National Geographic : 2017 Jun
PHOTO: DAN WINTERS Susan Goldberg, Editor in Chief | FROM THE EDITOR | EARNING YOUR TRUST years ago, our motto was similarly un- ambiguous: Find the truth and print it. That was correct then, and it is now. So it astounds me today that, in the United States and elsewhere, we’re talking about Actual Facts—to say nothing of “alterna- tive facts,” “fake news,” and “post-truth.” Clearly, it’s the ideal time to publish this month’s cover, a scientific exploration of why we lie. When my grandfather distorted the truth, it was annoying, but it didn’t really matter—the stakes were low. But now, when elected leaders around the world do the same thing, it’s frightening. What’s even scarier, in this digital era, is how errors of fact proliferate instantly, and that so many people embrace the alternate realities. The trust gap between the public and experts, after widening for decades, is now a chasm. And as “certified” experts decline in stature, “self-declared” experts ascend. This is the bad news. But there’s also good news—and you are a big part of it. One of the great joys of working here is witnessing the affection and deep trust that readers feel for National Geographic and the content that we publish across platforms. I believe we keep that trust by producing journalism that is honest and fair, grounded in science and evidence, designed to educate and inform. Confidence in the integrity of our work enables us to defend it, civilly, to those with other beliefs. That seems like a good place to start if we’re ever going to agree, let alone act, on actual facts. When I was a child in Ann Arbor, Mich- igan, my parents used to load my sister and me into the car and drive to my grandparents’ house near Detroit. My grandparents were immigrants from Russia and Poland. They spoke broken, heavily accented English with a lot of Yiddish sprinkled in. My grandfather was a pugnacious, up-by-his-bootstraps businessman who didn’t get past fifth grade. But what he lacked in education he made up for in certainty. He won every argument, big or small, by trotting out what he called the “Actual Facts,” usually at top volume. After each visit, on the drive home, my sister and I would snicker about my grandfather’s Actual Facts—a ridiculous, redundant phrase. We knew that facts were facts. Period. In a newsroom where I worked 35 FIND THE TRUTH AND PRINT IT In a University of Toronto study, children were put in situations where they had to choose between lying and telling the truth while researchers observed their brain activity using neuroimaging headgear.