All the buzz about solution-journalism…
A couple of years ago, I took a short break from my journalism. I remember having one of those “I’m done here” conversation with one of my mentors, explaining how exhausted I was from the cyclical nature of news reporting– telling the same stories in different ways without making the needed impact.
I was often flabbergasteredÂ to see people in the position of power read the news and shrug helplessly when they should be moving mountains to turn things around.
Why is it that some of our news reports don’t make any real impact? By that, I mean beyond just the shrug from readers, a commendation from an editor for doing a good job or a nod from lawmakers?
During my first year in journalism school, we were told that news is not when a dog bites a man but when a man bites a dog. Many graduate with that news sense of covering only the unusual, whichÂ sometimes requires squeezing news out of a stone.
It was really cool back then.
But I do not think that style is still relevant to the changing media landscape. The man who bites aÂ dog these days takes the picture with his mobile phone and shares it on social media. A journalist who tries to retell the story often goes through the rigorous process of filling in the details lost in the brevity of social media updates. By the time the news goes to bed, readers have either moved on or only get to skim through the pages of the report before shelving it.
Aside from that, smart consumers have also learnt the art of filtering Â — skipping over the gloom and doom reports that used to sell the news.
But all hope is not lost. At least not if we become more proactive in winning back the trust of news consumers by producing news that matter in a way that they find constructive, and producing news that can really make the impact we want.
That is where solutions-journalism come in handy.
Solutions journalism, like the name implies, moves us from the practice of man eats dog narrative to focus on a more constructive angle that readers would find more empowering. It is an evidence-based report that “features a response to a problem and produces insights that can help othersÂ experiencing a similar challenge”. For example, instead of just reporting on how girls are being banned from school or how millions of children lack access to education, a reporter can decide to focus on how a community with a high number of out-of-school girls is responding to the problem. Or how other communities have tackled the challenge in the past and what others can learn from it.
So it basically entails investigating an issue – what is working and how more of it can be replicated to solve similar challenges. Even gloomy issues are examined through the lens of “solution” by flipping the coin to examine the outcome of a similar gloomy issue. But this is not to say that we have to become praise singers. No. Solution-journalism is not a praise singing report, an inspirational bubble or PR.
Reporters on the verge of quitting their jobs or breaking out of mainstream reporting for the same reason that I did a few years ago might find this approach more reassuring in helping make the impact that they so desire to see.
Image source: Dowser