Maybe it has happened to you. You were talking to friends, or scrolling through Facebook when someone shares an outrageous political news story. You think, “that can’t be right.” After a quick check you confirm the story was actually fabricated by a click farm or satirical website. You might be able to set your friend straight, but what about the larger implications of living in a world where you can’t believe everything, if anything, you read or see.
David Barstow, the new head of UC Berkeley’s investigative journalism program, addressed the challenges facing truth during the Goldman School of Public Policy’s recent board of advisor’s dinner. Barstow examines attacks on the truth from several angles. There is the aforementioned rise of intentionally untruthful news. There is social media, granting anyone unfettered access to the masses. There are deepfakes, new technology allowing people to create increasingly convincing videos of politicians, celebrities and others saying whatever the creator wishes. And on top of it all, there is the rise of public relations firms putting pressure on the economically devastated journalism industry.
Barstow believes we are in a great contest between a world of truth and a kingdom of lies. He shows how investigative reporting can excavate truth from a mountain of deceit, from his work examining President Trump’s finances, to Ronin Farrow’s reporting on Harvey Weinstein. Now, the four-time Pulitzer Prize winner hopes to inspire a new generation of journalists.