What is truth in a world of fake news? New podcast series launched examining the role of humanities research 

Dr Maggie Reid is a New Media and Humanities Journalism fellow based in the Jackman Humanities Institute (JHI). For her fellowship project, she has launched a podcast series called ‘lower case truth’ examining the current ‘post truth era’ and the role of universities.

A screenshot of the lower case truth website with a list of podcasts on it

 

Maggie explains why she created lower case truth, why talking about this is important and how her fellowship at the JHI has supported her.

Attacks on education and truth

We are living in very polarizing times. Donald Trump claims that any media that presents him unfavourably is fake news. It has been said that we are living in a ‘post truth era’.

There is so much information and misinformation circulating online and it is very difficult to sort through what is fact and what is fiction. 

At the same time, educational institutions are being attacked and defunded. 

They are accused of being ideologically corrupt and preaching despicable values like fairness. I believe these attacks are concerted efforts to keep populations uneducated by manufacturing disdain for education and distrust in journalism. Uneducated populations are easier to control. 

This is not to say that education and media organizations should be above reproach, they shouldn’t. But education and journalism are foundational institutions in a democracy. We need to understand the world to make informed decisions about our lives and to hold power accountable. 

The attacks on these institutions makes the truth feel like a moving target but I believe that there are still standards for talking about and conceptualizing what the truth is. 

Conversations with academics on critical issues of our time

In making this podcast, I wanted to sort through what I call the ‘sea of garbage’ to understand what is really going on in this moment.  

The podcast is about having accessible conversations with academics about the pressing issues of the post truth moment we are living in.

  • How do we sort through the misinformation?
  • How do we hold power accountable in a post truth era? 
  • What is the role of the social sciences and humanities disciplines in helping us with these questions?

They have been challenging and a lot of work because I want them to be elevated and interesting and I am doing all of the work myself. I have spent so much time creating the website, researching, recording, editing, writing scripts, and then at the end of the day I still need to market them and put them out on as many platforms as I can. There is also a vulnerability in putting your work out to the world. I put a lot of pressure on myself and can obsess over the tiniest bit of audio. 

Building a bridge between academia and the wider public: why the humanities are so important

For a very long time the academy has felt like this inaccessible place. So much of the research that comes out of these disciplines is relevant to the larger public but academics are not encouraged to write and distribute their research in accessible ways. Academic success is often measured by peer reviewed publications that are often costly to access and written in jargonistic ways. 

I believe that we need to better bridge the gap between academia and the wider public. 

There are a lot of anxieties right now about the future of work. We constantly read about the automation of entire industries and jobs. With all of the looming insecurity, people question why they should pursue a degree in philosophy or history or any other discipline that doesn’t lead you into a particular job. 

I am not saying that higher education shouldn’t train people for the workplace, it’s that is shouldn’t only do that. 

We need to better communicate that it is valuable to learn to think critically, to learn about (and from) history, and to consider the consequences of the current configurations of society. 

We are workers, but we are also citizens who live in a democracy, and we can't let that slip away. 

Enabled by a new media fellowship at the Jackman Humanities Institute 

I am the first ever journalism fellow with the Jackman Humanities Institute (JHI). It is a 12 month funded residential fellowship for a postdoctoral researcher with the aim to bring humanities research out of the classroom and into the public domain across multiple media platforms.

In my fellowship for the JHI, I have been working for CBC’s ‘Ideas’ a few days a week as a radio documentary producer in addition to producing this podcast. 

This fellowship has given me the time and space to really try to understand some of the pressing issues of our time. 

On a professional level, I have had the chance to work with extremely talented people at the university and CBC who are very generous with their time, expertise and ideas. I have learned so much about podcasting, audio editing and documentary production. 

Listen to the podcast: lower case truth

lower case truth website

Still to come

Episodes on the following will be available soon:

  • knowledge vs. belief  
  • the rise of alt-right extremism 
  • the war on drugs 
  • meritocracy 
  • indigenizing education and climate change
  • the death of ‘objectivity’ in journalism 

The podcasts are available to listen on all major podcast platforms: Spotify, Soundcloud, iTunes and Google Play.

Follow Maggie Reid on Twitter @maggiemreid to hear about the latest episodes.