The Role of Experts across Two Different Arenas in a Deliberative System

The 35-page article, The Role of Experts across Two Different Arenas in a Deliberative System (2017), was written by Rousiley C. M. Maia, Marcela D. Laranjeira, and Pedro S. Mundim, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 13: Iss. 1. In the article, the authors respond to the call to explore a deliberative systems perspective by looking at how one arena of deliberation affects another; they do this by exploring the role of experts in two distinct arenas of legislative public hearings and the media. Read an excerpt of the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the introduction…

Recently, several deliberative scholars have called for a systemic approach to deliberation in order to expand the scale of analysis beyond individual sites or institutions and tap into the complexity of interrelations among parts in the political system (Bächtiger & Wegmann, 2014; Dryzek & Hendriks, 2012; Goodin, 2005; Maia, 2012; Mansbridge et al., 2012; Neblo, 2015; Parkinson, 2006, 2012; Steiner, 2014; Thompson, 2008). While empirical scholars have been developing ever more sophisticated analyses on deliberation and have brought careful empirical evidence to warrant their claims, most studies are conducted in one single arena or in a separate institution. Thus, interconnections among arenas remain poorly understood, and current research designs fail to take note (particularly through systematic measurement) of how findings in one environment relate to other arenas in regards to the larger purposes of democracy. Whereas the systemic approach to deliberation seems genuinely innovative and attractive, empirical research in this field is underdeveloped.

In this article, we attempt to add a layer to this field. While previous studies have compared debate across different assemblies or parliamentary settings (Stasavage, 2007; Steiner, Bächtiger, Spörndli, & Steenbergen, 2004), we are interested in investigating the role played by a particular actor – the experts – regarding a specific debate in two distinct discursive arenas: legislative public hearings and the media. Although the literature has asserted that this actor can play different roles within democracy (Brown, 2014; Christiano, 2009, 2012; Pielke, 2007), we still have a vague notion of how experts’ opinions in face-to-face discussions in forums can be compared to the mediated comments in the media. We assume part of the systemic function of public hearings is to inform expectations about policy-making choices in face to face meetings. Media-based communication is important to draw public attention to issues of public concern and helping citizens to understand public processes and policies. Processes of mediation by media professionals, considering both technological apparatus and institutional organization, operate with their own logic, needs and standards of newsworthiness (Esser & Strömbäck, 2014; Ferree, Gamson, Gerhards, & Rucht, 2002; Gastil, 2008; Schudson, 2003). By paying attention to the news media within the deliberative system, we follow Dryzek and Hendriks’ (2012, Kindle Locations 897-912) suggestion that “it might be a good idea to work on the parts of the political system that are the least deliberative, where policy debates are highly exclusive, and where the rationale for decisions cannot easily be scrutinized.” Then, we ask how experts express and justify their opinions on public policy in a deliberatively designed forum as well as when they are quoted in the news media. We inquire into the kinds of reasons presented and whether it is possible to find experts’ engagement with conflicting views in these settings.

Through a case study, we investigate the debate around a contentious issue – a bill of law proposing the relocation of a bus station from downtown to a more remote district in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. We look at how this controversy played out over two years (2007 and 2008) in: a) public hearings (ALMG) organized by the local government; and b) three major local daily newspapers. Our empirical procedures follow the guidelines of the Discursive Quality Index (DQI), as developed by Steiner, Bächtiger, Spörndli and Steenbergen (2004) and Steiner (2012). Findings reveal that experts, despite facing different conditions, played a fairly similar role in the legislative hearings and as sources in the mass media. Whereas partisan positions for and against the policy at stake had different configurations in these settings, the majority of speakers appealed to technical arguments, and they disputed experts’ diagnoses, knowledge and recommendations to win political disputes.

While focusing only on two sites, we understand this study has some implications for suggesting how the systemic investigation of deliberation can be broadened. First, this study has analytical implications for current research on the role of experts on deliberation, which has proposed that citizens should conduct some checks on the experts’ knowledge input that affects the decision-making process. This study examines practical circumstances of such exchange in both a microsetting (public hearings) and a macro-situation of public debate (the mass media). Second, this article can contribute empirically by examining how a collection of experts can produce intelligibility of controversial policy proposals and clarify policy choices across different settings.

