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Images & Voices of Hope | December 2, 2020

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Nick Kristof column raises an important question: ‘What stories are journalists missing?’

Nick Kristof column raises an important question: ‘What stories are journalists missing?’

In his latest column, The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof asks readers to suggest topics they believe are under-covered in the media. Kristof, who says he’ll feature some of the suggestions in a future column, writes:

“Those of us in the pundit world tend to blather on about what happened yesterday, while often ignoring what happens every day. We stir up topics already on the agenda, but we falter at calling attention to crucial-but-neglected issues. So here’s your chance to tell us what’s missing.”

His post has generated more than 600 comments so far — hundreds more comments than his other recent posts have received. The comments suggest that people like having the opportunity to share story ideas.

Many agreed with Kristof’s argument that we need more coverage of mental health issues. Kristof writes:

All across America and the world, families struggle with these issues, but people are more likely to cry quietly in bed than speak out. These mental health issues pose a greater risk to our well-being than, say, the Afghan Taliban or Al Qaeda terrorists, yet in polite society there is still something of a code of silence around these topics.

We in the news business have devoted vast coverage to political battles over health care, deservedly, but we don’t delve enough into underlying mental health issues that are crucial to national well-being.

Too often, the media focuses on mental health only in the aftermath of tragedies like the Newtown school shooting or the Aurora theater shooting. (There have been improvements in recent years, though, some mental health reporters say.)

Kristof’s readers said that, in addition to improving coverage of mental health, the media could do a better job covering topics like Fukushima, child sex abuse, job creation, the lack of diversity in clinical trials, and living conditions in the Congo.

I would add another topic to the list: resilience. Media makers often cover the immediate aftermath of tragedies, and understandably so. This coverage is important, but so is the follow-up coverage that sometimes gets neglected because it’s out of sight out of mind, or because timelier, catchier stories take precedence. Stories, films, photos, video games and ads that explore how individuals and communities bounce back after periods of disruption give people hope.

Images & Voices of Hope is calling these media pieces “restorative narratives.” While we recognize this genre of storytelling is by no means new, we want to give it a name and highlight examples of it. These stories aren’t always positive; they reveal heard truths, but focus on resilience and recovery. They connect people and communities by showing them they’re not alone and that progress is possible.

When reading Kristof’s column, I couldn’t help but wonder how much deeper the media’s coverage would be if more journalists took the time to ask their audience: What type of coverage do you want to see from us? What stories are we missing? By surrendering some control and asking the audience for help, journalists would likely come across more restorative narratives — and producer richer coverage as a result. The trick of course, is not just asking of these questions, but following through.

Related: Why restorative narratives are an important part of the media landscape

Have story ideas you want to share with us? Email them to ivoh managing director Mallary Tenore or share them with us on Twitter (@ivohMedia).