Iterative journalism and honesty

There’s a problem in journalism today.  

It’s called “iterative journalism.”

With iterative journalism, writers and bloggers are encouraged to publish first, and fact-check later.  The idea is to create a more real-time journalism I suppose but the result can be murky ethics and confusion.  As soon as a rumor surfaces it can be found in article-form somewhere on the internet.  Then, when the facts really start to come in, updates may or may not be added to correct the articles for whoever stumbles upon it next.

The truth is handled carelessly as though it isn’t the precious rarity I believe it to be.  As though it’s not something you need to dig out of the dirt like gems in the earth.  

I think the tragedy of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight has been confusing in part because of the effects of this kind of journalism.  A flight is missing.  Then there are photos from China…or no wait…there aren’t photos from China…or wait…there were photos but they weren’t the right photos…?  An already mysterious tragedy becomes all the more confusing because modern journalists are pressured to put content on the internet and do so quickly.  

But these are real people with real families, dying to know something.  But they don’t want just any information, they want the truth.  They don’t want a riveting article.  They want to know what has happened to their family members and if the most accurate answer is “we don’t know yet”, then that’s what they want to know.


This follows a train of thought that has been important to me lately.  Valuing the answer “I don’t know.”  Which is really the same thing as valuing the truth.  The truth is more valuable than we are trained to recognize, in all aspects of our life.  

This is a scary thought because, after all, there are lots of things I don’t know.  Worse yet, lots of things I don’t know that I should know.  

Where do you live?

I don’t know.  Genuinely, I don’t.  

What do you do for a living?

Well…turns out that’s kind of a tough one to answer too.  I’m somewhere in between a secretary and a graphic designer, but…I don’t know.

Will you do this forever?  This traveling thing?

I don’t know.  I don’t have a plan.

Is traveling safe?

It has been for us so far.  But beyond that…I don’t know.  

The list goes on. 

Ironically…this puts me in no different of a position than those who suppose they do know.  Because we don’t really, do we?


At the end of the day, we don’t know where the people on that flight are.  And that is scary.  And we don’t know why it happened to them, and not us.  And that fills us with sadness and guilt and confusion.  And we don’t know how to prevent bad things from happening.  And that is scary too.  But all of these things are true whether we say so or not.  And that which is brought into light can at the very least be shared.  

What is the use of wondering in secret what we could wonder together, or wrestling in secret what we could wrestle together?  



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