Lecturer in Communication
Aalto School of Economics
The main ideals of news journalism used to be simple: strive for objective, impartial reporting of facts. This was also a time when the central task of news journalism was to help citizens make sense of the world through organizing the chaos of real life into a set of coherent accounts.
Of course, this model is badly outdated.
The new way of news journalism is the “individual diversity” model of Google News and other news search engines (Carlson 2007). These engines provide user-citizens with links to multiple news outlets and multiple viewpoints, supposedly without legitimating one view over another. The new model promotes the values of diversity, polyphony, pluralism, personalization, and access. The idea is to offer as many viewpoints and stories as possible – and let the reader choose.
It seems that, in some respect, the model of individual diversity has gained ground also in traditional forms of news media, such as newspapers. Take any noteworthy social or economic event – such as the collaboration of Nokia and Microsoft – and look at how it is represented in Helsingin Sanomat. I promise to eat my doctoral hat if you cannot find several perspectives, multiple voices, and divergent stories of the topic.
And surely there cannot be anything problematic about that?
I would argue that there can. The problem is that the relations of different viewpoints are often left not only unsettled but entirely untouched.
Political theorist Chantal Mouffe has promoted the idea of “agonistic pluralism” as an ideal model for democracy. It is first and foremost an alternative to consensus-oriented ideas of democracy, including all sorts of third way and win-win politics. At the core of agonistic pluralism is the notion of the political as an insoluble struggle between ideologies or discourses that are mutually incompatible. Continue reading