One of the greatest mistakes a journalist can make is falling into cynicism. The myth of the hard bitten reporter is unquestioningly celebrated in popular culture; these days no one even blinks at the old cliche that "if bleeds it leads". Comparatively little is ever said about the role of the media in hosting a productive conversation about shared values, or the solutions to our most pressing problems.
But in the era of climate change that's the journalism we need. I've just finished reading an interesting Quarterly Essay by Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens that placed a big chunk of the blame for growing contempt in society at the feet of social media companies. Aly and Stephens lament the lack of civility in public discussion, and argue that the likes of Facebook and its competitors use algorithms to weaponise anger and fuel distrust.
It's an argument full of insight and it's highly relevant to what we do at The Conversation. Our unique model of journalism is all about contributing to a public discussion that is sober, constructive and respectful.
We do this by working with academic experts whose primary motivation is to share knowledge and explain, not to win an argument or vanquish a perceived foe. We do this work as a not-for-profit company that is funded by universities, foundations and generous donors. This ensures we are free of advertiser influence and we are not under pressure to weaponise contempt.
In fact, our approach to journalism is all about the benefits of collaboration. We team journalists with academics to share new research and provide insights on the news. And we don't want just to echo what the rest of the media is talking about. We want to have a positive conversation with you, our readers, about what matters most to you.
We did this earlier this year when we ran the #settheagenda survey to shape our coverage of the federal election. More than 10,000 of you responded and helped set the agenda for our coverage.
Now we are asking you to help us again. Please give us 10 or so minutes of your time to let us know a little bit about how you interact with The Conversation and what you like and dislike about us.
We will use these insights to help plan our editorial decisions and to inform how we can fund our work and deliver you not-for-profit journalism that is about building a better world, not making a profit from ripping apart the social fabric. Please respond to our survey here.
Author: Misha Ketchell - Editor, The Conversation