Tag Archives: Truth

The Truth, No Kidding!!!

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A new movie called Truth opens Friday in St. Louis. The film tells Mary Mapes’ version of the Truth. She was a CBS producer who was fired for her role in a 2004 Sixty Minutes report that the network later admitted was inaccurate.

The message of the movie is simple: Even if your basic story is correct, your supporting evidence must be legitimate.

Mapes and her crew assembled a story that had holes in it. They thought that they had the “smoking gun” to reveal that incumbent President Bush (43) had skipped out on his Air National Guard duties in the early 1970s. The memos they showed on air were immediately attacked as fake by right wing websites and soon after by other news organizations including ABC News. Eventually, CBS disavowed the report and Dan Rather issued an on-air apology.

I was reminded of the 1995 O.J. Simpson criminal trial. An L.A. police detective named Mark Fuhrman was one of the key prosecution witnesses. But defense attorneys were aware of his background and used that information to prove that he lied about his use of racial slurs. Johnny Cochran and his team convinced the jury that if Fuhrman lied about using slurs, everything else he said was subject to doubt. Despite other strong evidence that Simpson committed murder, he was acquitted.

When we as communicators tell a story, whether in a blog or social post, a media release, website copy, marketing email or other content venue, we need to make sure that we don’t sabotage our efforts by including questionable information.

If you are promoting a service or product that has, say, three strong verifiable selling points, be careful about adding other claims that may cause prospects to wonder about the validity of those three rock solid points.

The 2006 Al Gore movie An Inconvenient Truth—there’s that word Truth again—shared meaningful insight about climate change. But the film faltered when it implied that Hurricane Katrina was a result of manmade global warning. Knowledge that monster hurricanes have wrought havoc for centuries blunts the Katrina claim and calls the entire content of the movie into question.

I wrote about The Truth earlier this year. Click HERE to read that post.

By the way, I recommend the movie Truth. It is a well-told, well-acted story that provides lessons for all journalists and all communicators. Whether what you see onscreen is completely true is for you to decide. Interestingly, the production company for Truth is… Mythology Entertainment. (True.)

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The Truth About The Truth

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  1. My version of The Truth is different from yours. Take note of testimony regarding recent local cases, the JFK assassination and other events witnessed by many. My version of The Truth is filtered through all my life experiences including prejudices I’ve felt and prejudices I’ve been subjected to.
  2. The Truth is subject to manipulation. In PR/marketing/advertising, what’s generally shared is a portion of The Truth. Look at ads for movies containing critic blurbs. You’ll see “laugh-filled romp” but you won’t see “tedious drivel.”
  3. The Truth is subject to revision. E.g., Santa Claus.
  4. The Truth can be subject to doubt. Have you ever actually seen a water molecule? Probably not. You likely believe, however, that it’s The Truth that it’s composed of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom in a certain structure. But are you sure?
  5. A good documentary film supports an advocacy position. This does not mean such a film is untrue. It is a version of The Truth.

I’ve been thinking a lot about The Truth lately. I recently read The Night Of The Gun by David Carr. In writing his memoir, he went back to people who were in his life in prior decades for The Truth about episodes that had become blurred through the fogs of addiction and time.

Following questions about The Truth of the movies Selma and American Sniper last winter, I’ve seen two recent movies, True Story and While We’re Young, that examine The Truth and its manipulations. Articles this past weekend in the Wall Street Journal (click HERE) and The New York Times (click HERE) consider the importance of The Truth in reporting.

I strive to deliver The Truth in all of my messaging. Communicating my messages and those of the people and organizations I work with involves versions of The Truth. By necessity, when one simplifies a message to make it easier to consume, one must be selective about what stays in and what is edited out. As Oscar Wilde said (and David Carr quoted in his book): “The Truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

(photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/62518311@N00/11155039524, http://photopin.com, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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