by Tom Kirvan
“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”
The quote – from civil rights activist Ida B. Wells, one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) – is emblazoned on a wall of the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
The Newseum, which opened in 2008 and reportedly has attracted more than 7 million visitors to date, is an interactive shrine to defenders of free expression and the “five freedoms of the First Amendment: religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition.” It is a place where those concerned with this country’s current political plight may find a safe harbor against the seeming tidal wave of lies, distortions, and disinformation that characterizes the sea-change in the presidency.
Former Detroit Free Press reporter Nathan Bomey, fresh from writing a riveting 2016 book on the Detroit bankruptcy saga, titled Detroit Resurrected: To Bankruptcy and Back, is now hip deep in another ambitious publishing project. It was spawned by the surprising outcome of last fall’s presidential election and the resulting political shock waves it sent across the nation – and beyond.
Bomey, now a business writer for USA Today, signed a book deal in January with Prometheus Books, an aptly named national publisher based in Amherst, N.Y. The company derives its name from the Greek mythology figure who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to man, in turn creating an age-old metaphor for promoting knowledge or enlightenment.
Such will be Bomey’s quest as he tackles his latest book, the working title of which is After the Fact: The Erosion of Truth and the Inevitable Rise of Donald Trump.
“It will discuss how trends in social media, news media, and politics paved the way for someone to rise to power while skewing the facts,” Bomey explained. “The underlying premise is this: We should not be surprised that this could happen because there’s a little bit of Donald Trump in all of us.”
It’s a sobering thought in today’s politically charged world, where followers of the print and broadcast media are searching for a semblance of solid footing. As a member of the Fourth Estate, Bomey made the decision to “dive into an issue that I’m particularly passionate about” in explaining his desire to write a second book.
“It’s been a huge undertaking so far, as I’ve been interviewing a unique mix of executives in the technology world, while also talking with experts in the fields of psychology, sociology, political science, and the media,” said Bomey, an Eastern Michigan University alum who served as editor of the student newspaper, The Eastern Echo, while there.
His interviews with various media execs are revolving around how “web traffic and digital metrics influence day-to-day coverage” of the news, Bomey indicated.
Relatedly, he will explore how social media giant Facebook “affects how we consume news,” particularly its impact on the spread of “fabricated content” or “highly distorted” reports, Bomey said.
Bomey, who grew up in the Ann Arbor area and is the son of a minister, said the book is “non-partisan” and will touch on the issue of how the rise in “decrying science” can cut “both ways politically.”
Some “two-thirds of the way” through the project, Bomey said the book is “not a story” on the Trump campaign.
“That book will be done many times over by others,” he insisted.
Instead, Bomey hopes the book will serve a greater purpose.
“The book is an effort to step back and analyze how some of these trends are affecting all of us,” he said. “My goal in writing this is to help get the conversation going before we lose further sight of the truth.”