Constructive journalism is the answer to regain audience trust in the mainstream media, news professionals were told on the second and final day of News Xchange in Copenhagen.
In an engaging keynote Ulrik Haagerup, Director of News at hosts DR, demonstrated how the broadcaster had become the most trusted news source in Denmark by concentrating on “reporting on a challenge by focussing on a solution”.
“Constructive news is not the cute story before the weather - it’s a supplement to our normal news criteria – it’s about seeing the world with both eyes,” Haagerup told the more than 600 attendees from the international media.
“Journalism is about presenting the best obtainable version of the truth – are we providing the best obtainable version of the world?", he continued.
“We have never had a situation like 2016 when so few people were killed in wars, have better health, etc. Do people know that – no because we cover the bad news extensively – do we give them the big picture though? If the perception is that things are bad – people can tap into that fear.”
The talk was illustrated by a report into refugees in Denmark being taught 100 key words to allow them to work in a factory safely.
Casper Walbum Høst, Domestic Editor at DR, added to the session: “We still do hard hitting stories but with constructive journalism we ask people for ideas and look for constructive angles – what can others learn from this.”
News Xchange also heard from Andrew Morse, General Manager of CNN Digital Worldwide, who argued that digital platforms aren’t a threat to traditional media but provide opportunities. “It’s a remarkable time to be a journalist if we’re brave,” he said.
“We’ve never had opportunities like this to tell stories and distribute them. When something happens in the world the audience seek us out - on all platforms - when something serious is going on people don’t want fake news.”
The rise of fake news and the power of social platforms such as Facebook was discussed heavily at News Xchange too. Espen Egil Hansen, Editor in Chief of Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, who took on Facebook and won over their censoring of an iconic image of a naked child in the Vietnam war, urged journalists to also question Facebook’s editorial power.
“Facebook do edit, and they edit heavily, yet say they are a technology company and deny they are news publishers. The one who controls algorithm is the new editor in chief.”
Facebook’s director of media partnerships Patrick Walker responded: “When we make a mistake we listen to feedback. We have global community standards to provide the most voice to the most people,” he said.
“The average person would have 2000 items in their newsfeed if the algorithm didn’t work. Our goal is to connect people with stories they find meaningful and we know they want accurate information – we have to proceed cautiously. Identifying truth is complicated business.”
And it wasn’t just the new platforms for journalism that were discussed but new journalists themselves in a panel on how to manage “a new generation of journalists”, chaired by the EBU’s Senior Media Development Manager Madiana Asseraf.
Sarah Nasr from AJ+ told News Xchange that “you need diversity in the newsroom”.
“Millennials are the largest demographic .You need to represent the public you’re serving and the stories you’re covering.”
“The key messages from our session”, said Madiana Asseraf afterwards, “are to focus on individuals, not on stereotypes of young people. Foster a collaborative culture and make the audience experience your priority.”
Highlights from the two day conference can be found above with more clips on the News Xchange Facebook page.
The 2016 News Xchange was the biggest yet with well over 600 journalists from across the world attending. Next year’s event will be hosted by Dutch broadcaster NOS in Amsterdam.