The former Danish editor-in-chief of the daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten, Pierre Collignon, has examined the threat of fake news to the news media. In the first part of the book “Back to Reality”, Collignon describes the late arrival and subsequent rise of the “omnibus” newspaper in Denmark in the 19th century.
During that period, the party press changed their business model to accommodate the need for more factual news.
In the current media landscapes, Collignon describes how the leftwing linguist Chomsky critics the media for being a part of the elite and therefore lacking any objectivity. This is supported by a current poll in the US that shows that 67% per cent and 36 per cent of the Democrats see the media as “out of touch” with the voters.
The distrust that also shows in European populations can ultimately, Collignon claims, lead to a collapse of public discourse if the press is no longer able – or trusted to – be the platform of discussion in democratic countries.
The gap between the average newsreader and the journalist is media made, Collignon states in the book’s second part. This is caused by the inside language that the journalists uses, which makes the news only interesting to political insiders and the elite.
This can ultimately repulse a part of the population. Therefore, it is paramount for European media with a high journalistic standard to uphold their reach towards the general public.
Courses to improve journalism
In the third part of the book, Collignon advocates for a more alert and better-educated media industry. He mentions the BBC’s internal courses in science reporting as an example of increasing the journalistic standard. He urges newsrooms to ensure enough competences and knowledge to be a better sparring partner to scientists and researchers:
“There is a great need for journalism schools and news rooms to strengthen journalism competence, even the old fashioned factual kind. Rhetoric and discourse analysis is not enough. Today’s journalists must know a lot on political history, economics, international relations and statistics. Just to mention a few of the news topics where I lack a higher level of knowledge today.” (Page 284)
* note: all translations are my own.