facts don’t matter

Earlier this week, a political consultant friend of mine posted this Boston Globe article on his crackbook page. It’s a spot-on analysis of how facts don’t matter, going over research showing that people are unswayed in their opinions by pesky stuff like the truth.

This article really hit me personally, because it specifically enumerated the reasons I had to quit journalism after 12 years. I got into the field with the optimistic idea that people, given facts, would act upon those facts to improve the world around them. First I found that people didn’t read the paper, even people like activists who most needed to. Then I realized that it wasn’t just about reading, it was about opinions. People seem more interested in having opinions than having informed opinions, and didn’t even seem to care about facts that bolstered their positions.

But I couldn’t go on personally doing that work, staring, as I say, into the gaping maw of the end of the world. Not when no one cared, not when facts no longer mattered. I’m desperately glad, though, that there are people who can.

The reporters covering environmental issues are some of the very best, smartest and most diligent people I know. Of course there are some hacks out there. But there are also great people doing great and important work. For instance, there’s the Society of Environmental Journalists, which just won the prestigious Gulbenkian International Prize for its work educating the populace about biodiversity issues. Or there are the folks with InvestigateWest, offering cutting-edge, investigative reporting in the post-newspaper-apocalypse era.

Think about your own relationship to facts that don’t support your opinions. Please prove me and the researchers in the Globe article wrong. And please support environmental and all good investigative journalism. There’s not much hope, but this may be our best hope.

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~ by gardenmedicine on July 15, 2010.

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