who conveyed reality on a level beyond debate?
There are. They're called poets.
I am not being cute. I am not suggesting that deep verse is a substitute for gutsy investigative journalism.
I am saying, though, that poetry, done with integrity, is a kind of soul journalism. It is a kind of ruthlessly deep reporting whereby the witnessing eye does not blink, the ear does not flinch, and the voice does not falter. Poetry is a kind of truthtelling in which even if the poem's reported events or visions did not empirically happen or exist, the poem's story is true. And the reader or listener knows it is true.
Not that there isn't debate about poems and poetry. Hell, the field of poetry criticism is a regular food fight. Thousands of folks – including some who crave a nearness to poetry but are frustrated by their inability to create it – make a living by critiquing, debating, and teaching poetry.
But the moment when the poet (or the painter or the sculptor or the singer) emerges to publicly offer what s/he has found, and the moment when the reader/looker/listener feels the sharp clap of recognition, are moments of truth.
Take, say, this stanza from one of Rainer Maria Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus (Part II, 1):
Breathing: you invisible poem! Complete
interchange of our own
essence with world-space. You counterweight
in which I rhythmically happen.
If only CNN or The Washington Post had that kind of veracity.