What if we developed news media that were a laboratory for negotiation and dialogue?

If you want more publicity today—in newspapers, on television talks shows, or on the radio—be sensational. Offend people. Talk fast. Spin the facts for maximum impact. Raise your voice. Interrupt other speakers. Dominate the conversation. Consume all the airtime. Exaggerate.  Stamp a label (“liberal” or “conservative,” “pro-life” or “pro-choice,” etc.) on your forehead. Once you have a label, it is easier for the producers of the program to plug you into their pro-and-con lineup.

Unfortunately, this is the way it works in the popular media in many cultures today. Verbal brawling is on the rise; debate is getting dirtier; and there is little room for anything else.

What if the media expanded its repertoire? What if news editors sought ratings and profits by fostering depth and authentic, thoughtful disagreement rather than sensationalism and “drive-by,” shoot-from-the-hip debates? What if they broke out of the pro-con straightjacket and actually had a circle of multiple, divergent perspectives that mirrored real life? And, whenever possible, what if they actually encouraged the participants not only to talk but to listen? Perhaps most exciting, what if they broadcast penetrating documentaries on critical issues and then helped communities host follow-up civic dialogues?

-Leading Through Conflict: How Successful Leaders Transform Differences into Opportunities by Mark Gerzon

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