You want to take advantage of the time you have while on your commute to university, so you open the news on your phone and start reading the recent article headlines to stay informed on local and global issues. The pages are overflowing with the words “disaster,” “turmoil,” “death,” and “fear.” After having read a few articles, your head is clouded by the negativity of the world. In desperation, you stop looking at the news and are left with an utter feeling of distress. So what? What am I supposed to do now?
This feeling of hopelessness transmitted through journalism is something that Constructive Journalism aims to address and diminish. On January 25th, the IE School of Global and Public Affairs, along with Instituto de Periodismo Constructivo and The Stork, was honored to host a workshop led by Alfredo Casares. Alfredo Casares, the founder and director of Instituto de Periodismo Constructivo, led students through a discussion pertaining to this.
Alfredo began by explaining what the objective of Constructive Journalism is: a potential solution to fight against the draining effects of the negativity bias in the media. The negativity bias claims that, as humans, we are greater impacted by the negative than the positive. How often have you heard the phrase “I don’t read the news because they are too negative,” or have even said it yourself? This comes to be an issue with the media, as we are oftentimes bombarded with negative news that affect our mental state, which eventually drives us away from even wanting to stay informed. The real problem with this lies in the fact that this negative mental state is not proactive, as we are left confused and hopeless about both our local communities and the world as a whole. Constructive Journalism focuses on the actions we can take. It makes us say: “what did we learn from this and what can we do about it?”
Alfredo did not forget to address a common misconception that people have about Constructive Journalism. People often believe that it aims to simply “make people happier” by only exposing them to more lighthearted and positive news. This is not the case. Instead, Constructive Journalism aims to keep people rightly informed; Informed about the problem, the approach, the obstacles, and what people are currently doing to act upon the issue. An important aspect to note is that Constructive Journalism aims for realism, as it also proposes to write headlines as “proposals” and not “solutions.” Solutions are a promise, a promise that someone has the guaranteed key to success. Constructive Journalism encourages interest and drive, not a promised resolution, to act based on the acquired and well-rounded knowledge about an issue.
Solution Journalism, an extension of Constructive Journalism, roots in its four main pillars: the response to the issue, the evidence of the results, the insights and lessons to be learned, and the potential limitations to the proposals. Alfredo mentioned how this approach focuses on the future and how we can use our power as journalists to transform people’s anger into a drive for action. Instead of reading about an issue and focusing on what occurred, we are pushed to think of what is already being done, plan future actions, and be inspired to learn more in hopes of contributing to the change.
Why is this approach to journalism indispensable? The job of journalists essentially comes down to one: to communicate. The issues are there, as we are constantly being educated on local and global challenges that affect us in some way or another. What is missing is the correct way in which that information is being communicated to us. Instead of being pushed away from reading, we should feel encouraged to stay informed on the ways in which we can act. This is the way in which we will feel connected to our communities and the world as a whole, and like Alfredo said, the way in which we will “provide the glue to an already-fragmented society.”
Before concluding his workshop, Alfredo reminded us about the ongoing writing competition open for all IE undergraduate students until February 15. Active journalists or not, we all have the power to transmit information. What better way to truly understand Constructive Journalism than to put it to practice yourself? This is a chance for us to focus on a specific topic that is of high personal importance and to apply the Constructive Journalism techniques learned into a well-developed piece.
So what? What am I supposed to do now? These are the questions that Constructive Journalism wants us to be able to answer, and workshops like the one led by Alfredo are the ones to initiate this motivation to act. Instead of turning away from challenges, we should want to tackle them. This shift of attitude begins with the way we write and communicate ideas to others. Action-driven plans are what will lead us to see a notable change in the world, and this all starts with how that information is transmitted to every single one of us.
Featured image by: Digital Buggu/ Pexels