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That's the truth: WVU experts weigh in on how we determine what is true


WVU experts Bob Britten, Elizabeth Cohen and Geoff Georgi are available to talk about truth—it's meaning, how we receive it and how we perceive it. 

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The controversy over truth—what it is, how we receive it and how we perceive it—is growing. Three West Virginia University experts weigh in on truth from the areas of media, social media and philosophy. 

Bob Britten
Assistant Professor of Journalism
Reed College of Media

“Trust in the news media went up in 2017, actually, although it’s still not especially high. One thing that hasn’t really changed is the answer to which media you trust: Just like with Congress, “everybody” hates them, but many of us trust our own guy, that local or national source we keep going back to. A big issue, however, is that with social media becoming such a common “source” of information, we no longer have as clear an idea of who produces the news we read. Dave from high school posts a story, so we trust Dave as a source rather than the people who wrote the story he shared. In a way, the personal, emotional connections we can derive from social media ties can undercut the connections of trust we once had with news media sources.”

Bob Britten audio file; 304.216.3555


Elizabeth Cohen
Assistant Professor of Communications Studies
Eberly College of Arts and Sciences

"Social media gets a lot of flack for being the harbinger of “fake news” and people’s distrust of mainstream news media, but the truth is public mistrust of news media has been on the decline for decades. The Internet and social media platforms have played a role in public confusion or disagreement about what makes sources true or trustworthy. The Internet gave us a great deal of control over our information diets. Obviously, there are a lot of great things about having this access to knowledge, but it does undermine the authority of experts. But thanks to the Internet, which gives everyone the power to feel like an expert, I’m not sure that expertise is valued that much anymore. Is the information true? Sometimes it is, sometimes it’s not, but for better or worse, it’s for the consumer to judge now." 

Elizabeth Cohen audio file; 678.768.7765


Geoff Georgi
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Eberly College of Arts and Sciences

“Truth is accurate representation of the world in language or thought. When we disagree about whether something is true, we are disagreeing about how the world is. Thus, truth is a concept of metaphysics, language and logic. Yet many people (including some philosophers) have wanted to impose a further criterion on truth: that truth requires certainty, which can quickly lead to extreme relativism about truth, and to “alternative facts.” If what we can be certain of is to some degree up to us (from our individual standpoints), then what is true for me may not be true for you. To resist this extreme relativism, we must be careful to distinguish between what is true, and our evidence for saying that something is true. Disagreement about how the world is should ultimately be resolved by looking at the world together.”

Geoff Georgi audio file; 304.293.4720.



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