Peter Coleman: Truth, reality and the meaning of life

Peter Miller writing about truth and trust this month brought a timely reminder of the question, 'what is true'. And can we bottle and brand it?

Miller, chief executive of Australia's NewsMediaWorks, writes of the importance of reader revenue in the finances that fund journalism, and says "94 per cent of Australians see our news brands as deserving of their time and attention, and they also see news brands as their most trusted media.
"The twin pillars of trust and reach present advertisers with an opportunity to target their prospects using the tremendously creative canvas of print, and the smart interactivity of digital."

Publisher members would have you believe that their journalism is worthy of that trust. Not everyone believes so; a group in Queensland got so agitated by News Corp's perceived position on global warming that they literally called "bullshit" on the publisher, dumping a cartload of manure in the doorway of their Brisbane headquarters. Others lay on the pavement in a protest outside News' Sydney headquarters. James Murdoch and former corporate functions commercial finance manager Emily Townsend have also contributed expressions in a healthy if unbalanced debate.

But when 'truth' is for sale, who's to say whether the proposition itself is real?

Sitting in a restaurant last weekend, my attention was drawn to a hatchback parked opposite, signwritten with the brand, 'trueAU.news', which it turns out is the registered business name of a Brisbane sole trader.

.news is now, of course, a registerable domain, but the combination of 'true' and 'news' aroused my journalistic sensitivities, especially when its related site asks you how you want to pay for exposure - in kind, money, or both, or to "supply a product to be reviewed" - and the value of your budget.

There's no shortage of businesses with 'true' in their brandname. The local hardware store, part of a chain, comes to mind, but in this context we're talking 'value', which you can judge. 'Real' is another word which needs sensitivity, and I can't say I'm happy about TV ads in which a company which is using the brand 'Real Insurance' inflects the word as if it were an adjective.

How do you judge truth in news, especially when you don't know its provenance?

My query on the related 'jointheadventure' site currently goes unanswered, but a search on the Australian Business Register indicates a resident in suburban Morayfield registered the name and a raft of others between 2016 and the middle of last year.

Online, you're soon on Instagram - which of course, wants your personal details as the price of admission - and into a world of over-saturated pictures and gushing prose. Which reminded me of where I came in - with a pleasant enough meal served with too much gush and questionable sincerity in a restaurant which is at least regulated by state authorities.

When it comes to truth and news, it's a case of "buyer beware", though fact-checkers find themselves increasingly busy. More important therefore that those with credentials to be proud of should strut them for all to see.

• Peter Coleman is managing editor of GXpress. You can contact him on email mpcmedia@ozemail.com.au

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