This article is organized in the following manner. First, it outlines a critique of experts in democratic processes and surveys theoretical attempts to reconcile the role of expertise with democratic deliberation. Second, the analysis discusses inclusion in debates, processes of reason-giving and discursive accountability, focusing on public hearings and the news media. Third, we characterize our case study, the methodology and the main issues that structure our research questions. The remaining sections present our empirical results and a discussion on the empirical and theoretical implications of our findings.

Download the full article from the Journal of Public Deliberation here.

About the Journal of Public Deliberation
Journal of Public DeliberationSpearheaded by the Deliberative Democracy Consortium in collaboration with the International Association of Public Participation, the principal objective of Journal of Public Deliberation (JPD) is to synthesize the research, opinion, projects, experiments and experiences of academics and practitioners in the emerging multi-disciplinary field and political movement called by some “deliberative democracy.” By doing this, we hope to help improve future research endeavors in this field and aid in the transformation of modern representative democracy into a more citizen friendly form.

Follow the Deliberative Democracy Consortium on Twitter: @delibdem

Follow the International Association of Public Participation [US] on Twitter: @IAP2USA

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The Danger of a Single Story

The 18 min TedTalk, The Danger of a Single Story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was filmed in July 2009. In the talk, Adichie shares what she calls, “the danger of a single story” and the false understandings that can arise when only the single side of a story is heard. Adichie shows the powerful opportunity of storytelling- to hear the many different sides of a story and have a more complete understanding of a person, a situation, a reality. Below is the full talk and a brief excerpt of the transcript, and it can also be viewed at site here.

From the transcript…

It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power. There is a word, an Igbo word, that I think about whenever I think about the power structures of the world, and it is “nkali.” It’s a noun that loosely translates to “to be greater than another.” Like our economic and political worlds, stories too are defined by the principle of nkali: How they are told, who tells them, when they’re told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power.

Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person. The Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti writes that if you want to dispossess a people, the simplest way to do it is to tell their story and to start with, “secondly.” Start the story with the arrows of the Native Americans, and not with the arrival of the British, and you have an entirely different story. Start the story with the failure of the African state, and not with the colonial creation of the African state, and you have an entirely different story.

I recently spoke at a university where a student told me that it was such a shame that Nigerian men were physical abusers like the father character in my novel. I told him that I had just read a novel called “American Psycho” and that it was such a shame that young Americans were serial murderers. Now, obviously I said this in a fit of mild irritation.

But it would never have occurred to me to think that just because I had read a novel in which a character was a serial killer that he was somehow representative of all Americans. This is not because I am a better person than that student, but because of America’s cultural and economic power, I had many stories of America. I had read Tyler and Updike and Steinbeck and Gaitskill. I did not have a single story of America.

When I learned, some years ago, that writers were expected to have had really unhappy childhoods to be successful, I began to think about how I could invent horrible things my parents had done to me. But the truth is that I had a very happy childhood, full of laughter and love, in a very close-knit family.

But I also had grandfathers who died in refugee camps. My cousin Polle died because he could not get adequate healthcare. One of my closest friends, Okoloma, died in a plane crash because our fire trucks did not have water. I grew up under repressive military governments that devalued education, so that sometimes, my parents were not paid their salaries. And so, as a child, I saw jam disappear from the breakfast table, then margarine disappeared, then bread became too expensive, then milk became rationed. And most of all, a kind of normalized political fear invaded our lives.

All of these stories make me who I am. But to insist on only these negative stories is to flatten my experience and to overlook the many other stories that formed me. The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.

Of course, Africa is a continent full of catastrophes: There are immense ones, such as the horrific rapes in Congo and depressing ones,such as the fact that 5,000 people apply for one job vacancy in Nigeria. But there are other stories that are not about catastrophe, and it is very important, it is just as important, to talk about them.

I’ve always felt that it is impossible to engage properly with a place or a person without engaging with all of the stories of that place and that person. The consequence of the single story is this: It robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.

Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.

About Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie grew up in Nigeria. Her work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared in various publications, including The New Yorker, Granta, The O. Henry Prize Stories, the Financial Times, and Zoetrope. She is the author of the novels Purple Hibiscus, which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and Half of a Yellow Sun, which won the Orange Prize and was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist, a New York Times Notable Book, and a People and Black Issues Book Review Best Book of the Year; and the story collection The Thing Around Your Neck. Her latest novel Americanah, was published around the world in 2013, and has received numerous accolades, including winning the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and The Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Fiction; and being named one of The New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year.

