In a previous post I outlined seven habits often associated with good journalism that are often talked about (wrongly) as ‘innate’ or ‘unteachable’. In this second post I look at scepticism: why it’s so important in journalism, and how it can be taught.
On its own the first habit of a successful journalist — curiosity — can only take us so far as a journalist: as we ask questions of our sources, we cannot merely report what people tell us — especially if two different sources say contrasting things.
Scepticism is important in journalism because it moves us from merely repeating what people have said, to establishing the factual basis that puts that information into context — whether those facts support or contradict those statements, or do not exist at all.
This has become particularly important in a modern information age when most public bodies can communicate with the public directly, without that accountability.
Scepticism as the voice of the audience
If curiosity represents the journalist acting as the eyes and ears of the audience, scepticism is where we act as the mouth of the audience.
More specifically, it is the way in which we give a voice to an audience which isn’t able to ask questions itself. Continue reading