I’ve written a short book called “Hvad skal vi med nyhederne?” (roughly “What can we use the news for?”) in Danish, aimed at general interest readers curious about the news we have, the news we are likely to get in the future, and what it might mean. 100 pages, meant to be the kind of thing you can read in one sitting with a cup of coffee, something accessible that is informative and good to think with.
In the book, I offer a personal perspective, summarizing some relevant research, drawing on the experience of some of the journalists and editors I work with at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, and interpret the news from the point of view of citizens, in part on the basis of conversations with and memories of how we use news and have used news across generations in my own family.
I pull together different strands to argue that news offers us three main things: (1) access to relatively accurate, accessible, diverse, relevant, and timely independently produced information about public affairs, (2) dramatic stories that portray contending forces in the world and help us identify with some of them and relate to them, and that news help us (3) connect with and be part of different communities.
The news, I argue, is challenged in many ways today – writing with a focus on a high-income democracy like Denmark – I underline growing inequality, more precarious funding, and lack of diversity (around e.g. gender, ethinicty, and class) as three major challenges. Some of these are tied in with the growing power of platform companies and the ways they operate, but there is also much here that has to do with how journalism is practiced and how people experience the news.
As I write in the book, the news is not always as outstanding as some journalists and editors like to claim in self-congratulatory after dinner speeches, but research suggests that it, with its imperfections, has much to offer all of us.
That offer – the things we as citizens can use the news for – is challenged by growing inequality, more precarious funding, and lack of diversity.
But, as I write in the book, both independent research and especially the experience of working with unsentimentally forward-looking journalists and editors from all over the world means I am personally a cautious optimist that the best news we will get in the future will be better than ever, and help us — hopefully all of us — understand the world around us, navigate it, and form our own views of how we want to live in it.