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From AllSides…

Unlike regular news services, AllSides exposes bias and provides multiple angles on the same story so you can quickly get the full picture, not just one slant.allsides_logo

At AllSides, we believe the way society gets its news and information affects the world around us. And lately it hasn’t been going well. News, social media and even search results have dramatically changed in the last several years, becoming so narrowly filtered, biased and personalized that we are becoming less informed and less tolerant of different people and ideas.

This is how it happens, and what we can do about it.

Blasted with the overwhelming 24-hour news noise of today, which is often loud, extreme, partisan and rude, we tend to do one of the following:
Disengage from trying to understand or solve society’s problems.
Block out different perspectives, becoming more close-minded and less tolerant of other people and ideas.

There’s a better way… AllSides sees a strong connection between our ability to comprehend and tolerate different opinions, and our ability to develop better schools, more jobs, more wellbeing, and less violence. So we decided to address the core problem – the overwhelming and often one-sided information flow.

How? Change the way we get information so it is easy to sort through the noise and see different perspectives. Armed with a broader view, we can resist attempts to manipulate us in one direction or the other. Instead, we can truly decide for ourselves:

Understand and appreciate different perspectives and people. We’re creating a better informed, less polarized world.

AllSides delivers technology and services to provide multiple perspectives on news, issues, and topics – and the people behind the ideas. With it, we get a broader, deeper understanding of the issues and each other so together we can build a more perfect union.

About the AllSides Bias Rating
The AllSides Bias Rating TM reflects the average judgment of the American people. Bias is normal. If you’ve got a pulse, you’ve got a bias. But hidden bias misleads and divides us. That’s why we have the AllSides Bias Rating.

Bias ratings can be a powerful tool. With it, we can easily look at a news story or issue from different perspectives just by looking at articles on the same topic but from sources that have different bias ratings. By understanding bias, we can understand topics and each other better.

Join us in making bias more transparent everywhere. Rate your own bias, learn how you compare to others (options on this page to the right), and help us rate the bias of other news sources.

How AllSides Calculates Bias
The AllSides patented bias detection and display technology drives arguably the world’s most effective and up-to-date bias detection engine. It’s powered by a combination of wisdom-of-the-crowd technology and the best statistical research and methodologies.

You drive the bias ratings. What you do at AllSides affects our bias ratings. That includes how you rate your own bias and how you rate the bias of news sites, especially through our blind bias surveys. All of this is added to our crowd data, which is statistically normalized to represent a balance of the American public.

Multiple methods for calculating bias. Our blind bias surveys, described in the graphic below, is our most complete and robust method for rating the bias of the source. That is not the only method we use, and often we don’t need anything as robust as that. The source itself might openly share its own bias, 3rd party research may have already determined the bias, an independent review might be decisive, or a broad consensus could be sufficient. Take a look at the variety of methods we use to measure bias.


Our bias detection engine gets smarter as time goes on. We are constantly evolving the bias engine. And, the more you participate, the better our ratings will be and the more sources we can rate. We also ask you to rate your own bias. We’re continuing to improve ways to help you get the most accurate bias self-rating so you can participate on AllSides and in life with transparency and self-awareness. Make the world a better place by understanding and sharing your own bias openly!

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KF and Journalism: On Again! Off Again! On Again! (Connections 2015)

The four-page article, KF and Journalism: On Again! Off Again! On Again! by David Holwerk was published Fall 2015 in Kettering Foundation‘s annual newsletter, “Connections 2015 – Our History: Journeys in KF Research”. Holwerk discusses Kettering’s relationship with journalism and how over the last couple decades, the relationship has had its ups and downs. Kettering has had several active areas in journalism, especially during the 1990s emergence of the public journalism movement. Read an excerpt of the article below and find Connections 2015 available for free PDF download on Kettering’s site here.

KF_Connections 2015From the article…

But even though Kettering was engaged with journalists on many fronts— broadcast projects, coverage of presidential elections, the link between journalism and public deliberation, the role of journalism education in shaping journalists’ ideas,
the Katherine Fanning Fellowship, which has brought many journalists from other countries to Kettering—the record (and my own experience as a journalist during that period) makes it clear that interest was waning, both inside the foundation and among journalists. And in fact, by 2000, it had almost disappeared.

