ARTICLE: US journalists avoid suggesting solutions to crises

Untitled by Charles Nambasi, licence CC0 1.0

American journalists fear that reporting on possible solutions to crises could make them seem biased, Lauren Kogen, of Temple University, writes. Kogen interviewed 19 American journalists and editors who have been reporting on famine in Africa.

The interviewees’ responses were conflicted, the author found. On one hand, the reporters saw a desperate need for solutions, something that could be provided by their American audiences. On the other hand, the journalists themselves rarely considered other ways of helping than charitable donations – and soliciting donations was not seen appropriate.

Those journalists that did want to inspire their audience to act, sought to do so without giving explicit instructions. To be specific, the journalists’ approach was to invoke empathy for the famine-struck Africans and leave it to the audience to find ways of helping them.

The aforementioned tactic, however, might be counter-productive, Kogen suggests. Heart-wrenching imagery without mention of solutions can lead to compassion fatigue and perception of a “hopeless” situation. Instead, providing more information and less emotion might be more conducive to creating a “marketplace of ideas” – something often considered a key task of the American media.

The article “News You Can Use or News That Moves?” was published by the journal Journalism Practice. It is available online on the publisher’s website (abstract free).

Picture: Untitled by Charles Nambasi, licence CC0 1.0.

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