“I wish the government supported young people to think critically about journalism.
An era has ended in which a handful of media groups almost exclusively delivered ‘the news’. These groups no longer are the ‘gatekeepers’ of public information. Now, anyone with an internet connection can spread or receive information.
This is the most powerful opportunity humanity has ever possessed. But we don’t yet know how to use it. When getting our news, people face the largest cacophony of voices from across the globe that they ever have. But this means less unless the public knows how to separate and critically evaluate those voices.
Youth is the place to start. Schooling should focus more specifically on teaching people to look for the evidence which underlies a claim. Then, evidence itself should be held to greater scrutiny. The public is woefully educated on the motives which may underly a news organisation, journalist, study or other source. We also aren’t prepared on how to interpret data. When we see a cited study, that study can be intuitively taken as authoritative. School doesn’t teach sufficiently to think about sample size, time, or any range of factors which warrants scepticism.
Perhaps most importantly, we don’t talk about the role of journalism enough. We often hear the phrase ‘objectivity’ used in a way that implies journalists should have no opinion. But in an era of information overload, where the path forward can seem more ambiguous than ever, perhaps that conception is not helpful – if it ever was. People should expect their journalists to suggest the way forward. Issues with doing so disappear if the public scrutinises those claims rigorously.
Only through fostered scepticism can we build consensus. So let’s help people become more sceptical.”