And several things account for public journalism’s swift decline. Some were factors that affect any human endeavor but are not of interest here: personalities, competing ambitions, and battles for primacy of place in journalism’s weird class system. (If you’ve worked in the business you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, take it from me, you didn’t miss anything.)

But other factors do have something to do with Kettering’s interests. Chief among them, public confidence in journalists and journalism continued to decline. To those paying attention, this suggested that the public journalism efforts weren’t bridging the gap between citizens and journalists. And in an environ- ment where instant feedback is the norm, that message carried a lot of weight.

Meanwhile, newspaper industry revenues rose sharply between 1993 and 2000. So the incentive to rethink the relationship of journalism to citizens and communities receded, and with it the sorts of initiatives that Kettering was interested in studying.

I’ll pick up the narrative of Kettering’s work shortly, but let me pause here to make a point about the connection between the financial success of journalism and the interest in citizens and communities. It’s commonplace to identify this connection as a sort of existential crisis. Journalists saw their livelihoods threatened, this storyline goes, and so they turned to connecting with citizens as a possible lifeboat.

That’s true to some extent, but identifying (okay, I’ll say it: naming) the incentive that way obscures something useful. Such circumstances—which occur periodically across the entire spectrum of institutional life—create moments when professionals are open to examining how their work connects (or doesn’t) to citizens and communities. These are the moments when institutions and the professionals who work in them are most likely to experiment. These self-examinations and experiments, and what happens as a result of them, is what’s important to Kettering, not whether the institution survives or dies.

But back to the narrative. There is no concise record of the foundation’s journalism work from 2000 on. But I can speak from my own experience beginning in 2008, when I got involved with Kettering again, as part of a workshop involving the National Conference of Editorial Writers. Much of the focus was on new interactive media, and involved discussions of questions, such as whether these media are by nature democratic. (For the record: they are not. Egalitarian, yes. Democratic, no.) These discussions were interesting,if you’re interested in gadgets and their effect on people and society. But what seemed to be missing were the experiments and innovations that, for better or worse, marked the public journalism days.

To my mind, that began to change in a 2010 research exchange with editorial writers. By that time, it was pretty clear that things were going to hell in the news business and that this time there would be no business rebound to bail them out. A number of the folks in that meeting seemed eager to try some different things. They also seemed ready to reexamine questions, such as whether their ideas about what citizens do in democracy were accurate or what it meant to serve the needs of citizens.

Since then, life in Kettering’s Journalism and Democracy internal working group has been increasingly busy and fruitful. Everywhere we look, we find journalists trying to figure out how to connect better with citizens and communities, or how to manage the difficult tensions that arise even in the best of such connections. Among journalism academics both here and abroad, we have found a deep wellspring of interest in questions related to democracy—not just theoretical questions, but practical ones related to the professional training of journalists. In both cases, a sense of existential crisis seems to have opened up the willingness to consider questions that just a few years ago were not on journalists’ agenda.

How long this state of affairs will last, I wouldn’t care to guess. Journalism itself, at least as we know it, could disappear, in which case Kettering would be left with nothing to examine. But as of this writing, the foundation’s on-again, off-again engagement with journalism and journalists is definitely on.

About Kettering Foundation and Connections
KF_LogoThe Kettering Foundation is a nonprofit operating foundation rooted in the American tradition of cooperative research. Kettering’s primary research question is, what does it take to make democracy work as it should? Kettering’s research is distinctive because it is conducted from the perspective of citizens and focuses on what people can do collectively to address problems affecting their lives, their communities, and their nation.

Each issue of this annual newsletter focuses on a particular area of Kettering’s research. The 2015 issue, edited by Kettering program officer Melinda Gilmore and director of communications David Holwerk, focuses on our yearlong review of Kettering’s research over time.

Follow on Twitter: @KetteringFdn

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@Stake: A Role-Playing Card Game

The Engagement Lab at Emerson College created @Stake, a role-playing card game used to foster decision-making, empathy and collaboration. The players take various roles and create questions based on real life issues to deliberate on during the game. All participants pitch their ideas under a time limit and one of the players, “The Decider” will choose who has the best idea and award points.

