Philosophy Prof Urges Media to Approach Reporting Like Socrates

News organizations would produce better journalism if they approached reporting like the Greek philosopher Socrates, according to a philosophy professor at St. Bonaventure University.

“Increasingly over the last two-and-a-half decades, news media around the world, but in particular in the United States, have reported news by drawing the sorts of inferences to which Socrates would take exception,” Barry L. Gan wrote in a research essay posted Tuesday by the Jandoli Institute.

Gan’s paper, “True Falsehoods,” is the first post in the Jandoli Institute’s summer Media Studies Across Disciplines project, a collection of research essays connecting different academic disciplines with the field of communication.

“He (Socrates) was more concerned about wisdom — that people not speak about things that they do not know, that they take care to limit themselves to talking only about what they do know,” Gan wrote. “As he put it, he was concerned that people not pretend to know things that they do not know.”

To illustrate his point, Gan uses recent news reports to argue that they mislead the public and that mainstream media do more editorializing than reporting.

“The American public, if they were as wise as Socrates, would readily see through the misleading headlines and the attempts via choice of stories to manipulate opinion,” he wrote.

Gan will present his paper on Zoom at 7 p.m. Thursday in a format modeled after academic conference presentations. Gan will summarize the paper and then take part in panel discussion with Lee Coppola, retired dean of the Jandoli School of Communication; Kevin Lerner, an assistant professor of journalism at Marist College, and Charles Paolino, former editor at The Home News Tribune of East Brunswick, N.J., and The News Tribune of Woodbridge, N.J. Jandoli Institute Executive Director Richard Lee will moderate. The session is open to the public and may be accessed at https://sbu.zoom.us/j/94474268754.

The institute will post a new Media Studies Across Disciplines essay on its website every Tuesday through Aug. 11. Thursday Zoom presentations will follow several of the presentations.

The essays were authored by St. Bonaventure faculty members who used their knowledge and expertise to provide insight and analysis from their own individual perspectives. Faculty from biology, history, nursing, philosophy and sociology contributed to the project, which was funded by the Leo E. Keenan Jr. Faculty Development Endowment and the Jandoli School of Communication. The essays were selected through a blind peer-review process.

 

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