Forum on truthfulness to be hosted by the Topeka Capital-Journal on Tuesday

Demystifying the inner workings of a newspaper, how reporters do their jobs and ethics in an era of fabricated media outlets are just a few of the aspects that will be discussed as part of “Truthfulness: How the Topeka Capital-Journal Focuses on Facts,” a public forum on Tuesday at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library. (Photo Illustration by Thad Allton/The Capital-Journal)

Demystifying the inner workings of a newspaper, how reporters do their jobs and ethics in an era of fabricated media outlets are just a few of the aspects that will be discussed as part of “Truthfulness: How the Topeka Capital-Journal Focuses on Facts,” a public forum this week at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library.

 

“From a philosophical standpoint, the integrity of journalism itself is disfigured by the flood of fake news and it won’t just be newspapers that suffer,” said Capital-Journal publisher Zach Ahrens who will lead the panel discussion at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. “Our democracy will be in trouble. That’s why the Capital-Journal has launched an awareness campaign on this idea of ‘Get Real.’ We work hard to provide our readers with rigorous information that matters to them.”

“Truthfulness” is June’s word of the month for the Topeka City of Character June program of which the Capital-Journal is a sponsor. Other sponsors include the City of Topeka, Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce, Topeka Rescue Mission, Stormont Vail Health, Azura Credit Union, Sprout Communications, Safe Streets Coalition and Patton &Patton law firm.

Ahrens said while there may be heated rhetoric that is currently dominating the national political landscape with accusations of fake news, readers of the Capital-Journal can be assured the newspaper’s reporters are doing their due diligence to get and report the facts.

“We need to be able to have a discerning ear and a discerning eye of truth in reporting,” he said, “and what reliable, vetted, researched content really looks like.”

Sherman Smith, managing news editor for the Capital-Journal, said while national media reporters may use anonymous sources in their stories, only in rare instances would Capital-Journal cite unnamed sources in a story.

“The only time it comes to mind in the past year was in some our St. Francis reporting,” Smith said. “That was relying on people who had very specific information who could confirm details for us, basic facts and their jobs would be jeopardy if they were identified.”

Ahrens said many readers, through no fault of their own, don’t always understand the different departments are supposed to work independently of each other and that is by design. He said he’s hoping Tuesday’s panel discussion will answer some of the questions about how the news department is wholly separate from advertising, the editorial board, the opinion page, letters to the editor and even blogs.

“Our truthfulness and trust is vital,” Ahrens said. “Our role as a local media company, in my mind there’s an extra level of caution we need to have as we approach what we do because this is our community as well. We’re not just people watching from the sides but we’re in it and living it. Without our credibility, we can write the best prose but it wouldn’t accomplish what I believe but each of the people in the newsroom have an obligation to uphold.”

Contact reporter Angela Deines can be reached at (785) 295-1143 or follow her on Twitter @AngelaDeines.

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