More about the game@stake

Development of @Stake:

Planning issues often involve conflicting interests coupled with deep resentments and community divides. Building a new highway, for example, is seldom only a question of the highway’s design, but the destiny of the land, the community, and individual residents.

We were amazed at the success of @Stake in driving productive conversation at our UNDP workshop, and took it back to the Lab for further development. Since then, it’s been used at the Frontiers of Democracy Conference, The Jewish Federation, youth ambassador programs for inner city planning institutions in Boston, and the United Nations in New York. Numerous expansions and customization packs have made the game robust enough to aid in processes of all types nationally and across the world.

Since its inception, @Stake has become one of our best tools for proving to others that games can be productive civic tools.

How to play @Stake:

What is it about? Before the game takes place, the play group must brainstorm topics for the game. The topics selected should be important questions for whatever real world process matters most to the players and their organization (ex. “How can we get young people more involved in local issues?”).

The Decider Once the question for each round has been established, one player becomes the first “Decider,” the player who will pick from the other players’ pitches and determine which is best. It’s up to them to keep time, promote fair play, and make prompt decisions in awarding points.

Role Cards All other players are assigned roles such as Mayor, Activist, or Student. Each role card features a short bio and three agenda goals that the players try to include in their pitches for bonus points.

The Pitch Players hear the question for the round, and are then given one minute to devise an idea. Pitching occurs in two phases. Each player has one minute to give their initial pitch to the Decider, and then there is a short discussion period during which players may ask questions of one another and try to achieve compromises to attach their agenda items to others’ plans.

Decider At the end of the round, the Decider must pick a winning pitch. That winning player earns points, then every player earns bonus points based on their agenda items. The new decider is the player that won the previous round.

**When playing @Stake, please tweet or use the hashtag #AtStakeGame to share your gameplay moments.

About The Engagement Lab
The Engagement Lab is an applied research lab at Emerson College focusing on the development and study of games, technology, and new media to enhance civic life. The Lab works directly with its partner communities to design and facilitate civic engagement processes, augment stakeholder deliberation, and broaden the diversity of participants in local decision-making. Along with the Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change, the Engagement Lab serves as the hub of a global network of engagement and new media organizations.

Follow on Twitter: @EngageLab

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My Interview with Writer’s Voice about ‘Green Governance’ and ‘Viral Spiral’

Writer’s Voice, a national radio show and podcast featuring authors, recently devoted an hour to talking with me about the commons. The chief focus was on my new book co-authored with Burns Weston, Green Governance:  Ecological Survival, Human Rights and the Law of the Commons, which Cambridge University Press published in January. 

Our book recovers from history many fragments of what we call “commons-based law” from such sources as Roman law, the Magna Carta and Charter of the Forest, and public trust doctrine governing natural resources.  We also point to many modern-day analogues such as international treaties to manage Antarctica and space as commons. We wish to show that commons-based law is in fact a long and serious legal tradition – but one that has also been quite vulnerable, particularly over the past two centuries as market-oriented priorities have eclipsed the commons. 

Burns Weston and I argue that the right to a clean and healthy environment, and to access to nature for subsistence (as opposed to for profit-making market purposes), should be recognized as a human right.  The right to meet one’s everyday household needs – by responsibly managing forests, pasture, orchards and wild game as a commons – was recognized by the Charter of the Forest, adopted by King Henry III, the son of King John, in 1217.

This right was essentially a right to survive because commoners depended on the forest for food, fuel, economic security and other basic needs. Such precedents ought to inform our discussions today, when the rights of investors and markets in effect override any human right to survival (consider the many free trade treaties that override democratic sovereignty, ecological protections and local control).

read more

Deliberative democracy and the media

Deliberative democracy is based on the principle that politics should be inclusive, deliberative and consequential. This means that there need to be mechanisms to ensure that all those affected by collective decisions should be able to influence the outcome and that this should involve a process of reason and reflection.

Reflection on important issues cannot occur in an information vacuum. We need inputs into our decision making and the better the quality of that information, the better the capacity for us to reflect on what outcomes we think should be aimed for. Certainly there is a tendency to overplay the role of information alone in considering our positions. The common refrain from those concerned about inaction on climate change, for example, is that the public needs to be better informed. But information alone isn’t enough. There is plenty of that out there already. The problem lies in the way that it is put together, the context in which it is presented, and the level of trust in sources of information that reflect the complexity and nuances of the issue, while still being accessible.

