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Times columnist to Exeter: America 'facing a fact crisis'

Charles M. Blow tells first assembly of new year that a free press is "the best friend a democracy can have."

By
Adam Loyd
January 7, 2020
New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow

The excitement and energy of the students' return from winter break was palpable inside Assembly Hall on Tuesday as journalist Charles M. Blow took the stage for the first assembly address of the new year. 

Using the current political climate as the backdrop for his remarks, the op-ed columnist at The New York Times spoke about the importance of truth, explaining how politized rhetoric can create narratives that cause Americans “to question the very nature of what is factual.” 

“We are facing multiple dangers resulting from this degradation of truth,” Blow said. “The country is facing a fact crisis.” 

Blow highlighted the issues of climate change, immigration and drug control, calling the common misconceptions, hypocrisies and untruths about each topic “dangerous.”

“We have become a society more interested in ammunition than information,” he said. “We want to arm ourselves with accusations that confirm our convictions regardless of their veracity.” 

Blow talked about the role journalists have in seeking the truth during what he calls “profound and perilous times.”  

“We are in an age where the powerful want truth not to be true and want the pursuers of truth not to pursue it. And yet, truth stands, rigid and sharp, unforgiving and unafraid. It is our only guardian against tyranny. …. A free, fearless, adversarial, in-your-face press is the best friend a democracy can have.”

 

While exalting the importance of the media, Blow acknowledged the shortcomings of the free press and the murky lens through which the public consumes what is presented as fact, saying “there is no professional license to become a member of the media.”

“There are all kinds of publications, sprawling massive entities, but they’re not all abiding by the same code of ethics,” he said. 

Talking about what he called an “inconvenient truth,” Blow discussed the precarious dichotomy of journalism produced by for-profit conglomerates.

“The media has many masters beyond the commitment to truth and its service to readers, listeners and viewers,” he said. “Stockholders, advertisers and sources are also its masters.”

Even with its imperfections, Blow believes the media and journalism is the “greatest guardian our democracy has,” calling it an “army aimed at discovering and revealing truth.”

“In the end, truth must win,” he said.

The Academy will host Charles M. Blow for an evening assembly at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 7 in Assembly Hall. The speech is free and open to the public.