After a short hiatus, The Journal is online again. This is definitely good news for all those who were getting used to browsing and reading its various contents and for those who regularly contributed thereto. I was one of both. I contributed with my articles, and I read and reflected on the other contents contributed and posted by others. I intend to resume my activity on this online platform.
In the meantime, though, many things have happened that should somehow, to my mind, make the editor and contributors of this platform reflect profoundly on the manner in which they intend to connect with their readership, ultimately with the aim of increasing readership and possibly winning over people who have no political party affiliation or allegiance.
Some of you might recall that, during the time that The Journal was offline, I wrote a number of opinion pieces on current affairs in one or two local independent newspapers and, occasionally, even in a particular newspaper run by the Partit Nazzjonalista. In no way should all this mean that I profess any allegiance or affiliation with the Opposition party. Rather, it should reflect my willing-to-be objective analysis and criticism of all that is going on in our country in sectors that undoubtedly attract public interest.
In a few of those articles, I came around to heavily criticise the Opposition from various angles. Equally, I could not help criticising the Government or certain ongoings within the Labour Movement when necessary and warranted. However, all criticism was meant to be constructive in so far as I personally believe that, for the sake of democracy, it is imperative not only to have a functioning, accountable, effective, and transparent public administration but also, and perhaps more importantly, an organised, credible, and strong Opposition to keep checks and balances running smoothly.
In the meantime, too, I have come around to changing my opinion and conviction on a few topics I had already written about in The Journal, such as euthanasia. I did not do so capriciously, but on the basis of different, convincing and proven reasons.
A space for contrasting and opposing views
Sure, this portal is intended to serve as an instrument of political communication for the Labour Movement, reproduce its vision, and help disseminate its political ideals and proposals. Yet, I humbly believe that there has to be a radical approach to how the political message is put across and the scope of the subjects addressed.
The Journal must become a specific field restructured and adapted to the times of contemporary politics and life in society, with new priorities and consumptions when it comes to communication. The emergence and solidification of political parties, generally, must be accompanied by a need to structure their internal communication to ensure an effective relationship between the power elites, local structures, and party supporters. Party media is still a privileged vehicle for transmitting political and party messages, publicising party activities and playing a role in defending political ideologies.
It is important to assess whether The Journal will be online and operative for wider reasons than mere party propaganda. In this respect, it should definitely not be intended to replace the traditional press, based on its avowed independence and impartiality, but it must, if it is to generate increased readership and following, entertain contrasting and opposing views on all that is of current concern to the general apolitical public.
The modern information landscape is flooded with thousands of news and “news-like” sources. The sheer volume of these sources presents a unique challenge to each of us who are newsliterate ourselves.
A matter of trust
A common complaint these days from individual news consumers is, “I don’t know whom or what to trust anymore.” However, none of us have the luxury of simply giving up; rather, we have the responsibility to learn whom and what to trust, as challenging as that may be.
To be truly news literate today, it is no longer sufficient to be familiar with just a handful of news sources you trust solely based on their reputations. Nor is it sufficient to rely on a handful of shortcuts or “tips and tricks” to determine whom and what to trust. Today’s news literacy requires being able to evaluate the unfamiliar. It requires acquiring, developing and continuously practising keen information evaluation skills.
It is impossible for any one person to fact-check and verify every statement in every article, but it is important to try to determine the veracity of certain key facts. In particular, if any statements in an article are surprising, fishy or shocking to you and sound like they would be “big, if true”, it’s time to start digging.
Fortunately, we have a robust media ecosystem full of professional fact-checkers and journalists at more than one news organisation across the country whose jobs are to investigate questionable claims as quickly as possible. If you come across a “fact” that you have reason to doubt, verifying it is as easy as entering the questionable fact in a search engine and scanning the results that come up.
An essential tool in a democracy
The media is often considered essential to the functioning of democracy through the provision of information to voters. At the same time, there is a temptation for an incumbent government to use media outlets to deliver political propaganda. This propaganda can be used by the government, among other things, to promote its policies, increase its standing with the population in advance of elections, and criticise the Opposition leader and party.
Unless it is factual, truthful and influential, propaganda may lead to moral hazard via poor monitoring of incumbents by voters and the re-election of low-quality politicians and parties.
I augur that The Journal will take this into consideration and that the team behind it will practise inclusion by accepting the diversity of opinions, views and ideologies forthcoming from a variety of contributors. Such a great and perhaps unexpected leap would surely render this journal a serious and credible online debate platform worth following.
More will follow in the coming weeks.
Photo credit: Anna Shvets