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Images & Voices of Hope | December 2, 2020

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New book explains the growing need for Constructive Journalism

New book explains the growing need for Constructive Journalism

Cathrine Glydensted teaching students a course on Constructive Journalism. (Photo by Misako Ono)


Ulrik Haagerup, director of news at Danish Broadcasting, says constant negativity in the media is detrimental to society. In his new book, “Constructive News,” Haagerup advocates for a different type of storytelling — one that offers up more balanced coverage, solutions-oriented stories, and hope.

In a piece published on the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers’ website this week, Haagerup writes:

“It is hardly news that the paradigm shifts in technology, financial models and consumer habits have hit the news industry hard. No other business has found its role so fundamentally challenged, its value and worth so called into question, and its business models threatened to the point of extinction. Readers, listeners and viewers in the millions are turning their backs on traditional media, and I have found that one of the reasons for the fundamental crisis is that people are sick and tired of the negative picture of the world presented to them by the press. Most news stories in traditional media are angled on conflict, drama, crooks and victims.”

It doesn’t have to be this way. New research suggests that people’s appetite for news is changing. Partly due to social media and the rise of sites like Upworthy and BuzzFeed, people are craving stories that touch upon positive emotions. This doesn’t mean that news outlets should stop reporting on tragedies, crimes, or problems; it does, however, suggest that there’s reason to cover more stories that highlight renewal, recovery, and resilience in the aftermath of tragedy.

Haagerup explains the need for change in his book:

“The old newsroom saying ‘If it bleeds, it leads’ is proven deadly wrong. Tabloidisation of news, even in so called serious print media, online and television news, has gone too far,” Haagerup says. “[‘Constructive News’] is intended as a handbook to inspire us to do better — in our newsrooms, in public debate and in our democracies. It seeks to document that Constructive News is neither an alternative to critical watchdog journalism, nor is it an argument for harmless positive news. It argues that good reporting can inspire solutions to the problems facing society giving way to a new and more meaningful role for journalism.”

We’ve been following the Constructive Journalism movement at ivoh and recently interviewed Cathrine Gyldensted, a journalist who is teaching Constructive Journalism in Denmark and developing a related textbook.

We believe that Restorative Narratives are an important part of the Constructive Journalism movement. These narratives offer a more balanced approach to covering news; rather than simply focusing on tragedies, problems, and crimes, Restorative Narratives move beyond the “what happened” stories and show what’s possible — by highlighting how communities and individuals are rebuilding and recovering after difficult times.

It’s encouraging to see people’s growing interest in Restorative Narratives, Constructive Journalism, Solutions Journalism, and other forms of storytelling that move away from the “if it bleeds, it leads” approach to storytelling.

Related: How constructive journalism, solutions journalism, and restorative narratives are changing the media landscape | Sean Dagan Wood on how ‘positive’ news can inspire change & innovation