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Polarization and Journalism

Are you winning the discussion, or are you losing each other? Polarization in the Netherlands is at an all-time high due to the recent elections. However, polarization can be seen in almost all aspects of society, not only politics. Ranging from where the municipality places social housing to farmers discussing climate restrictions.  


Our value creators' journey started by mapping out all the different aspects of polarization in society. Our next step was to reach out to a large range of individuals from these different areas. We spoke to politicians both from the right and left political spectrum.  We spoke to a psychologist who explained to us how the human mind contributes to polarization and where this comes from. We also spoke to NGO’s working with this topic, journalists and people working for the media in general, municipality workers, students  and teachers. These conversations were focused on getting as much input on the topic as possible as wel as brainstorming together on what a solution could be. 


These conversations led us to narrow down our journey to the area of news, media and journalism. In almost all conversations there was mention of how the news has a great effect on polarization and feeds the problem. We realized there was a cycle of polarized news creating a polarized society craving for more polarized news, the cycle was vicious. We brainstormed on where in this cycle we could intervene and break the loop. We decided to focus on changing the way news was created and framed, this would, in the long run,  eventually lead to a less polarized society. We chose to focus specifically on shaping the journalists of the future by creating a lesson meant for journalism students. The purpose of this lesson is to create awareness, we want the future journalists to be aware of the power they hold. We did this by focusing on 3 topics in this lesson; Psychology, Deep listening and Ubuntu.  


We created a lesson plan meant as a guide for lecturers giving the lesson, it includes background information and a further explanation slide by slide. We also created a PowerPoint ready to be shown to a class, it includes discussions and activities. Topics like deep listening and ubuntu might be new for some lecturers, we figured they might need some convincing to give our created lesson. Therefore as a third product we created a “call - to- action" report. This report goes on to explain the why, why polarization is an issue, why journalism students can help reduce the issue and why topics such as deep listening and ubuntu are important in this journey.  All three of these products were created in both Dutch and English to be accesible to a larger audience.  


Going forward, our goal is to distribute our products to lecturers of journalism studies. A member of our team, Lara Top, will be taking our journey with her to her place of internship. We would also love for a future project group to work on distributing the products, as well as holding trial runs to continue improving the program. All three of us are dedicated to this on going journey and would love to work together with other project groups and stakeholders to continue the fight against polarization.

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