How to Make News More Trustworthy

There seems to be one unifying complaint across the political spectrum, namely the complaint that the media cannot be trusted. The only difference is what kind of media they trust and which not.

This  szenario is typical for an autocracy, but it is a worst case szenario for a democracy. When big portions of society live in their own echo-chambers and have their own sort of truth, how can we ever live together peacefully? How can we cope with problems and conflicts through open discussion, instead of violence and deceit?

It is very unlikely that we can convince our opponents to do something about this. But how about doing something about this ourselves? I think that we can learn here from scientists. I do not mean from their findings or research methods. I mean from their  standars of reporting their research:

  • In order to be trustworthy scientists must funnel their report through a peer reviewing process. On a smaller scale but also very evectively, journalists and bloggers could have a second person read the news before publication, or, if this  unfeasible. let at least sit their text for a short while and read it again like a foreign piece.
  • Scientists must not only reason but they must also demonstrate the truth of their claims in such detail that the reader can validate the evidence through own research. Good journalists and bloggers do this already, too. But too many  confine their evidence on single case studies, e.g., by interviewing a few, accidentally or intentionally sampled people. If they have no other evidence, they should soften their claims.
  • Scientists usually make claims which need more support than they can provide with their own studies. In this case they refere to evidence from other sources, and, most importantly, give complete bibliographic information for theses sources so that the readers can retrieve and read them. With a few exceptions, newsmakers don’t care about this at all (an exception is, e.g., is Le Monde diplomatique). In many news media readers have little, and sometimes no, chance to find out about the truth of the author’s claims. When I dig out the sources through extensive internet search, I sometimes discover that either the media report or the original source was incomplete, fact-distorted or even completely biased.

Yes, we can do something in order to make news more trustworthy, at least our own news.