A new EBU report suggests that journalistic organizations should defend themselves when they are attacked to help build engagement and trust in public service journalism.
"EBU News Report 2018 - 50 ways to make it better" advises public service media (PSM) to face the criticism openly and respond but not to fuel the fire.
“Be transparent about mistakes, create alliances, communicate your journalistic practices and values, and promote media literacy”; are just some of the practical and concrete recommendations the report gives.
The new report highlights 50 case studies offering in-depth insights of how media organizations are addressing the challenges of polarization and an erosion of public trust.
The report's main focus is to flag the opportunities in the turmoil and also offer 25 solutions to the challenges faced by PSM in 2018.
It proposes actions to be undertaken and opportunities to be found in several fields affecting public trust and engagement:
Atte Jääskeläinen, former Director of News and Current Affairs at Yle, now Professor of Practice at LUT University, and Dutch media consultant Maike Olij, who worked on strategy and policy for NOS and NPO, authored the report.
“We set out to discover 50 inspiring examples of how you can make the news media better. How you can build engagement and trust. We don’t want to present just another depressing report on how bad things are," they said.
The report also highlights ways in which new technologies can be harnessed to enhance audience engagement rather than just being seen as a threatening disrupter. For example, it pays off to actively include audience perspectives in strategic decision making, even if that means radical innovation and breaking journalistic taboos.
In the report EBU Director General Noel Curran, points out the very high levels of trust the vast majority of EBU Members enjoy but also warns that this hard-earned trust should not be taken for granted.
“Journalism is a very difficult profession at the moment, but it has never been as important. PSM is trusted more than other media and significantly more than social media and we accept the responsibilities around that trust. I think there is a constant need for honest open debate in public service media newsrooms, not just about the story of the day but about the danger of how professional journalism can be driven by social media, by repeating other people's speculation, accusations.
This report shows we need to ask ourselves difficult questions - journalism is just too important not to."
In a foreword to the report BBC Director General and EBU President-elect Tony Hall, says that a democracy that can’t rely on access to the truth is a democracy undermined.
"Public service journalism matters more than ever – journalism that’s on the side of the viewer, the listener, trying to make sense of a world littered with disinformation – from false information, to opinion dressed as fact, to downright lies. The challenges are the same wherever you are and the answer must surely be to work together to fight for accuracy, for journalism, and for democracy itself.”
At the BBC we seek to be a beacon of trust, to offer independent, impartial reporting based on first-hand accounts and specialist analysis. What this report shows is just how important those values are – and how much can be done to secure the future of truth."
The "EBU News Report - 50 ways to make it better” was launched at the 13th EBU News Assembly in Edinburgh.
The full report can be downloaded here. An online multimedia version of the report will be available from 3 December.
Following on from the publication of 2017's News Report, "Perfect Storm", the EBU commissioned "50 ways to make it better" to practically address the issue of an erosion of trust and engagement in public service media and to provide answers to how PSM better creates value for society and individuals.
To find the best solutions the authors first critically examined the challenges with some of the leading experts in the media field and then surveyed over 60 of the senior executives in public service media to get their perspective on workable solutions.
During the process, they collected around 150 proposals for solutions for the problems identified from both within public media and outside. Finally, 50 of the best, from 24 countries, were selected and presented in the report together with insights from those involved.