South Bay Writers Speaker Series
Monday, June 12, 2017
Truth and Fiction
SBW panel will discuss where a writer’s duty lies
by Colin Seymour
Who can you believe anymore? Propaganda and “fake news” are widespread, and both halves of the political divide have walled themselves off from not only the other half’s views, but also the other half’s news.
That problem didn’t seem like a crisis until 2016. But now many of us are distraught about the extent to which lies are eroding our lives.
After all, as writers, we want people to believe us. We want the record set straight. We want the crisis addressed now. Isn’t it our job as writers to address it?
To that end, South Bay Writers hopes to examine the war on truth at our June 12 dinner meeting by staging a panel discussion among four writers whose knack for discerning truth has distinguished their careers. (See panelists’ bios below.)
Yet, at least two of the four are currently involved in fiction projects, so we’re hoping this is a discussion that doesn’t merely harp on political differences for the whole precious hour.
That isn’t to say politics will get short shrift. Surely it’s worth delving into why some of you may believe that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are the true leaders of ISIS, and that Hillary is maintaining a child porn ring at a Washington pizzeria. Others may believe reports that President Trump has some sort predilection for a kinky practice known as “golden showers.”
You’ll notice that you didn’t see those stories reported as fact in the mainstream media, presumably because they couldn’t substantiate them.
The one prejudice with which the panel and I enter this discussion is that mainstream media, for all their faults, remain the most reliable sources of information widely available to seekers of news. The San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle and KNTV (NBC-11) are all prominent on the panelists’ resumes, as are the Hoover Institution, a Pulitzer Prize, and several award-winning documentaries.
Most of them will concede, however, that there’s a difference between citing facts and getting at the more abstract concept of “the truth.”
Fiction can be a means of doing that. Yet one wonders if there will be an all-out assault on falsehood. Could that affect how fiction is perceived, even affect what fiction means?
Answering those questions alone probably would fill our one-hour allotment at the SBW dinner meeting.
I’ll be your ringmaster, having previously moderated SBW panel discussions involving whether our club’s published authors make any money; the disadvantages aged writers face in a youth-oriented business world; and what we writers can do to get publicity in newspapers.
The latter discussion brought a political controversy to the fore, a subject that was not germane to the topic of writers getting publicity, and I had to get firm-handed to keep us on track.
That may well be the case June 12, as we boost the already high energy level at Harry’s Hof Brau. We’ll all have to behave, and it won’t be easy, truth be told.
Colin Seymour is a past president (2013-2015) and vice president (2010-2012) of South Bay Writers.
DATE: Monday, June 12, 2017
COST: $15 members / $20 non-members (includes $10 for dinner)
LOCATION: Harry’s Hofbrau, 390 Saratoga Ave., San Jose, Calif.
GENERAL MEETING AGENDA
6:00 pm Dinner
6:30 pm General Meeting
7:10 pm Break
7:30 pm Panel: Truth and Fiction
8:30 pm Networking & Dessert
9:00 pm Close
STEVE KETTMANN: The former San Francisco Chronicle sports writer, best known for covering the Oakland A’s beat, now operates a writers retreat, the Wellstone Center in the Redwoods, above Soquel. Wellstone also does some publishing, preferably of books that “make you want to do something.” Steve’s book on baseball executive Sandy Alderson has been extremely successful by our club’s standards, and he is working on a political novel.
CHARLEY LINDSEY: The former longtime copy chief of the Mercury News, who also was in charge of the Merc’s stylebook, is the managing editor of the Hoover Digest, a quarterly public-policy journal, at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, where he recently marked his 10th anniversary. He has a master’s degree in journalism from UC-Berkeley. He is a native Californian and “a survivor of 12 years of Catholic school.”
PETE CAREY: The recently retired reporter was at the Mercury News for 49 years and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1986 for his share of the three-writer report on the influx of huge chunks of money from the Philippines to the United States. He was “variously the newspaper’s Aerospace Writer, tech writer, Projects reporter, Investigative reporter and business reporter covering real estate and Valley tech companies.” Pete is a graduate of UC-Berkeley.
DANA NACHMAN: The former KNTV (NBC-11) news producer, who won three regional Emmys, has written and produced documentaries for more than a decade. Best known are her 2015 film “Batkid Begins” (Warner Bros.), and “Witch Hunt,” collaborating with Sean Penn, which premiered in Toronto in 2008. Dana’s films have appeared on MSNBC and PBS. The native New Yorker is a guest journalism lecturer at Stanford. Her current film projects include “a foray into fiction.”
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