Journalism’s epistemic crisis and its solution: Disinformation, datafication and source criticism
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionSteensen S. Journalism’s epistemic crisis and its solution: Disinformation, datafication and source criticism. Journalism - Theory, Practice & Criticism. 2019;20(1):185-189 https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1464884918809271
Journalism in many cultures is today in an epistemic crisis. The mains drivers of this crisis are discourses of disinformation and the general datafication of society, which combined render dubious the ways in which journalism assesses sources and information in its production of knowledge. Basic journalistic competencies related to information literacy—which constitute a key prerequisite for journalism’s ability to establish trust, authority and accountability—are out of tune with the challenges of modern information societies. If the institutions and professionals of journalism do not update their information literacy competencies, and if the public doesn’t have faith in journalism’s ability to master such competencies, journalism will lose its societal relevance, simply because it loses its ability to produce trustworthy knowledge. In this short essay, I will briefly discuss the challenges for journalism posed by discourses of disinformation and datafication. I will argue that these challenges push journalism towards an epistemic reorientation beyond the right/wrong and true/false dichotomies. Such a reorientation can begin with the further development and normalization of source criticism as attitude and practice in journalism. Being a common methodological and epistemic concept in historiography and information science, source criticism constitutes a more constructivist attitude towards information literacy, which, I will argue, is exactly what journalism needs.