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Tom Watkins
Tom Watkins

Truth as Brand – Truth Matters

February 17, 2017 

Country music singer Chris Cagle poses the quintessential question about “truth” as a brand in his iconic song “What Kinda Gone” when he bellows: 

“There’s gone for good, and there’s good and gone.  And there’s gone with the long before it.  I wish she’d been just a little more clear.  Well, there’s gone for the day and gone for the night.  And gone for the rest of your dad gum life–what kinda gone are we talkin’ ‘bout here?”

I was reminded of “truth” while watching the 2016 presidential election (both sides) and the first few weeks of the Trump Administration with its mix of missteps, half-truths and “alternative facts” that make us question our very sanity.  As Groucho Marx once asked: “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”  

When did America Start Parsing “Truth?” 

Where can we go for accurate truthful information today?

Which flavor truth of the day do you want to have dished up?  It’s as simple as a channel change: Pick a network, any network– Fox?  CNBC?  CNN?  ABC?  NBC?  Have we Americans lost our common sense of purpose with no shared vision or common agenda?  You remember: The ones that used to define us as a nation?  The ones that bind us together for the good of us all? 

“How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg?  Four.  Saying that a tail is a leg doesn’t make it a leg.” — Abraham Lincoln 

I believe that when solid, fact-based, journalism dies, truth and democracy is not far behind.  A bit of a history reminder may be in order: Journalists, reporters, and newspapers were among the first casualties in Nazi Germany.  

America has lost a great many print newspapers in the past decade to the Internet revolution, among them those with solid journalistic integrity and talent worthy of Pulitzer prizes for newspaper reporting.  Where to find objective reporting these days?  Objective journalistic reporting seems to be dying–not unlike the proverbial canary in the coal mine of democracy. 

Countless newspapers around the nation have cut costs and personnel at a record-setting pace.  More and more of what passes as “news” today is homogenized, stories provided by wire services that do not capture the pulse of a city, a region, a state or the country. 

Added to the pain of newsroom buyouts and layoffs, are important stories that go uninvestigated or written about: Corruption, political shenanigans, insider trading and even the occasional good-news stories—catching the system actually working to benefit people.

 I am heartened to see that Crain’s Detroit Business added exceptional journalist Chad Livengood to its staff and is partnering with Bridge Magazine, the 2016 Michigan Press Association Newspaper of the Year in order to extend its reach.

Dome Magazine is filling a void left by the dozen or more news outlets that at one time covered everything that happened under the Capitol Dome.  The number of journalists that once cover the State Capitol continues to dwindle. 

A viable democracy needs journalists who help hold politicians, bankers, government, and corporate giants accountable for their actions.  Can that be done by citizen bloggers?  Unlikely.  An independent, experienced, competent, and fact-based press is vital to transparency and integrity.  It is often the only check on unfettered power and human greed.

Knowledge and Truth Matter

We deserve government at every level to be open, honest and transparent and a free press to assure they are.  President Thomas Jefferson may have said it best when he declared, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter.”


Sadly, too few of the public, heads down staring at cell phones or checking the latest social media postings, don’t seem to take note of the loss of quality news reporting across the state and our nation. This is an enormous blow to our collective freedom and our democracy. 

The great news reporter Walter Cronkite once remarked, “Freedom of the press is not just important to democracy, it IS democracy.” 

A free, independent, fact-based press is a necessary tool for keeping our democracy from seizing up.  Journalists provide that filter from which truth flows. Truth helps form a common bond that keeps our democracy striving towards a “more perfect Union.” 

The beginning of this new New Year—2017—is a great time for a new start.  Let’s ask the question: “What Kinda Gone Are We Talkin’ ‘Bout Here?”   As a society, when it comes to truth and integrity, our very democracy depends on it. 

Knowledge and truth matters.

Tom Watkins  is President and CEO of the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority. ( He has served the citizens of Michigan as state superintendent of schools and state mental health director. He is a prolific writer, a regular contributor to these pages and He can be emailed at:, or followed on twitter at:@tdwatkins88


February 16, 2017 · Filed under Tom Watkins

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Dohn // Feb 18, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    Thanks Tom! If anything bears repeating, this does

  • 2 John Q. Public // Feb 19, 2017 at 12:51 pm

    What news void is Dome filling? It’s a commentary site.



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