Social media has allowed all of us to become “journalists,” meaning that we have that much more of a responsibility to pursue and speak truth. Indeed, in Hebrew, the word for “lie” is “sheker” — shin, qoph, resh. The shape of those three letters are balanced on thin footing, and are precariously balanced, and all come close together in the alphabet. In contrast, the word for “truth” is “emet” — aleph, mem, tav. The shape of those three letters rest on more firm footing, are spread out throughout the alphabet, and therefore have stronger bases.
So in the Babylonian Talmud, the Rabbis looked at those letters and asked, “Why does falsehood [stand] on one foot, while truth has a brick-like foundation? Because,” they answered, “truth can stand, but falsehood cannot.”
As part of Sinai and Synapses’ project Scientists in Synagogues, CNN anchor Dana Bash spoke at Congregation Shir Hadash, in Los Gatos, CA, in the heart of Silicon Valley. She spoke about how her Judaism influenced her journalistic work, as well as how the advent of social media has changed how we talk to one another. Below is an interview she did as part of their program, where she spoke about the interaction of ethical speech, journalism and the changing technology of how we interact with each other.
Social media has changed news in a way that it’s really hard to qualify or quantify, because everything, from sharing stories that are online – in my personal experience, when I do a television story, it goes online, and the first thing I do is share it on social media, because it has such an impact. Because you don’t have to be sitting and watching on television. You also don’t necessarily have to know exactly where it is on our website. But if you get the link through social media, then the story, as a journalist, that I do can reach even more people.
All you have to do is look at who’s in the White House to see how Twitter in particular, but social media, changed the game of politics. Because Donald Trump used Twitter in a way that nobody else has, because of his rare combination of being a celebrity, being a reality TV star, and then of course being a candidate. So he already had the followers, and he used Twitter to reach out to his people, and to change conversations, to change the dynamic of the campaign like no one had ever done before. He was, and still is, unabashed about using it to say what he wants to say. And I’m not sure that anybody will use Twitter the way he has, and the way he is, again in the future, because he is unique, and he has a unique relationship with social media.
I think the question of whether or not journalism can maintain its commitment to truth – the answer is obvious every day in what I do. And it’s “absolutely”. There has been no time in my professional career where the need to get to the truth, to find the truth, to highlight and spotlight the truth, has been more important. So, ironically, the world that we’re living in now is good for traditional journalists like me, because it’s even more important for our journalism.