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.
UCTV presents two programs featuring two of the most acclaimed journalists of our time.
First, The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and host Michael Bernstein sit with Alex Butterfield, the source of Woodward’s latest book, The Last of the President’s Men, as Butterfield recalls his painful, yet brave decision to answer truthfully about the existence of a taping system in Richard Nixon’s Oval Office during the Senate Watergate hearings in 1973.
Dexter Filkins is one of the most respected combat journalists of his generation. His 2008 book, The Forever War, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Best Nonfiction Book and was named a best book of the year by the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time and the Boston Globe. As part of a team of New York Times reporters, Filkins won a Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for dispatches from Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In this lecture from the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center at UCSB, Filkins retraces the seven years he spent covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, using vivid images by some of the best photojournalists working today. Filkins’ intimate knowledge of many of the main actors – American, Iraqi and Afghan – in two of the most polarizing wars in American history, gives him a unique perspective on these contemporary conflicts.
What does the death of newspapers mean for holding powerful institutions accountable? Who’s going to carry the torch?
The first program in the wide-ranging and fascinating “Searching for Democracy” series from Cal Humanities tackles these tough and important questions. Join Voice of San Diego CEO Scott Lewis, documentary filmmaker Bernardo Ruiz, and investigative journalist Carrie Lozano for a thought-provoking discussion about who will become the guardian of democracy in this fluctuating technological age.
Watch “What Does Vigilance Mean After Newspapers?” online now. And stay tuned throughout the month for more in the “Searching for Democracy” series featuring esteemed scholars, public intellectuals, policy specialists, journalists, and authors for conversation and dialogue on the evolution of civic conversation and the changing nature of democracy over time.