Penelope Trunk argues that it does not matter that journalists misquote people and get basic facts wrong. Truth is only a narrative, and journalists are telling their own stories.
The problem? Journalism should be a science, not an art. Art describes the artificial creation of a mind. Journalism should seek to discover the external reality. Good journalism has no narrative. It collects facts so historians and social scientists can see patterns and formulate scientific theories. Artistic narratives obscure the truth.
The Arts and humanities describes a material reality without a scientific method. These “theories” are not falsifiable so they are ethereal and non-descriptive. One person’s poetry is just as good as another. They’re just commenting, praising, and deconstructing. They do not discover what reality is.
Art and Science are at odds. Theology, for instance, is an art. Art is entertainment. That’s its function. Art is an invention, so a novel is a self-contained pocket-universe with its own laws and teleology. It has an end point and goal that you decide. It gives us power to create an abstraction – a perfect ideal. If it is used for entertainment or an insulated theology, then that is okay. The artificial pocket-universe tells us nothing about the real world (except possibly what is going on in the artists’ mind and even that is iffy).
Art is also open to interpretation. It has no objective meaning because it is artificial.
Artistic reasoning the wrong reasoning for an imperfect reality. It does not function. A work of art is a tiny slice of knowledge that is contained and orderly so we can see a closed system in its entirety. Art is easy to understand because it is so limited in depth. Reality has complex humans in an open system and we cannot assume it has a teleological purpose. It is so vast no one person can see the whole.
Art and Theology are stupid. Art is shallow because it creates a simplified fake reality. Art gives the Artist and the audience God-like power of creation and interpretation. They view every character and every detail, as if they were devine beings. They even know the endings to the narratives.
But it’s a fake ability. Narratives are lies. They are not true in the real world. Take a TV Character. It is such a simplistic thing that we can look at it in its entirely and understand it. But aside from entertainment, how useful is it? The formation of a of a TV character is less complicated than my thumb’s evolution and growth. This is comparing a 2D picture of an apple to the entire ecosystem of South America. This is not of use to me.
People who enter the arts are limit themselves to a small segment of knowledge. They may be great entertainers, but they know little about reality.
Science gives us the ability to understand reality, and mathematics is the language. If you do not understand mathematics, then you are illiterate.
Journalism, defined as a process of reporting on real facts, should aspire to be a social science. Journalists collect facts to form databases for economists and other analysts who can interprete the patterns.
Scientific reasoning is of more use than the belief in “narratives”
A bad scientific theory will be discarded in the long run. Good scientific theories are descriptive of reality, independent of the human mind. All theories are incomplete or inconsistent at some point. When they fail to explain a set of facts, scientists study the problem and discover a new theory that explains the real facts.
There’s a “boom and bust” in theories. We see new facts, we experiment with different theories to explain them, the theories compete and the winner takes all. Then we start the next cycle. We shake the junk out of the system when we discard bad theories.
In the Arts and Humanities, there is no shakeout. All the losers live and keep spewing out loser theories that take up space and prevent fresh ideas from forming. This creates group-think. This continues until Newton’s law of gravity is viewed as a “rape manual” and light speed is sexist.
We can’t apply the perfect and orderly ideal of art to the real, messy, imperfect and possibly pointless universe. This misapplies a tool and is self-destructive. In any political idea, individuals manage scarce resources with alternative uses. A bad idea has real, tangible effects on people’s lives and the really bad ideas kill them. All political ideas are accountable for their effects.
Journalists would do themselves and the rest of the world a favor by distancing themselves from the Arts and Humanities. They must abandon their reliance on anecdotalism (another anti-scientific fad) and artistic narratives.
Most journalists are not qualified to engage in serious and rigorous thought. I suspect most individuals who enter journalist school lacked the intelligence to become engineers or scientists.
Instead of relying on dim-witted guild journalists, how about experts in their field serve as part-timer journalists?
In a sense, bloggers are the true journalists. Doctors speak about medicine, lawyers speak about law, economists speak about trade, military officers speak about operations. They collect the facts and understand the context well enough to formulate theories that are correct or wrong.
This would be of greater use to the general public than artistic lies.