In our efforts to get their stories seen, writers may employ less than orthodox methods to make their work stand out. It is not uncommon in the field of journalism to overly glorify a topic, exaggerate a problem or outright embellish a story. This is the primary reason sourcing and editing are necessary in journalism in any form. As writers, we typically regard the tedium of sourcing, researching and verifying with disdain. Credibility matters, and it is not only the guilty writer that suffers when a false story get published. It reflects poorly on us all as writers.
The points of an article may be factually correct, however the way in which we as writers present them can be less than honest. There is significant scientific evidence to suggest global warming is an issue as a result of CO2 emissions. But would a provocative title be appropriate for the topic? “Scientist Predict our SUVs will Destroy the Planet!” Exaggeration tactics adversely affects the field of journalism as a whole and damages our credibility overall. The title should not only accurately represent the facts, but the essence of the truth as well.
We don’t typically regard the essence of the truth as significant but it is a very real factor in our everyday lives. The essence of the truth is what we hope to reach in courtrooms. The same facts are presented quite differently by both the prosecution and the defense and it is up to the jury to decide the verdict. The essence of the truth is why that guy on television shouts that his car lot has the “BEST DEALS… REGARDLESS!” He could simply state it in a none obtrusive tone and let the facts speak for themselves.
Overly provocative headlines and imagery and wildly exaggerated presentation of the facts has had a numbing effect on the readers we are trying to reach. As writers and editors, perhaps we should be held accountable to not only preserve the truth, but the essence of the truth as well.