Journalism: Window or Filter on the World?

Today I want to step back from the passing show of a year’s events in review to recommend a not-so-recent commentary on the very nature of journalism and its relationship with truth.   I encourage everyone to listen to a 10-minute BBC World Service broadcast from two years ago in which Own Bennett Jones introduces Martin Bell for his commentary, based on earlier writing reflecting on his years as a war correspondent, entitled The Truth is Our Currency: reflections on the limits of neutrality.

What’s ultimately essential to TOK is not the specific stories of a given year but the continuing questions of knowledge:  What is the truth?  Analytically, what influences the reports that we are given on events in the world — what assumptions, what values?  What perspectives can be identified, and what influences of bias or power?  How do they affect selection, emphasis, and the colouring of emotion or values?  How can we evaluate sources of shared knowledge to gain, most reliably, our own personal knowledge?

The concept of shared knowledge in TOK is a gripping one, as it embraces both the knowledge claims shared through rigorous methodologies in some areas of knowledge and the knowledge claims circulated in personal circles and the media.  For the shared knowledge of journalism, Martin Bell in this podcast makes an excellent case for reporting does not aspire to be objective in the sense of being detached from life, but instead takes humanity into account and aspires to be fair.

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