Revolution is mustering in newsrooms across the globe. The new kid on the block – constructive journalism – is limbering up to salvage what’s left of the battered profession and the news it produces.
Journalism’s reputation is lying the gutter following decades of tabloid press running amok, phone tapping scandals, and now its latest moniker ‘fake news’.
The eruption in media channels at our fingertips hasn’t helped. Social media and handheld electronic devices have dislodged newspapers and TV as our only windows on the world. There’s no escape from digital news from the moment we wake bleary-eyed in the morning to the second we pass out exhausted at the end of the day. And with so many news organisations and channels with dwindling resources and fewer journalists, no wonder standards are slipping as they try and feed their 24/7 news beasts.
It’s also increasingly difficult to tell the difference between certified news organisations and unqualified bloggers. So what we get is too much negative news noise, lacking insight, and a large proportion inaccurate.
Constructive journalism is a new approach because it seeks to change how to report, rather than what to report. Yes it still analyses problems, but it also explores potential solutions. It examines what’s going right in the world – and why – rather than focusing solely on what’s going wrong. It aims to give people a fuller picture to re-engage and empower them, while still upholding journalism’s core functions and ethics.
The five questions of who, what, when, where and why are still answered, but now with a new dimension – what now? Investigating the ‘what now?’ part of the story is key.
In Denmark constructive journalism is already established, and in newsrooms in Sweden, Holland and South Africa its gathering support. In the UK the Constructive Journalism Project has delivered workshops to hundreds of journalism students, as well as freelance journalists, since it launched three years ago.
In this country you can read the magazine Positive News; newly re-launched online and in print after being crowd funded by a £1/4 million in a month. There are also online outlets such as Upworthy and the Huffington Post, in their What’s Working and Impact sections. The current BBC World Service series also runs stories in this format.
At the end of the day, people don’t want more news. They simply want better news; accurate, balanced and in context.
If journalism can learn to do this, it still might survive…