We were given a specific question to ask for this final blog post:
What can journalism do to help people set aside pre-perceived notions and consider the facts?
The answer is: I don't really know if I have an answer. (BUT continue reading because I do attempt to provide a solution that may be possible, but who knows).
I have come to find out that a lot of people hold on to their views and beliefs no matter what new information or facts come their way. I think people are more likely to consider the facts that oppose their views, but consider them as untrue and therefore fake. But that just comes from what I have observed this past year alone.
I came across this animation after a friend reposted it on Facebook. I'll also talk about how dissemination of any sort of information — whether it may be fact or opinion — has to be handled differently now because of advancements in technology and social media. But back to the post.
This animation gives an explanation as to why it's so difficult for people to forget about their preconceived notions about life and just try to consider the facts. It makes sense, too. It's all about people in societies not wanting to feel isolated from their "tribe" or their community so they just continue to want to believe what their community is believing. We're all grouped together and separate from other groups, which causes people to not want to understand or empathize with people or ideas outside of their group.
It really does make sense when you think about how girls or boys in middle and high school want to be a part of a certain clique or group of friends. To fit in, they adopt the values and ideas of their peers in those cliques. If they disagree or don't feel the same way about something, they could be marginalized from the group. That's how most of the society sees it too. They don't want to be the outlier. They want to be a part of something bigger, and once people begin to think the way their community does, they'll most likely stick with their ideals.
That is the ultimate problem, in my opinion. The ultimate problem is people not wanting to think differently from their peers, friends, family, coworkers, etc. I know that sometimes it's difficult for me to express my contrasting views to family members or close friends because I don't want there to be tension or problems between us. No one wants to be isolated. But I think that breaking down individuals is one of the best ways to break down entire groups and communities.
Then, the animation goes into how to solve this problem with two steps:
- When trying to present information or facts that contrast someone else's, you have to prevent them from seeing you as a personal threat. Try to let the person think of you as a person on their side or in their "tribe." Find personable things about them that you can relate to.
- Don't be afraid to say that you're wrong or realize that the facts may not be on your side. Being able to say that you're wrong will make you seem more vulnerable. Then the other person may be more willing to admit that they may be wrong too.
I think this is just the beginning of what we can do. It's a good basis as to how we can help people just open up a little to views other than their own.
Where do we even start? There is already a stigma on mostly liberal news outlets publishing "fake news," so how do we get people to believe in what we write again? We have to gain our reputation back as fair and accurate news outlets. If we continue to publish the views that we want to, and those views are backed up with facts and sources, a lot of people will still think it's fake news because it doesn't align with their beliefs. We do have our own biases, but we have to start taking more consideration into other sides of the stories and discussing those sides too.
Whenever there is a story that has an apparent viewpoint but also includes ideas and facts that show a contrasting idea, I do take into consideration both sides of the story, no matter if it's against what I believe.
I think that sometimes we as journalists have to make sacrifices for the good of the public. No matter what we believe and what we know is true, we can't force into the public's face and want them to believe it too. We have to show different views that we don't really agree with and we have to even out the commentary from the right and the left. We can try and even out the playing field for readers so that whatever outlet they go to read the news, there will be more than one side of the story discussed — with the sources and facts very apparent.
We have to show the people that we're not trying to be the enemy. We're just trying to give out information that is supported by credible evidence. This is where social media comes in too.
I know personally, I get a lot of my news from social media. I have recently taken up Twitter as a platform, and it's really allowed me to be more impartial about the news I am exposed to. I follow all different sorts of news outlets, so I don't just see news shared by friends with the same beliefs. But for those who do just get news through what their peers read, like on Facebook, having articles and stories that are being shared with both sides or multiple sides of a story will hopefully be able to open them up to different views other than their own. If Facebook or other social media outlets were the only way people got their news, have stories that are multi-sided could be beneficial to really force people to at least look at an alternative side to the story.
To get people to consider the facts, we as journalists have to see as an ally and not the enemy of the public. Instead of just reporting the facts and the perspective we know and want to report on, we have to really see the situation from all angles and consider facts for all sides, no matter our view on it. We can't just consider all sides. We need to report on all sides, and indicate which idea or view is supported by the facts.