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From the Editors

How can we make the media less toxic?

A rally in support of ABC journalist Stan Grant in Sydney. AAP/Flavio Brancaleone

“We in the media must ask if we are truly honouring a world worth living in. Too often we are the poison in the bloodstream of our society.”

So said the Indigenous journalist, academic and Q+A host Stan Grant last week, explaining his decision to take a break from the media. “I feel like I’m part of the problem and I need to ask myself how or if we can do it better.”

The urgency of Grant’s question cannot be lost in the storm of recrimination around his treatment. Journalism only exists to serve the public, and every serious journalist feels this in their bones, just as we all know how often we fall short, and the things that trip us up: competition, point-scoring, bias, attention-seeking, clickbait, failure of empathy and, yes, prejudice.

Around the world there is an important conversation going on about how journalism can be more constructive and less toxic. Solutions journalism has become a global movement, one we embrace at The Conversation because it is core to our mission: we work with experts to share knowledge, create a better-informed and more constructive public debate, and serve the public.

In this spirit, today we are publishing an article that we hope is read as a positive contribution to the public discussion of the Voice to Parliament. Last week, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton raised concerns that the Voice could divide Australia on racial lines and so be corrosive to democracy.

Read more: Far from undermining democracy, The Voice will pluralise and enrich Australia’s democratic conversation

If our focus is truly on solutions, and not on partisan politics, these concerns must be taken seriously – they demand a sober and considered response.

Today, Professor Duncan Ivison, a political philosopher from the University of Sydney, has written a terrific short essay that provides just that. Ultimately, he concludes that the Voice is an innovation that is unlikely to divide, and in fact has potential to enrich our democracy.

“The way that democratic societies deal with common problems is through public conversation — through what political theorists call ‘public reasoning’,” he writes.

“The Australian public is being called forth through the referendum process to address the unresolved status of Indigenous peoples in our body politic. We need a richer account of democracy within which to locate the proposal for a Voice to raise the quality of our debate about it.”

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