What if journalists covered controversial issues differently — based on how humans actually behave when they are polarized and suspicious? As politicians have become more polarized, we have increasingly allowed ourselves to be used by demagogues on both sides of the aisle, amplifying their insults instead of exposing their motivations. But what else can we do with conflict, besides letting it sit? We’re not advocates, and we shouldn’t be in the business of making people feel better. Our mission is not a diplomatic one. So what options does that leave?
Contemporary journalism faces a crisis of trust that threatens the institution and may imperil democracy itself. Critics and experts see a renewed commitment to local journalism as one solution. But a lasting restoration of public trust requires a different kind of local journalism than is often imagined, one that engages with and shares power among all sectors of a community.