World News Day, celebrated on September 28 each year, aims to help the news industry better explain itself and engage global audiences to show how accurate information improves lives.
Making a positive difference in someone’s life is the greatest gift a journalist can give. Perhaps a person is being heard for the first time or a wrong is being righted.
Those moments when a news editor picks up the phone and a terrified voice says, “You’re all I have left, I have nowhere else to turn”. The final stand between hope and defeat.
It’s a sacred contract as old as journalism itself, yet the tenor of our times would seek to separate the people from the newsrooms. If those who try to make enemies of journalists succeed, people’s right to independent access to information will be lost. And as we all know, a world in which people are blinded by facts is a dangerous one.
Record viewership figures were reported around the world during the global pandemic as readers, viewers and listeners soaked up the news and information that saved lives. Still, an always-vociferous minority, the so-called “mainstream media,” pedaled with a pejorative term — as if being together in a fact-based environment was a bad thing.
That’s because the facts can sometimes be uncomfortable, and journalists have a great responsibility to get them right.
We know that the challenges facing the industry have only increased since World News Day began in 2018. We may have a better understanding of commercial pressures and ever-changing viewer habits, but we still don’t do enough to explain ourselves.
That means the editors have cut out their work. Explaining the methodology and how facts are uncovered has become as important as the facts themselves.
Potential listeners consume most of their information in closed, fast-moving networks. We have consistently seen examples where small but active minority groups simply believe what they are told, often by powerful forces with something to hide. The journalist is used as bait to attack uncomfortable truths. As a result, the industry must spend more time reaching out to those who have already decided the facts, even if they don’t have them.
All over the internet there are shielded environments that prevent plurality of thoughts and opinions, facts and realities from being shared. Amidst the myriad of challenges we all face, certainty is one of the least attractive qualities to flaunt.
World News Day, attended by more than 500 newsrooms, is a global initiative aimed at improving media literacy and audience engagement. We show examples of how life improves when journalists tell a story. We feature the efforts of small editorial offices as they represent the importance of community. We underpin everything we do with the belief that access to information is a human right.
The speed of change and the dangers and risks in society sometimes seem to go in only one direction, leading to a global audience that is both jaded and oversaturated with information. We must play a constructive role amid the extraordinary news developments.
The rallying power of independent journalism has never been more important, and unfortunately, because of this hyper-relevance, the risks and threats to journalists, your storytellers, only increase. Polarization velocity, an 18th-century term originally used to describe the properties of light in photography, makes a union unfashionable today. But as newsrooms around the world often say, we are all entitled to our opinions, but we are not entitled to our own facts.
War, economic insecurity, a determination to ruthlessly treat generational practices in our institutions are the changes facing the world. Journalism at its best is right in the middle and has the task of creating not division but mutual understanding and transparency.
World News Day aims to help the news industry better explain itself and engage global audiences to show how accurate information improves lives.
US President Joe Biden was born closer to Abraham Lincoln’s presidency than his own. Less showing the man’s age than the opportunities and advances that have been exploited over the past century, this perspective begs with urgency where we go from here.
David Walmsley is the Editor-in-Chief of the Globe and Mail and the creator of World News Day.
This commentary is being made available to commemorate World News Day, September 28, and you may post it with credit for the author.
World News Day is a global newsroom campaign to highlight the value of journalism. It is organized by the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) World Editors Forum in partnership with the Canadian Journalism Foundation.