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Reporting Beyond the Problem

From Civic Journalism to Solutions Journalism

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Edited By Karen McIntyre Hopkinson and Nicole Smith Dahmen

Americans say that reading, watching, or listening to the news is a leading cause of stress. Of course journalists, as watchdogs and public informants, must disseminate information that is inherently negative, but experts argue that the news media’s emphasis on the problem has had a negative effect on the public, the press itself, and democracy. At the same time, the past sixty years have seen a rise of journalistic practices that purport to cover the news beyond the typical problem-based narrative. These genres of journalistic reporting are not positive news or fluff reporting: They are rigorous reporting philosophies and practices that share a common goal—reporting beyond the problem-based narrative, thereby exemplifying a commitment to the social responsibility theory of the press, which asserts that journalists have a duty to consider society’s best interests. However, there is little academic or professional understanding of these journalistic approaches. As such, this book provides an in-depth examination of socially-responsible news reporting practices, such as constructive journalism, solutions journalism, and peace journalism. Each chapter focuses on one reporting form, defining it and detailing its evolution and status among scholars and practitioners, as well as discussing its known effects and future direction. This edited volume is the first academic book published on these forms of reporting in the United States. It provides a comprehensive resource that explores the theoretical underpinnings of these journalistic genres that grounds these approaches and allows for a coherent line of research to follow as these approaches evolve.

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3. Constructive Journalism: Portraying the World Accurately through Positive Psychology Reporting

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CHAPTER THREE

Constructive Journalism

Portraying the World Accurately through Positive Psychology Reporting

PETER BRO AND CATHRINE GYLDENSTED

Constructive journalism serves as an antidote to the negativity bias in traditional news. It is a broad term representing a socially responsible approach to reporting that values stories about progress, achievement, and collaboration as much as stories about devastation, corruption, and conflict. It ultimately aims to improve societal well-being by providing more balanced news coverage. Constructive journalism can be practiced in a number of ways that differ in frame and focus. Burgeoning from Europe, the approach has roots in civic journalism and draws from other social science fields such as positive psychology.

That journalists should strive to be “constructive” is a term and notion that has little news value. In fact, the notion of being constructive appears in some of the profession’s oldest and most solemn testaments to what journalism could—and should—be. “I believe that the journalism which succeeds best is … constructive,” wrote Walter Williams, the founder of the first journalism school in the United States, in his world-famous Journalist’s Creed (Williams & Martin, 1922/1911, p. 11). When walking the main hallway in the U.S. National Press Club in Washington D.C., all visitors come across a centrally placed plaque that carries Williams’ creed, a nod to its central role in American journalism. The creed has been translated into several languages and it appears in many books, articles, and other publications about...

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