote for The Voice whose subject matter applies beyond campus life.