Given the kind of news that we are exposed to nowadays, it seems nearly impossible to believe there is a brighter side to the world. We put faith in our local and international news networks to accurately report what is happening in the world – yet we fail to see the majority of the commendatory events and optimistic stories that do in fact surround us. What we do see is the flood of adversely framed news broadcasts, neatly packaged for daily consumption. And albeit profitable in the short term, this negativity bias does not support positive feedback loops, harms our worldview, and leads to an increasingly high proportion of the population that no longer wants to interact or consume news media. Why is this the case? What can we do to change this? What can we do to take an active part in how we want to see the world?
An easy way out could be blaming this on journalists, predominant news beats, and good ol’ corporate greed. Although these factors are fully valid and do play a large role in the portrayal of the world, we must also take accountability for the role we play in this media landscape. The market of broadcast journalism – much like any other – brings to the frontlines whatever is most habitually consumed by the audience. As soon as solutions journalism is appreciated, demanded, and consumed by the public (i.e., us), it should quickly integrate within the media landscape, and provide a more realistic and hopeful outlook of the world.
Understanding Solutions Journalism
As the name itself suggests, solutions journalism is a journalism branch centred around responses, as well as tried and potential solutions to social problems. The main ingredient here is the presence of a viable resolution that consumers can take to combat the issue at hand. With growing levels of detachment with the realm of news, this new angle can be a highly pivotal one for news media to regain the public’s attention and trust.
To put it in layman’s terms – it’s as if you were to go to the doctor to find out you have a life-threatening illness but no information about what you can do about it is provided.
Solutions provided alongside a news story go beyond simply uplifting the overall levels of optimism and hope. Research has shown that it also increases the degree to which consumers engage with the problem conveyed in the news item. The presence of a viable response provides citizens with the freedom of choice to combat the issue at hand. Reasoning behind this lies in understanding feedback loops within behavioural psychology. By presenting the public with the problem first and the potential solutions second, there is a clear and direct path toward the necessary behaviour and the desired outcome. Without this directed path, people are left not only with the information of daunting social issues, but with a sense of looming impotence as well. To put it in layman’s terms – it’s as if you were to go to the doctor to find out you have a life-threatening illness but no information about what you can do about it is provided.
Make It Make Sense
The strangest part of it all is that solutions journalism does in fact exist, and is present in several prominent branches of the press – such as online reporting for the universities, health journalism and business journalism. Yet, its principles are not applied to journalism as a whole. Its vital role can be highlighted if we imagine online and business forms of journalism without a directed path to resolutions. Picture a world where the UVA newsletter simply states social problems within the university – articles being published about how students are constantly failing exams due to high stress levels, depleting mental health and an ongoing housing crisis that’s taking a toll on these young adults. Whether or not these stories hold true, the editors of the newsletter would not allow that such an angle be taken in anything they want to be published. They would rather use these facts and figures to promote something such as “Mental Health Week” in order to maintain a good spirit and morale among students.
A larger domain of journalism such as Business Journalism is one that particularly thrives on this idea of solutions, to the extent that almost every piece pertains to the structure of solutions journalism. And best of all is that it works. Take How to fix International Monetary Fraud? From The Economist for instance – this article not only brings to light the problem of monetary fraud alone, but also takes an angle that brings forth solutions and fixes for monetary fraud. The branch of business journalism has not seen nearly as close of a drop in engagement as broadcast journalism. So why are we shying away from these methods that show evidence of success?
The only way for solutions journalism to be integrated within broadcast journalism is if we create a demand for it as consumers. Broadcast journalism plays a crucial role in the way we construct our worldview. Regardless of how guarded we keep ourselves from news channels, whenever there is an event that has a global impact – be that climate change or the economic crisis – we rely on broadcast journalism for information. This dependence for information is something that this form of journalism will never lose. While we should accept this reliance, we ought to actively seek out and support branches within large news broadcast corporations that focus on solutions as well. The future is creeping up on us sooner than we think and problems such as climate change cannot be put on the backend much longer. We need solutions, we need action – and only we can bring that into the market. Solutions journalism does exist around us, from Fixes by the New York Times, to the BBC’s World Hacks, or The Upside by the Guardian – it simply needs our time and attention.
Edited by: Emma C. C.