The Power of Solutions Focused News and its role in the future of newsrooms
Jodie Jackson, Director of News Literacy Network, entered the Publishing industry as a consumer. Despite being a previously avid reader, Jodie stopped watching the news aged 20. She found it too negative; it left her feeling depressed and hopeless about the state of the world.
It turns out, Jodie wasn’t alone in these feelings. Reuters digital news report in 2019 found that the top reason for audience disengagement was that they found the news too depressing.
In her presentation at The Publishing Show, Jodie was keen to emphasise that she understood the value of reporting on problems. The news asks challenging questions, holds power to account, fights injustice and drives legislative change. “Unless we are aware of a problem, we’re not able to confront and correct it,” says Jodie.
However, Jodie presented the consequences of only consuming problem-focused news. Mainstream news “isn’t reflecting what goes on in the world but focuses on what goes wrong”. We can perceive the world as more dangerous than it is as. Jodie shared how “if it bleeds it leads” meaning the more negative a news story is the more likely it is to be placed as a top news feature.
Problem-focused news is so common we accept this negative narrative as normal. Jodie shared how this can be represented as an inverted curve; the benefit of consuming the news is minimised when we are exposed to too much negativity. This overload is called excess news. It’s not only adults who are affected, children are also being exposed to shocking stories daily. This repetitive experience makes the negative feelings last longer.
Excess news can produce psychological and sociological effects including, but not limited to, anxiety, depression, a feeling of helplessness, feeling withdrawn and disengaged.
So, what is the alternative to problem-focused news?
The answer is solutions journalism.
This is “rigorous journalism that reports critically on tangible progress being made in order for us the understand how issues are being dealt with”. It is not simply about posting happy and light-hearted news pieces, this type of journalism focuses on what people are doing in response to the problems presented.
Having learnt more about solutions journalism, Jodie undertook rigorous research to understand the results of this approach. The findings showed that consumers had a more balanced perspective, an improved understanding of context, and feelings of hope and empowerment that their actions can make a difference.
For news outlets, the main benefit is increased reader engagement. With solutions journalism, readers are more likely to read the article for longer, share the story, have an increased desire to stay more informed and are more likely to pay to consume content. BBC World Survey Service found that 64% of under 35-year-olds want the news to provide solutions and it was their top content request – meaning that publishers can also attract a new audience.
Despite the benefits, there is slow uptake of solutions journalism in the media. Some people claim it can undermine the suffering and severity of the situation. Jodie feels passionate that this is not the case. She shared how “we can only understand the solutions if we first understand the problem – they do not cancel each other out”. Jodie hopes we can move to a place where news outlets can really utilise the value of solutions journalism.
'The Power of Solutions Focused News and its role in the future of newsrooms' is available to watch on-demand.