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CONSTRUCTIVE JOURNALISM MEETS DUTCH ‘JUST SAY NO’ MENTALITY

Date: Saturday, December 17, 2016
Category: Blog, News

CONSTRUCTIVE JOURNALISM MEETS DUTCH ‘JUST SAY NO’ MENTALITY
De Nieuwe Liefde 16 Nov. 2016

So I got an online invite to an evening called “Constructive Journalism.” After Brexit, after Trump, it sounded interesting.
The invite:
“People tend to read less newspapers and use social media as their news source instead…
negative newspaper articles create a false sense of danger and cause consumers to disengage… Constructive Journalism tries to restore the balance.” 

The originator of Constructive Journalism (or solutions journalism) is Cathrine Gyldensted, who has worked for Danish television, The Guardian and Huffington Post. The event was held at De Nieuwe Liefde (related to the Felix Meritis Center) in Amsterdam West. Great location.

So I signed up and I went. Gyldensted was great. She described most Mainstream Media as “Conflict Journalism.” It gets better ratings, but it never the whole story. What is “Constructive Journalism?” Gyldensted: “By not only focussing on the problem – but also defining possible solutions – the reader is empowered, resulting in a sense of loyalty to the news brands that provide this type of journalism.”

Who are her good examples? VPRO Tegenlicht. (I’d add VPRO’s Arjen Lubach). And the new online heroes at De Correspondent.

In fact De Correspondent was represented on the panel – and it was a very Dutch panel. By “very Dutch,” I mean that the topic of being Constructive was negated by the typical Dutch instinct for negativity.

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The panel:

De Correspondent, Karel Smouter;

De Volkskrant, investigative journalist Eline Huisman;

Vrij Nederland, Roos van Tongerloo.

And Thomas Bruning of NVJ, the Dutch trade union for journalists.

As soon as the Q & A started, they ideas from the audience were shot down. One woman asked “why do kids news shows like ‘NOS Jeugdjournaal’ do a better job of being “Constructive” than the evening news?” But the panel didn’t take kids news seriously. Another question was “How do we compete with the proven success rate of clickbait headlines and manufactured outrage? How do we connect on a more emotional level?” They gave no real answer.

And then came my question about Fake News: “Just today I was reading about Fake News as a threat to real news, especially on social media. In fact Facebook has a Fake News filter they’ve refused to activate, for fear of appearing biased. But – in the interest of being constructive – I propose to create a Facebook Page called ‘Facebook, Activate Your Fake News Filter.’ If I make that page, will people Like it?”

And I should have added: IF Facebook can block my account for showing a picture of my ass, THEN surely they can block some troll for posting “Hillary Clinton invented AIDS – ?”

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I was pleased by the response from the crowd. But the panel rejected my idea outright. First up was from Thomas from the Journalism Union (whose union is being directly threatened by Fake News). But he thought Fake News is not a real problem, at least not as big as the threat of censorship. Fair enough.

Next up was Eline from De Volkskrant, who argued that Fake News is not a problem because it’s the responsibility of good journalists to avoid Fake News.

I wish I could have showed her the graphic from Buzzfeed, claiming that – of all news shared on Facebook from August to November 2016 – more than half was Fake News.
15-fake-news
Karel from De Correspondent said Fake News isn’t a problem because it’s the responsibility of the reader, and the reader should be able to tell the difference. I wish I’d had the link to show that students are among the most likely to share Fake News online.
CLICK: Students Most Likely to Believe Fake News

And just when I thought their heads couldn’t go any deeper in the sand, Thomas from the Journalists Union argued that maybe we should just boycott Facebook. Good luck with that. I guess his pitch was “Let’s all go back to MySpace!”

It was very nice of the Danish journalist to share her ideas on “Constructive Journalism.” Too bad so much of Dutch culture is based on the phrase “That is not possible.” And it’s anything but constructive.

POSTSCRIPT
As of 15 December, Facebook has now announced a huge new initiative to take down Fake News.
1) They’ll make it easier for users to report Fake News – and for Fake News to be taken down.
2) They’ll partner with fact-checking organizations to determine which news is fake.
3) They’re attacking the profit model of the most egregious fake news users, preventing flagged stories from being used as the basis of ads.
LINK: Facebook Acts on Fake News