By Jonathan Wilson

We are a society of storytellers. We always have been. Around the fire, at the dinner table and on the sidelines at the kid’s soccer tournament, we tell stories. We tell anecdotes of the past, we share predictions for the future and we discuss the happenings of the present.

In 1440, the way we told stories drastically changed. Previously, stories were transferred through word of mouth or permeated through expensive hand-written records or slow labor-intensive ink transfer methods. However, in 1440 Johannes Gutenberg invented the hand mold, allowing the creation of individual letters or type, and adapted the movable type printing press, which was invented in Asia. Together, these two inventions enabled information to be easily recorded and widely distributed. 

The printing press was the catalyst for a democratization of information, ushering in a new branch of media appropriately called “the press” with the advent of the newspaper. Over the span of the next four centuries, newspapers—followed by radio, and then by television—increasingly provided information and news from around the world in, relatively, real-time. 

In the 1980s, research by Tim Berners-Lee and his colleagues in Switzerland at CERN resulted in the World-Wide-Web. By the mid 1990’s, the internet revolutionized commerce and culture and served as the catalyst for a further democratization of access to… well… everything. 

And just like with the printing press, this catalyst brought with it some unintended consequences.

In today’s frenetic, cluttered environment, anyone with a keyboard and a connection can report the news through any social platform. Journalists, whom we’ve traditionally relied on for fairness and impartiality, have found themselves competing with individual influencers who share information louder and faster. It’s become increasingly difficult to determine what’s editorial and what’s content and what’s real and what’s not.

It seems we have traded access for authenticity. Speed for facts. A one sided point of view from our social echo-chambers rather than our own opinion based on hearing two sides of the same argument.

But, as we evolve and adapt in this new seemingly endless mix of information, an encouraging thing is happening. Fake news—which by definition is false stories that appear to be news, usually created to influence political views or as a joke—has, or at least should have, challenged all of us to be active consumers of information. My advice is that we should search for credibility and authenticity in the information we read and consume, and always ask the questions: who produced this and what’s their agenda?

Given the current geopolitical environment, I see people searching for truth now more than ever. News organizations that put themselves second, and who strive above all to be accurate, will be seen as more credible and trustworthy than those with a purpose of being first. Truth and authenticity are paramount and the role of the intrepid journalist sifting through facts to tell the whole story has never been more important than it is today.

Connected by Walter William’s journalist creed and passion for storytelling, we look to journalists to continue to serve the public and maintain that “the public journal is a public trust.”

Unfortunately, as I penned this article calling for the rise in journalism to lead us back on the road of truth, newscasters themselves—the very people that we invite into our homes to tell us these stories, and the people that we are looking to for truth and authenticity—are under great scrutiny. The few, but quite famous, whose appalling behavior has been exposed, have lumped journalists in with the politicians, actors and others whose behavior is morally objectionable. We may have further to go than I thought. Nevertheless, a public discourse is needed around the way our media is evolving – what is honest? What is impartial? What standards do we want our media to uphold? And what is our responsibility as a public to read between the headlines and form our own balanced opinion on the truth?

Here at Spectrum, we believe in the power of storytelling. In the coming months we will continue to sit down with various journalists to get their perspectives on science and storytelling, today’s challenging media climate and the future. We’ll be sharing learnings we find valuable, hoping you will be inspired by them too. The first of these conversations was held last week with acclaimed journalist Carl Zimmer. Our discussion was entertaining, illuminating and most importantly – authentic.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn by Jonathan Wilson, Spectrum President and CEO.