August 23, 2018
/ by Rocky Parker
See the original on Beyond Bylines.
Negativity is exhausting.
In the age of the 24/7 news cycle, readers are bombarded with stories of how everything seems to be falling apart, and “news fatigue” is setting in. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, almost 70 percent of Americans say they're tired.
An everyday feeling these days... #DavidSipress #TheNewYorker pic.twitter.com/V6LMQ63vCR— Upping The Anti (@uppingtheanti) January 30, 2017
An everyday feeling these days... #DavidSipress #TheNewYorker pic.twitter.com/V6LMQ63vCR
Enter constructive journalism.
While this isn't a new concept, it’s one worth revisiting in the current media climate. Supporters believe that telling the same story while focusing on the positive and presenting possible solutions can help educate the reader and increase engagement.
The Constructive Journalism Project defines this method as “rigorous, compelling reporting that includes positive and solution-focused elements in order to empower audiences and present a fuller picture of truth, while upholding journalism’s core functions and ethics.”
The Constructive Journalism Project also notes three things that constructive journalism isn’t:
The idea isn’t to change what’s being reported on, but rather to change how it’s reported.
In a recent article from The Guardian, Elisa Gabbert explored “compassion fatigue,” which is caused by the overwhelming amount of negative news readers face every day. Originally a health care term, Gabbert explains that it’s now used in media studies and is “the idea that overexposure to horrific images, from news reports in particular, could cause viewers to shut down emotionally, rejecting information instead of responding to it.”
In her research, Danish journalist and constructive journalism pioneer Cathrine Gyldensted used positive psychology and found that a news story with a constructive peak and ending leads to feelings of enthusiasm, optimism, and engagement in the reader.
Providing a full picture to the reader is central to constructive journalism – it’s about more than just presenting the facts.
Gyldensted recommends using interventive interviewing techniques, based on family therapist Karl Tomm’s interviewing framework. This interviewing method is made up of four types of questions:
In Gyldensted and Karen McIntyre’s research, they explain that journalists too often focus on linear and strategic questions, which can make them judgmental or combative. They claim that by including reflexive and circular questions, journalists open themselves up to new perspectives and can write more comprehensive stories.
“It’s a new and (better) way to keep the powerful accountable and in check," said Gyldensted, in an interview with Images & Voices of Hope, while offering an example of how this can be useful in political reporting. "By working on your interviewing technique and borrowing from mediation and facilitation, you are able to make a political debate format where power holders are being asked where they can agree and collaborate — and when/how they will do it.”
There are a number of news organizations that are embracing constructive journalism.
“Don’t give them any more ammunition.” During teacher training, Daniel Gray was advised not to tell students he was gay. He says that coming out has actually improved his relationship with pupils, and has now launched a network for other LGBT teachers https://t.co/2yvaoNuWN9 pic.twitter.com/DmtRzYFEwY— Positive News (@PositiveNewsUK) August 9, 2018
“Don’t give them any more ammunition.” During teacher training, Daniel Gray was advised not to tell students he was gay. He says that coming out has actually improved his relationship with pupils, and has now launched a network for other LGBT teachers https://t.co/2yvaoNuWN9 pic.twitter.com/DmtRzYFEwY
The constructive journalism model seems to be growing, and there’s an expanding field of constructive journalism research to back it up.
Several studies report higher reader engagement for constructive content. For example, research has found that readers are more inclined to share constructive journalism content and also tend to spend more time on the page.
Solutions journalism education and on-the-job training are becoming more common, so it appears positive change is on the horizon.
Katharine Viner, editor-in-chief of The Guardian, recently spoke about the future of the publication and painted a hopeful picture of the future of journalism.
"If people long to create a better world, then we must use our platform to nurture imagination – hopeful ideas, fresh alternatives, belief that the way things are isn’t the way things need to be," Viner said. "We cannot merely criticise the status quo; we must also explore the new ideas that might displace it. We must build hope ... We will develop ideas that help improve the world, not just critique it."
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