The state of the world can be a bit overwhelming, especially when you tune into mainstream news media
But it turns out there’s an alternative to the doomsday ‘what’s gone wrong approach’ to storytelling, and it’s actually solution-based and rooted in action. Appropriately named solutions journalism, this method of sharing news is creating more positive outcomes in the world while keeping us in the loop, especially when it comes to climate change.
The difference between mainstream media and solutions journalism
Standard journalism reports on a given problem, often reiterating what has gone wrong and often without a clear plan of action or how to move forward. We’re left with the problem hanging over our heads. These stories are, of course, worth telling; they’re investigations that need to be uncovered. But why does it have to end there?
Rather than ending a story with shock and fear, solutions journalism takes that same story and strengthens the delivery. Journalists will take research from other cities, towns or countries and use them as examples of ways to move forward, showing how we can solve these problems rather than leaving them as a closed case.
Solutions journalism isn’t always clear cut
As much as we hope that there’s a successful solution to every problem, in some cases solutions journalism has to leave the story open-ended as well—although, it’s done in a productive way. The story can incorporate evidence from other events and leaves the audience with a thoughtful question of how they believe we can take action. They can also compare successful initiatives versus “failures”, see why they either succeeded or didn’t, and then see which would work better for their current circumstance.Photo by Joël de Vriend on Unsplash
Solutions journalism includes four key elements:
- Response: This focuses on the response to a social problem, and on how that response has worked—or why it hasn’t.
- Insight: This shows what can be learned from a response and why it matters to a newsroom audience.
- Evidence: This provides data or qualitative results that indicate effectiveness—
or lack thereof.
- Limitations: This places responses in context and doesn’t shy away from revealing shortcomings.
How solutions journalism can help with the climate crisis
The climate crisis and its intensity can leave a lot of people overwhelmed and ready to shut down. The nature of reporting when it comes to climate-related events like pollution, heat warnings and soil degradation doesn’t offer us many solutions, only the problems. It’s enough to make most people put their heads in the sand and ignore the problem, further worsening the state of the environment.
But implementing solutions journalism into mainstream journalism would incorporate addendums to stories, showing which cities are fighting pollution by reducing their waste, planting green spaces to reduce heat island effects, and/or transforming deserted soil in order to be able to grow food again.
This global shift in journalism could help us move towards a decreased level of climate anxiety, which would inevitably lead to more action rather than feeling helpless. By shifting the way we share news about the climate crisis, we could be that much closer to a healthier planet and population.