Sensationalism is destroying public discourse

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Joan Westenberg is a seasoned writer focused on tech and economics. She was honoured as one of the top 100 innovators by the Australian. Joan has written for Wired, The Australian Financial Review, the SF Chronicle, The Saturday Paper, Chainsaw, Yahoo, TIME, Inc, the ABC, Crikey and others. Beyond her writing, Joan is an advisor to Culture Vault and MODA DAO, fusing her technological expertise with her passion for cultural innovation.

Biggest fuck up

One of my most significant career mistakes was not seizing the opportunity to diversify my skill set early on. At the time, I was primarily focused on writing articles and commentary about technology, and sticking to my niche was the path to success. I missed out on acquiring valuable video production and creation skills, which have become increasingly important in the media landscape.

At the time, I felt comfortable in my niche, but I also realised that the industry was evolving rapidly. I was frustrated when I saw colleagues who had diversified their skill sets thriving in new media formats. The media industry is constantly changing, and staying ahead of the curve is crucial. I’ve learned that being open to learning and stepping out of my comfort zone is essential for long-term stability in this industry. Although I will always love and believe in the power of text, I often worry that I have missed an opportunity to get my message in front of more people.

Rant

The prevalence of shallow and sensationalist reporting, driven by clickbait headlines and the race for web traffic is destroying public discourse. It undermines the credibility of journalism and misinforms the public. Many tech publications prioritise these stories over in-depth analysis and accurate reporting, which can have serious consequences, especially in complex areas like cybersecurity or artificial intelligence.

What needs to change is a return to the fundamentals of responsible journalism: thorough research, unbiased reporting, and a commitment to providing readers with meaningful insights. We should be willing to call out those who prioritise profit over quality journalism. The hill I’m ready to die on is the preservation of integrity in technology journalism. We need to hold ourselves and our colleagues accountable for maintaining the highest ethical and professional standards, even in the face of economic pressures and the allure of click-driven revenue.

Useful advice

The best advice I’ve received and can offer is to “recognise the humanity.” Networking doesn’t mean collecting business cards at conferences and gathering LinkedIn profiles you’ll never see again. It means understanding that the people you meet are human beings and that there is beauty and value in building genuine, long-lasting relationships with them.

Real relationships open doors for career opportunities and provide valuable perspectives, insights, and support from others who share your passions. It’s an investment that pays dividends throughout your career. But it can make you a better human being, too.

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