Fighting for Truth in a Post-Truth World

Franciscan Magazine Homepage > Summer 2023 > Fighting for Truth in a Post-Truth World


Fighting for Truth in a Post-Truth World

Journalism in a Post-Truth World Conference focuses on modern challenges in media.

Summer 2023 | John Romanowsky

In This Article

Having faith in the newsroom is essential,” The Washington Examiner education reporter and Franciscan University alumnus Jeremiah Poff ’19 told the audience. “It helps me endure some of the darker things I end up writing about. I try to be respectful of every person … and to be that little beacon of positivity and goodness in their lives.”

Poff was speaking at the Journalism in a Post-Truth World Conference held at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., March 10-11. Co-sponsored by Franciscan University and EWTN News, the conference attracted 130 participants, with 400 joining via livestream.

When National Catholic Register Executive Director Jeanette De Mello declared Poff’s testimony a “sign of hope,” the audience broke into enthusiastic applause.

It was a memorable moment because earlier presentations on polarization and media bias would have tempted the most optimistic listener to doubt the viability of real journalism. Nevertheless, by the end of the two-day conference, the message was one of hope. Journalism was not a lost cause. On the contrary, it was more important than ever for young Catholics like Poff to embrace it with courage and integrity. This hopeful message included three vital points.

First, understanding and honesty can help us overcome media bias. Veteran journalist Terry Mattingly, founder and editor of GetReligion, explained how the internet killed journalism’s old business model and ushered in the model we see today.

“Biased journalism is good business,” he said. “It also fits the technology. The one thing the internet does well is divide us into small, concrete silos of information where we are not confronted by anybody else who would disagree with us.”

In today’s polarized media landscape, the standard of professional journalism has become “transparency,” not objectivity. But there is a way forward.

“We need to move away from the language of media bias and start pleading for honesty from publications to at least admit they’re not going to cover certain issues with fairness,” said Mattingly. Gaining this insight will enable us to discern truth—and falsehood—in the media.

Second, we must do more than protect the First Amendment—we must actively encourage it.

“The First Amendment should be understood as the least we can do for free speech,” said Mary Catherine Ham, blogger and CNN contributor. In a “cancel culture,” this right is useless if people are afraid to exercise it, she argued. We need to make room for free speech because speaking freely takes courage.

“Jesus was a pretty good communicator,” she said. “We have a model of bravery and boldness. Instead of looking at it as depressing, we can look at it as an awesome opportunity.”

Ham insisted that if we lead by example, the impact on those around us who are afraid to speak out is powerful.

Third, a free society cannot survive without journalists committed to truth above all else. Catholic journalism is professional journalism at its best, and at the service of the common good.

Emphasizing this point, Teresa Tomeo, host of EWTN’s Catholic Connection, shared a quote from St. John Paul II’s address to communicators at the U.N. in which he exhorts them to be faithful to the truth and its transmission. His words shaped her 42-year career in journalism. For persons of faith, she said, “Truth has to be front and center if we are going to be witnesses to the Truth, the Way, the Life, Jesus Christ.”

Reflecting on the conference, Father Dave Pivonka, TOR ’89, president of Franciscan University, reminded us of what was at stake in the fight for truth in journalism.

“It’s vitally important because there’s a spiritual battle going on,” he said. “If you can control the mind, you can control the heart, and you can control the people. We can’t have a free and peaceful society unless journalists have the integrity to fulfill their mission.”

Watch select videos: Journalism in a Post-Truth World Conference

Go to Top