The power of the truth

In a divided nation, I wish the truth was easier to discern

max
The Spectrum

“If you could have any superpower, what would it be?” 

While watching the most recent episode of “My Hero Academia” –– an anime about a high school breeding the next class of super heroes –– I asked myself this question.  

Would I pick the power to fly? Invisibility? Superhuman strength? No, I think if I could have any superpower, I’d want to have the ability to instantly know the truth. 

I wish that I could look at someone and automatically know if they were bulls––––––g me. Maybe it’d be my own “spidey-sense” where if someone started lying about something, I’d get this sensation that they weren’t telling the truth. Or maybe it’d be more like “Yes Man” and whenever I looked at someone while they were talking, they’d have no choice but to tell the truth. 

Of course there are side effects to this superpower.

Sometimes, in personal scenarios, it’s best not to know the truth. Like when someone tries to surprise you with a random act of kindness, or if someone’s lying to protect you from something. 

I’d want to be able to turn it on or off, or maybe just have it focused toward the news. Oversharing or knowing too much can often end up hurting someone in the end. That’s the last thing I want. I simply want to be able to trust where information is coming from. 

It seems silly, but in today’s world, our news cycle is filled with stories that make us question the truth. 

Russian meddling in elections around the world has led to Robert Mueller’s investigation to find the extent of its effect and the truth behind why Russia meddled in other countries’ political affairs in the first place. 

Then there was the battle between Justice Brett Kavanaugh and his sexual assault accuser Christine Blasey Ford. Both parties claim their statements are 100 percent true and the Senate is divided between Republicans and Democrats, unfortunately making rape culture a partisan issue. 

If both parties claimed they were telling the truth and the FBI’s investigation produced no conclusions, will we ever know the actual truth? 

It’s our mission as journalists to uncover the truth. Here at The Spectrum, we serve as watchdogs for the university to seek out and learn the truth. From reporting on Student Association elections to breaking the news that former Vice President Dennis Black stole over $300,000 from a UB bank account, we’re in charge of holding people accountable for their actions. 

As I prepare for graduation at the end of this semester and will be continuing along the journalism path, truth and the state of journalism is something I constantly think about. 

President Donald Trump says outlets like CNN and The New York Times are “fake news” and that journalists can’t be trusted. In a country where our own president has been accused of falsifying information and being untruthful numerous times, being able to tell fact from fiction seems more important than ever. 

Obviously my idea for a truth-based super hero would never happen, so how can people differentiate real news from fake news?

These days, it’s so easy for people to scroll through social media, see an article, and without even actually reading the article, share it out assuming that they understand its meaning and that it’s true. 

Facebook recently partnered with Snopes to automatically post a factchecker comment on posts that contain fake news. My dad showed me and said, “Isn’t this a violation of peoples’ privacy? And what about freedom of speech?”

He’s right, I’m sure not everyone wants a robot surveilling what they post and reprimanding them if they share something from a website that Facebook doesn’t like. Snopes has also come under fire for whether or not it’s truly neutral in its fact checking, causing a further divide among the right and left. 

But what about the integrity of journalism? Shouldn’t you want to ensure that you’re reading nothing but the truth? 

Of course I answer yes. I always try to read my news from trusted sources like NPR and The New York Times. But so many people are more interested with speed instead of accuracy that they don’t know if the news they’re ingesting is accurate or not. 

Some people I know would rather click on the first thing that comes up in a Google search rather than take the extra 30 seconds to scroll through the options and see what the best possible sites are. 

With so much false information on the internet, it’s more important than ever to double check sources, read news from trusted platforms and read both sides. If you’re only reading news from an outlet that leans left or right, you’re missing half of the story. Try and read from a neutral publication or site like NPR that attempts to stay unbiased in its reporting. 

In an era when our administration is questioning the media, it’s important for this new generation of journalists to represent our industry well and report the strongest content possible. 

Max Kalnitz is the senior news editor and can be reached at max.kalnitz@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @Max_Kalnitz