The late Swedish doctor and professor in public health, Hans Rosling, has been a long time TED favourite around the globe and among reporter with his statistic talk on how chimpanzees are more correct when it comes to considering facts than humans are.
He is provocative and highly critical of journalists’ factfulness and expands his views in his last book Factfulness. Ten reasons we’re wrong about the World – and why things are better than you think.
Rosling has – together with his son and daughter-in-law – written a book filled with anecdotes, humour and statistics. He does so in order to analyse and comment on the many human instincts, such as our instinct to be fearful, negative, generalize, blame and to see facts from just one perspective.
“Fear that once helped keep our ancestors alive, today help keep journalists employed. It isn’t the journalists’ fault and we shouldn’t expect them to change. It isn’t driven by “media logic” among the producers as much as by “attention logic” in the heads of the consumers.” (Page 107)
In 2015, he had this much shared in fight with Danish reporter Adam Holm in 2015, where he famously announces that “you cannot use the media in order to understand the world.” Watch the news clip here in Danish/Swedish.
In order to combat the massive ignorance on the World’s progress from poverty to health care, he suggests educating the world rather than the journalists. By applying these ten Factfulness rules of thumb when listening to news or information, we are all able to be fight ignorance and identify the global problems we should be solving such as climate change and disease control. We, the people, not the media are responsible for consuming the news more factfully.
The ten rules include knowledge of statistic, being able to see problems proportionally, stop the blame and expect bad news without going into fear or generalizations. With these rules not much reporting would be done, argues Rosling.
However critical Hans Rosling is towards journalists, he does advocate for using several tools in the journalist’s toolbox; for instance being critical towards sources, to have an insight into statistic methodology in order to avoid faults such as thinking in exponential or straight lines and to question generalizations.
Most of all, he encourages us all to be curios and open-minded when learning about the world.
In the final chapter, he mentions constructive journalism in passing, without putting up high hopes on its impact long term. However, he does not hold great expectations for journalists being more knowledgable than other professions including his own.