In other words, we also need to consider the need for information to be provided in ways that enable us to side-step fallibility in modes of reasoning, such as the tendency to only seek information the reinforces our pre-existing positions (referred to as motivated reasoning, or commitment bias) or to draw intuitive conclusions that sometimes poorly reflect the substance of the issue (referred to as type 1 reasoning, or peripheral processing; as opposed to type 2 reasoning or cognitive processing). These are motivational issues that I’ll write about another time.

But no matter how well intentioned the motivations behind our political reasoning, it will be fallible to the extent that the information available is poor either in the way it is synthesised, balanced or if it attempts to misdirect or deceive. Not all forms of information are equal, nor trustworthy, if the intention of those providing the information is strategic (i.e. seeks to achieve a particular outcome beyond providing information, especially one that is in their direct interest) as opposed to communicative. Indeed, when it comes to climate change there are many sources of information that are provided strategically, but working out who to trust is difficult, especially when the issue, such as climate change, is so complex. Trust in scientists themselves has been undermined from some sectors. Some scholars, such as Ainslie Kellow (a former mentor of mine) argue that, no matter how well founded climate change is per se, the science has been over-egged in some instances — a perception that has not been helped by the famous ‘climate-gate’ emails. In a world where everybody communicates strategically, no matter how well intentioned, the overall effect is a decrease in trust.

So the question becomes, who can we trust to provide trustworthy information? It is well established that the news media (or fourth estate) has traditionally been important to the functioning of a healthy democratic system. Quality journalism (ideally) identifies issues and synthesises information for public consumption, providing a range of views that permit members of the public to develop well-informed positions, which are, in turn, ideally expressed through the political system via formal and informal mechanisms such as voting, public opinion etc. Ideally there is a kind of self-regulation in operation where there is an incentive for news media to provide considered and trustworthy information to consumers, who should be in a position to judge the quality of the information and whether they are willing to pay for it, or simply spend the time to digest it.

However, this assumption appears to be increasingly challenged, with traditional modes of journalism apparently under threat — both for better and for worse. There are a number of reasons why this appears to be happening, not least in the face of technological innovations delivering vast amounts of freely accessible information, undermining the ability of news outlets to fund what we refer to as ‘quality journalism’ — an issue that is identified by Michelle Grattan in her piece in the Conversation. This is a kind of supply side problem where the cost structure is affecting the ability to afford good quality journalism. Another supply side problem involves the concentration of media ownership (partly due to cost pressures) and the potential for the strategic use information going hand in hand with increasing political power, should the motivations of media proprietors switch from mere information provision and profit to activism — a charge that has been levelled a more than one proprietor in recent times.

But there is also related a demand side problem in which information overload and freely available information at that, undermines the appetite of citizens, as consumers of that information, to seek out and fund quality journalism, or to make discerning judgements about what they are reading. And there are longer-term effects that appear to in play as well. The news companies, who are under such tight constraints, need to find ways to attract readers. And in some cases there is a tendency to ‘dumb’ down content, seeking to titillate rather than inform. Or there can be increasing Balkanisation of news outlets who increasingly cater to the specific beliefs of their audience, stroking their sensitivities for profit. The effect is to entrench perspectives even further and produce information enclaves where whole sections of society get their information from entirely different sources, each supporting different conclusions. The result is a spiral into partisanship, and refusal to take into account competing perspectives, with the market catering for the demand for information that provides a firewall against any perspective that doesn’t accord with a consumers’ worldview. The same thing occurs in online groups, who can more easily find others with their own, sometimes extreme views, facilitated by technology.

Good democratic process requires that we, the citizens open our minds to competing perspectives, even if we ultimately reject opposing arguments. We need sources of information that digest these views and present them in ways that are trustworthy. It is the ultimate expression of freedom of choice, to actively choose among alternative, rather than blindly ignore them.

The ideal model of journalism that seeks to illuminate these alternatives seems increasingly under threat. Although there are alternative models to traditional media that do seem to provide ‘quality journalism’, they seem to be outcompeted by fragmented, biased information sources or even outright propaganda.