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We Must Take Responsibility for the Problems we Uncover

I enjoy being a journalist and I love my field very much. I became a journalist because I wanted to make a (positive) difference to society. I wanted to make the world a better place by telling stories. 

But my hope of doing something good for society is challenged. 

The credibility of journalists is at its lowest.

Jakob Risbro

 The people we write, make television and radio for, do not trust me and my journalist colleagues.

The credibility of journalists is at its lowest. The annual trust barometer year after year that the public's confidence in journalists is at the same level as it is for car dealers and politicians who come in on the last place as number 26 out of 26 measured professional groups. 

Exclusive peek into test center for constructive journalism

In 2019 TV 2/Fyn gave themselves a challenge. They set out to become Denmarks most constructive media and the country’s largest test center for constructive journalism. In this blog you get an exclusive insight in their work to achieve that goal.

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And even though I know both honest and trustworthy politicians and car dealers, this rank should not be considered an honor. At least, I do not perceive it as one. Every year when the barometer is published, I hope to see my profession moving up the list.

But over the past many years, there have been no changes in the rankings; the politicians are at the bottom while car dealers and journalists are just above. Every year, my disappointment and annoyance is the same.

That is frustrating. Not only for the journalists who have to suffer the pain it is, that people do not have much trust in us. It is even worse when I think of it in the context of our democracy and society.

As journalists, we shape readers', listeners' and viewers' perceptions of the world. If there is no trust in the way we as journalists tell stories about the world, then it is a bigger problem than one journalists' pride. Then it is about questioning the stories and facts that would otherwise tie the population together and help create a common foundation for the debate in society about how we prioritize and how we shape our society. It is the social cohesiveness that is at stake.

We have to make an effort to regain people's trust.

Jakob Risbro

We need to do something about it. As journalists and as an industry, we must make an effort to (re)gain the trust of the people. We could start by having a look at the professional groups that top the list of professions that people trust. At the top of the list are midwives, nurses, doctors, librarians and police officers. My claim is, that they are top notch because they are perceived as professionals who are doing good things for the community. 

The midwives bring infants to the world and help parturient women having a good experience in one of life's most vulnerable situations. Nurses and doctors help with the care and healing of the sick, and police officers maintain order and help the population in emergencies. All at the top of the list are the professionals who are creating something, helping the weak and taking responsibility for order in the community. These are perhaps the virtues that we as journalists need to look for to get higher on the credibility barometer, and here the way we do journalism can be one of the answers.

Jakob Risbro, editor, TV 2/Fyn

Jakob Risbro is editor of society and politics at TV 2/Fyn. Jakob has covered politics and society for many years. Through his career, Jakob has worked as a reporter, news anchor, news editor, managing editor and radio host. 

 

Jakob holds a bachelors degree in law from the University of Copenhagen and is a trained journalist from The Danish School of Journalism.

 

Right now Jakob is part of the constructive fellowship program, where he will examine how a news organisation can develop and implement constructive journalism. 

 

He alaso currently serves as a member of the Cavling Comittee. 

The claim often goes that we as journalists are too critical, one-eyed and rigid when telling stories. Instead of taking responsibility for finding solutions, we look for problems and point our fingers when we find the "villain". It is a journalistic virtue to be critical of people in power and uncover problems, and of course we must continue to do so. But I think we need to do more than that, and that's what we're working on at Constructive Institute.

We should also help find the 'medicine' once we have found the problem.

Jakob Risbro

Once we have found the problem and the presumptive cause of the problem, we must go ahead and take responsibility for the problem not recurring. We have to ask the question "what now?" We can do that by opening both eyes and also look for solutions and nuance things as we tell our stories. As a physician who finds the medical problem and then looks for a way to cure, we should also help find the "medicine" once we have found the problem. 

I hope and believe that me and my fellow fellows at Constructive Institute can help change the culture of the news media so that we as a profession in the future will be regarded as someone who take responsibility for the community and points to problems. My hope is not only because of the frustration of messing around at the bottom of the credibility barometer, but also because it can help boost our credibility and help make the world a better place.