When writing about problems, journalists should also include information on solutions, Karen McIntyre, of Virginia Commonwealth University, writes. McIntyre conducted an experiment with 110 American college students.
First the participants were asked to estimate their current mood. Then they proceeded to read versions of two problem-focused news articles, after which the participants were surveyed again.
Overall, each article version left the participants feeling worse than before – which is only natural due to the articles’ focus on problems, the author points out. Some of the article version included information on how the problems could be successfully mitigated, and these versions had the least detrimental effect on the participants’ mood.
Inclusion of successful solutions improved the participants’ outlook in many ways: their overall mood remained better, they felt better about the issue in question, and were more positive about the story in general. However, inclusion of solutions did not affect the participants’ willingness to act, for example by reading more on the topic, sharing the news on social media, or personally participating in solving the issue.
The participants were also asked to assess whether the stories fulfilled “journalism’s core functions”. There were no statistically significant differences between versions that included solutions and those that did not. This suggests “solutions journalism” is not seen as a lesser or softer form of reporting, McIntyre concludes.
The article “Solutions Journalism” was published by the journal Journalism Practice. It is available online on the publisher’s website (abstract free).
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