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Images & Voices of Hope | December 2, 2020

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How media practitioners can paint a more accurate picture of the world

How media practitioners can paint a more accurate picture of the world

How can you be an informed citizen without being brought down by the “unbearable weight of world news”?

It’s an important question that’s likely on the minds of many, including Solutions Journalism Network cofounder Courtney Martin. In an On Being guest column published Friday, Martin writes about the detrimental effect that news can have on us — and what the media can do about it.

“How does one process all the heartbreaking news? I’m not talking about the much-discussed decision whether to watch the brutal violence done to James Foley and Steven Sotloff. In some ways, that choice is easier because it’s acute. You do or you don’t; you suffer the psychic consequences,” Martin writes.

“I’m talking about the chronic, contemporary pain of being an informed person. You wake up, reach for the phone next to your bed, start scrolling through Facebook and — just like that — you are immersed in the eternal stream of rubble, corruption, and death that is the daily news cycle.”

As Martin points out, we shouldn’t avoid the news altogether; it’s important that we’re aware of what’s taking place in the world so that we can make more informed decisions, hold people accountable, etc. But media practitioners also have a responsibility to report news that reflects the depth of human experience, which is never all good or all bad — and to report on solutions to social problems, rather than always focusing on what’s broken. This type of reporting opens up the opportunity to show people that world news isn’t as heartbreaking as the majority of headlines make it out to be.

“When the media actually reflects back the world as it is — horrible and beautiful, tragic and smart, corrupt and innovative — then individual people won’t have to face the damned if you do, damned if you don’t decision of whether to expose themselves to the day’s news,” Martin writes. “They will feel the desperation that surrounds us all, but also the potential for transformation. That’s not fluff to comfort. That’s not shock-and-awe to sell papers. That’s real and it’s fortifying.”

Martin’s full column is well worth the read.


Related: Solutions Journalism Network’s David Bornstein: ‘Problems scream, solutions whisper’ | Tina Rosenberg: ‘Covering solutions to problems … has the potential to make society stronger.’