Visual artist: Marieke Ubbink

#6 The Crisis of Journalism in the Post-Truth Era

The word of 2016, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, was ‘post-truth’: “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” When it comes to public opinion, Aristotle already considered three modes of persuasion: logos, ethos and pathos; the latter denoting emotional influence over an audience. Many have seen populism as a product of a post-truth society in which public opinion is fed by pathos. With unprecedented political events such as Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, fake news sites and social media have come under scrutiny for misleading public opinion.

This comes on the coattails of a broader crisis in journalism. With the prominence of social media and news aggregation sites, newspapers have been forced to downsize and investigative journalism is on the decline. In order to compete with the click-worthy content on the Internet, stories have become shorter and headlines more sensational. Furthermore, Facebook’s algorithms hinder news stories from reaching those with opposing views, keeping users in bubbles of like-mindedness. Beyond the effects of the Internet, news sources are increasingly beholden to corporate and political interests. The second largest media conglomerate in the world, News Corps., owns numerous national newspapers in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, relegating the idea of journalistic objectivity to myth.

The crisis in journalism has led to an emergence of new forms of media: constructive journalism is a solutions-based approach founded in Scandinavia and rooted in the theory of positive psychology, while news sites like De Correspondent are member-funded, ad-free and prioritize “relevance over recentness.” Are these solutions viable? What's next for journalism if objectivity is no longer a possibility? Is pathos somehow inferior as a mode of persuasion?

the grid invites writers from all disciplines to share their ideas on these questions and any others that relate to journalism in 2017. Send your abstract (350-500 words) to readthegrid@gmail.com. Deadline: February 22nd. Please include a short biography of yourself. We look forward to receiving your abstracts! The issue of this CfP will be published April 1st.