Currently, there is much discussion about fake news and disinformation. There is a lot of confusion on how to react to this.
Communication researchers know that the more strongly opponents in a conflict are convinced of their own position, the more emotional do they act in this conflict. In heated discussions, researchers face the danger of allowing themselves to be drawn into polarized disputes. If researchers become too emotionally involved, they lose the trust of uninvolved observers.
Volker Stolloz, Managing Director and Head of the Editorial Office of the Science Media Center Germany, suggests that most people oscillate between the opinion fronts. Extremists are difficult to convert, in any case. Therefore, messages from journalists and scientists should focus on the undecided, on those who have not yet formed a fixed opinion.
However, scientific knowledge is complex. Even if reliable knowledge is available in principle, laypeople lack the professional judgement as to which experts and which knowledge they can trust. Science is not a democracy; unfortunately, reliable knowledge cannot be recognized by how many believe it to be true. Rather, it even takes scientific excellence to recognize true excellence in research. What is needed here is good science journalism as a mediator.
In the digital democracy, public confidence in independent science becomes the scarcest of all goods. That is why it is worthwhile for scientists to boldly share their knowledge and invest in honest brokers—for example, in strong science journalism. Volker Stolloz said that this is why the GDCh supports the Science Media Center Germany. This is an independent editorial office of science journalists that is oriented towards the common good and supports journalists from all departments in reporting on science-related topics whenever science makes headlines.