The Press & the Pursuit of Truth
I could also have enlarged this discussion by reeling out an inexhaustible list of”sins”which we commit and for which we are regularly attacked, such as being wanton with our freedoms,(where they
exist), seeing ourselves as players and not reporting, as did the late Veronica Faerin, Dublin’s best known reporter, being unnecessarily judgmental and self-righteous, and callously invading the privacy of
public figures by unearthing salacious stories, (all in the name of Truth, the public’s interest and its right to know) but which at best are remotely related to these people’s contributions to the public weal. We all know that there are more than enough reasons to criticize a nation’s leader, so there is little need to judge a politician’s record on his extra-curricula existence, or to assume that `morality’ is only to be confined to sexual morality, unless he is guilty of financial impropriety, or his private offences do have sufficient bearing on his competence as well as political values. No, I shall do none of this, since much of what is being discussed among us do touch on these aspects of journalistic practice and even more.
However, for most journalists, especially in the West, there is this belief that in arriving at Truth, fact can be separated from value. Although this is now being constantly challenged and seen to be an
impossible goal, a good number of journalists still insist that in the pursuit of Truth they have to strive for fairness, accuracy, balance, and lack of bias; even when objectivity is clearly relative and definable mainly in terms of a journalist’s cultural beliefs, value-system, as well as his or her selection process of facts and points-of-view.
So we find that frequently used words which in the West connote contempt, like “tribe” and “jungle”, create media images of Africa which may not necessarily be true, or are far form the Truth. For instance, “tribe” is an English word used to describe the organization of groups of people sharing a common language, yet Europeans or Americans do not describe themselves that way. While almost all ethnic
warfare in Africa is reported as tribal, the fifteenth century Wars of the Roses between York and Lancaster in Tudor England, those of the Venetians against he King of Naples in fifteenth century Italy, and today’s civil war in Britain’s norther Ireland province, would certainly not qualify as “tribal” warfare. Similarly, frequent use of the word “jungle” would indicate to Western or other audiences that Africa is all jungle, when in actual fact Africa’s rain-forest, which is jungle, covers just five per cent of the continent.