How, then, can the profession fight back? Just as sunlight is the best disinfectant for rotten government, so is skepticism the best and most reliable friend of journalists who care about truth and not just stories that are “true enough.” The old adage is more essential than ever: if your mother says she loves you, check it out. Repeated trips to the factual well remain the best way to distill reality and guard against hype. Check, cross check, and check again. Truth may be getting its shoes on while a lie reaches half way around the world, as Mark Twain observed. But truth still matters, and in the long run, it will prevail so long as a decent number of people push for it.

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David Cay Johnston covers fiscal and budget matters for CJR’s United States Project. He is a reporter with 46 years of experience, including 13 at The New York Times; a columnist for Tax Analysts; teaches tax and regulatory law at Syracuse University Law School; and is president of Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE). Follow him on Twitter @DavidCayJ.