Beyond crime and violence: Broadening news media’s focus

Mar 03, 2024 at 05:39 pm by admin

Concerns that news media’s coverage of events in disadvantaged areas failed to depict reality have been addressed following research by Swedish media group Schibsted.

In an INMA media leaders blog, programme manager Belenn Rebecka Bekele says the research suggested building long-term relationships and using of technology to address perceptions.

The 2023 study by IN/LAB and Järvaveckan Research found half of Swedes in socio-economically disadvantaged areas believed news reporting worsened public perceptions of them and their neighbourhoods.

Bekele says the finding aligned with previous qualitative research at IN/LAB, the Schibsted and Tinius Trust joint inclusion lab, highlighting residents’ perceptions of the media working against them rather than serving their needs.

“Unfortunately, these findings are consistent with global trends,” she says.

A study by Reuters Institute found disadvantaged communities in the US and UK shared a similar perspective on the failings of the news media, with many viewing these failings as primarily linked to how people like them are portrayed in the media.

Prompted to take action, IN/LAB delved deeper into the underlying causes of these perceptions. “Driven by our belief in collaborative co-creative processes, we created ‘Beyond Experts’, with solution-oriented experts engaged who had relevant lived and professional experiences in Stockholm’s socio-economically disadvantaged areas.

“Our aim was to deepen our understanding of the perceptions of news media, moving beyond discussions of challenges and exploring ways to address them.”

The group collaborated closely with Schibsted and editorial staff from its Swedish newsrooms – Svenska Dagbladet, Omni and Aftonbladet – over a two-month period, identifying reasons and proposing actionable recommendations.

Among underlying reasons was that newsmedia was not seen to examine power equally, failed to depict “reality”, and failed in diversity and inclusion.

“To ground and affirm the identified reasons with local communities across Stockholm, we organised focus groups at youth centres and conducted a community event for adults,” says Bekele. “It became apparent that the sentiments expressed by the experts resonated with a broader audience.”

But she says “whether our Swedish newsrooms agree with the identified reasons or not”, the more pertinent question we wanted newsrooms to consider was whether we were satisfied with the perceptions.

Five recommendations presented were:

-expanding the understanding of “expert” to ensure readers saw a broader range of viewpoints, empowering them to form their own opinions;

-engaging in building long-term relationships;

-investing more in systematic diversity, inclusion, and belonging (DIB) efforts, through recruitment, training and company culture;

-leveraging technologies such as AI to help examine public statements made by those in power regarding disadvantaged areas, for example, to verify and present facts in relation to political statements;

-including more perspectives and topics to enhance the relevance of news concerning disadvantaged areas – a shift deemed crucial as a narrow focus, often revolving around themes such as crime and violence, distorts reality.

“Our newsrooms are currently working on how to implement selected recommendations in their respective operations,” she says. “We are excited to follow their progress and provide support throughout their journey.

“While our work has been tailored to the Swedish context, we believe that these recommendations hold broader relevance. Therefore, we encourage news media organisations in other countries to explore how these recommendations might resonate with both current and potential audiences from disadvantaged communities.

“By doing so, we hope that, as an industry, we can create more inclusive and impactful journalism.”


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