Let's talk about the news
Journalists play a vital role in any democratic society. They encourage the transparency of information, and help to hold the government to account. They allow the public to digest world events so that we can form an opinion and influence policy-making. They give people a platform where different voices and perspectives can be expressed, and offer policy-makers insights into the needs and wants of the public.
Although print journalism is going into decline, newspapers are adapting by going digital, and exploring new ways to create more content. Podcasts, for example, are an excellent way to further the debate, as editors can conduct short interviews and host Q and A sessions.
In an age where the news can be consumed in a multitude of ways, information can be shared in a fraction of a second, and a global audience can be built; this might encourage more news outlets to prioritise sensationalism over objective reporting. Breaking news stories also tend to be extremely negative, offering no solutions to the problems we face.
Article by Fox Nation, titled 'Obama has a big problem with white women'. Classic sensationalism.
Like any other industry, media outlets are in competition with each other. Journalists scramble to cover breaking stories, and publish exaggerated (and often, false) headlines to increase circulation. This is not just limited to tabloid newspapers; in fact, this style of reporting has spread to television news as well.
A video by Vox shows how "CNN treats politics like sports", rather than focusing on objective reporting. It hires loyal Trump supporters who make ridiculous arguments, so as to create heated debates, infuriating viewers. This turns debate panels into reality TV, while encouraging the spread of misinformation. In fact, the president of CNN Jeff Zucker told the New York Times that "the idea that politics is sport is undeniable, and we understood that and approached it that way".
Reading the news can be depressing. Every breaking story seems to be about something negative - war, corruption, poverty. Perhaps this is because humans have a negative bias; this makes our brains more sensitive to negative words, and hence, negative news. While it is true that the media tends to produce more bad news, this doesn't mean that there is no good news at all. It may just mean that they're harder to find, especially if you access the news through Facebook or Twitter, which use algorithms. The more bad news you read, the more bad news will appear on your newsfeed; and vice versa.
However, bad news is inevitable. Although journalism should celebrate goods news, it also has the significant role of informing the public about injustices and wrongdoings, so that we can take action against it. Some people suggest not reading the news altogether, as it makes them feel helpless and upset. But all this is is an escape, ignoring the problem at hand. We have a responsibility to be well-informed about the world around us, and to exercise our influence over such problems.
We often hear people say that while they have an interest in these issues, they don't know what they can do to make a difference; or that no viable solutions are provided, making the problem seem unsolvable. So how can we balance empowerment with negative news? The answer to this may be Solutions Journalism (SoJo). This kind of journalism emphasises on responses to problems, rather than just the problem itself. This makes articles more forward-looking and uplifting, inspiring readers to take action, making them feel empowered rather than completely helpless. This is a style we try to adopt at D4C wherever possible, as we believe it engages our reader with the issue at hand, and will inevitably result in change, however small this may be.
Some of the mainstream media have always adopted this style of journalism; for example, The Economist's leading stories offer advice and solutions to the problems they cover. Many others are also shifting towards this too, with the help of Solutions Journalism Network, a non-profit which trains and connects journalists to adopt SoJo. The BBC launched a project in 2016, organising workshops and talks to expose their reporters to this style of journalism so that they can incorporate it into relevant articles.
Hard news vs analytical journalism
Some worry that SoJo could encourage journalists to turn reporting into advocacy. However, there is a fine line between imposing and suggesting solutions; SoJo aims to report on possible or existent responses, examining whether they work or not. This relates to whether we think newspapers should just report the facts (i.e. hard news), or be slightly opinionated and offer some analysis, especially as the mainstream media is shifting towards the latter.
I personally favour analytical journalism, although I still use hard news for basic information. We often form an opinion after reading hard news; however, reading different analyses can help us shape and change our viewpoint. This is also why I also like reading Op-Eds alongside regular articles, as I enjoy being exposed to a variety of perspectives, and it creates a whole other dimension to the topic at hand.
In the age of 'fake news', journalism matters now more than ever - established and respectable newspapers are fact-checked, and many write easy-to-read articles which aim to educate readers about complex issues. There is no right or wrong when it comes to analytical journalism, which is why Op-Eds and Letters to the Editor are important, as they challenge the view of journalists, creating richer debates.
Sensationalism and negative news are hard to combat. For starters, read more broadsheet newspapers, rather than tabloids; listen to podcasts instead of watching sensationalist television news; look out for and read more positive headlines. These might seem like little changes, but it can affect the way the news is presented to us. After all, the culture of news is dependent on the preferences of its consumers - this is all very much in our hands.
Change never stops, but we will always need journalism (The Guardian)
Majority of U.S. adults think news media should not add interpretation to the facts (Pew Research Center)
How journalism is changing for the better, in 1 chart (The Washington Post)
Why 'solutions journalism' matters, too (NY Times)