Swedish media entrepreneur Petter Beckman has engaged five Swedish media companies, a university, and the Research Institute of Sweden to explore how journalism can inspire people to find solutions. But classic journalism – to investigate the power, reveal injustices, and ignite political debate – is difficult to change.
The project ConnectMe will be searching for what can make readers/viewers want to talk about conflicts and problems instead to just become frustrated, scared, or angry. The project will engage reader panels and develop digital platforms that are exciting and secure enough for people to take part.
“We want to find out what can make people talk about what could be done to solve the problem. To connect in a constructive way”, says Petter Beckman, from the media company Mitti Stockholm and initiator of the project.
Petter Beckman has been developing and practicing constructive journalism for several years. He recently wrote a report on the state of constructive journalism in the Nordic countries.
Journalists painfully aware that people are fed up
“On the one hand, the media are painfully aware that people are tired of reporting about problems and conflicts. On the other hand, journalists cling to impact-neutral journalism. For instance, that journalists should never have the agenda to make people want to find solutions to problems”, he says.
“I say they betray themselves by thinking they are impact neutral. There is no way the impact of their story can be neutral. More and more so when all media try to maximize clicks”, Beckman continues.
Professor resist change to protect journalism
But influential journalists resist change. A leading Swedish journalist professor, Erik Fichtelius, recently wrote a comment that the media has to stick to its mission to be impact-neutral. A journalist should never become an activist for one solution or another. Especially not when social and alternative media is a growing playground for ideological activism.
However, small steps are taken. The public television broadcaster, SVT, has one program called “Mötet” where wanna-be famous with opposite opinions have decent discussions. The premise is:
“One topic. Two people with completely different opinions. What happens when they meet?”
But finding solutions still seem to be a no-no for public service television in Sweden.