How to Report in (and on) a Polarized World Without Making Everything Worse

Speaker: Nina Fasciaux, Manager in Europe and International Coordinator for the Solutions Journalism Network


December 4th, 2020, 18:50-19:25 CET


Written by Inel Shalabayev


Key words: Polarization, Journalism, Media


Short annotation, summary

Statistics from the Reuters Institute Digital News Report shows that people are losing trust in media. Nina Fasciaux came up with the ‘Complicating the Narratives’ project in 2019 to tackle the issue. The project aims to help journalists find new ways of reporting polarizing problems and help audiences to engage more with the news.


The project or approach to be discussed in the session

The speaker offers the project, ‘Complicating the Narratives’. According to the speaker, the project aims to: help journalists find new ways to report on controversial issues, draw on the experience of experts in conflict mediation, offer innovative strategies to reporters and help audiences understand opposing views and engage with the news. The project is founded on 4 main pillars:

  • Listen differently

  • Go beneath the problem

  • Embrace complexity

  • Counter confirmation bias

Evidence of impact

The speaker mentioned two successful projects that were similar to ‘Complicating the Narrative’ project as they also aimed to tackle the issue of polarization in the society. The first example is a convention organized by BBC in which around 200 people participated with different political beliefs. The participants were debating on various controversial topics (such as Brexit). Another project mentioned by the author is ‘My Country Talks’ in Germany which focuses on setting up two people with opposing viewpoints to debate on various political issues. The speaker claimed that both projects were a massive success. However, it is unclear how to measure the success of these projects.


Limitations, risks of the approach provided by the speaker

The biggest limitation of the ‘Complicating the Narrative’ project is that it is very difficult to measure its success and replicate it. The main lesson is that journalists do not often know how to deeply listen and report on controversial issues. Thus, the goal of the project is to train journalists to be more engaged in deep listening when reporting on polarizing issues.


Takeaways

1. The media is facing a trust crisis as more and more people are disengaging from the news.

2. Journalists need to be trained so they will listen better, ask more revealing questions, effectively introduce opposing viewpoints and embrace nuance in their stories.

3. By engaging more in a conversation with people who disagree with you, we can come to a respectful dialogue and common understanding.