"I strongly disagree. A journalist's role is not to judge, and that's what you are talking about." The words, uttered by editor-in-chief Jacob Nybroe of Jyllands-Posten to another editor-in-chief, Lea Korsgaard of Zetland, fell on Wednesday the 19th in a panel debate hosted by Visiolink at the beautiful Aarhus City Hall. The debate centered on the state and future of journalism, and one of the main issues was trust (and mistrust) between people, media and governments. The debate was lit from the beginning, with Lea Korsgaard attacking the traditional role of the "naked journalist". "You can’t stay neutral in a battle of what’s wrong and right - you have to choose side," she said.
Both editors recognize the problems faced by the industry, though they operate completely different. Zetland is an Internet-only medium with a strict focus on long reads and in-depth analysis. Jyllands-Posten on the other hand is a newspaper dating back to 1871. Their internet presence is much like most newspapers', combining long reads, analysis and short, easily digestible news.
A view shared by both, as well as Lars Werge, chairman of the Danish Union of Journalists, is the resource challenge. It's imperative the journalists and media review the way they organize themselves, how they practice journalism, and create individualism, while retaining a certain level of credibility.
Credibility is always an issue. Lars Werge pointed to the fact that journalists’ credibility has always scored on the same level as politicians and used car salesmen. Many media are beginning to expose the way they work to create a sense of transparency.
The last panelist, behavioral psychologist Anders Colding-Jørgensen, started off by explaining how confirmation biases work. That seemed to be the basis for his stand against giving all views equal attention. "Why do we lend ear to the freaks?" he asked. And it's a good question, which many probably agree with. Why do we hand the microphone to politicians and provocateurs who thrive on mistrust?
One of Lars Werge's starting points, "trust can't be demanded, it can only be given," sums up the debate quite nicely. It sounds simple, but it's far from. Do you trust the media? No? Well should they extend their trust to you? Should politicians? And how do you secure that your trust isn't violated? The debate might have opened more questions than it answered. But one thing I left with, and which gave me a shard of hope, was that the truth matters. To everyone in the panel. And truth is a step towards trust.
Watch the full debate here (in Danish)