Journalists as guide dogs, not just watch dogs

“What effect does the current news cycle have on your mood?” is the question Jeremy Druker, the Executive Director in Transitions (TOL) and Meenal Thakur, Project manager & solutions journalism trainer posed to the audience. Depressed, hopeless, powerless, anxious. Those are some of the most repeated responses not only within the journalist community present in the room today, but in the general public as well.

What exactly is solutions journalism and more importantly, why is it so crucial, especially in today’s world? The definition is: rigorous, evidence-based reporting on existing responses to social problems. To the main pillars belong a response to a problem and how it happened, providing evidence of impact, seeing and providing insights but also establishing its limitations.

And why now? There are several reasons why people do not want to watch the news anymore. Firstly, they often mention that they don’t think the media can be trusted, secondly, they are already feeling negative and generally burnout and don’ t want the media to make that even worse. That is why the solution journalism should be trying to inspire people rather than offer them depressive topics all over again. It can also help with balancing the media image of the world.

According to Jeremy Druker, journalists were not taught how to focus on the good side of the story. “It is not enough to just stay in watch though, we have to become the “guide dogs” instead and use our position to lead the people towards creating a better world,”  he illustrates, also with multiple examples of successful media products based on solution journalism.

Thakur stressed that evidence shows solution journalism increases engagement of the audience and their willingness to keep up with the story. But there is even more than that: this form of reporting also motivates people to take their own actions, educate themselves and others by sharing the content.

The common excuse claims that there is no space for solution journalism in the fast production of daily news. But solution oriented stories do not always need to be long. Experimenting with shorter formats is on the rise. There is also a clear benefit for the newsrooms. “Based on our experience, solution journalism resonates well with funders and brings money to the industry if you communicate its goal clearly” adds Thakur.

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