Read All About It

Guest Post by: Sharon Michelle, MSc Psychology

There are many ways to make a difference, big or small, including simply choosing what you read.

I was with someone recently who had their phone resting on a table. Every few minutes, the screen lit up with a “breaking news” notification, causing the phone’s owner to glance down at the distracting screen each time. Each headline was sensational, awful, tragic, and sad – the usual mainstream tabloid stuff. I felt a little worn out and empty at this bombardment of so much negativity. It’s no wonder many people are de-sensitised to what is happening in the world with the constant drip feeding of such biased news. 

I wonder what would happen in our society if more readers signed up to sources of news flashes that were a constant stream of positive and “constructive news”. Constructive news is a type of Journalism striving to provide context to stories and accurately portray what is actually happening and why. It still tells us about the bad stuff but focuses on what’s right instead of overemphasizing everything that’s going wrong.  

Thousands of fantastic, real, and uplifting stories have been featured on Happy Eco News and other positive news sites – this stuff is happening around the world right now.  Knowing this and that many others want to read all about it makes a difference.

I came across an interesting study on the impact of “Constructive news” (Baden et al (1) where Researchers conducted an experiment on how news stories framed readers’ behaviour and affected their responses. News stories that were framed as catastrophic and stories where people had negative emotions after reading them reduced intentions to address issues in a positive way. In contrast, solution-framed stories had a positive impact where readers had higher intentions to take positive action. The Researchers found a greater preference for solution-framed news and concluded: “constructive journalism would better serve society”.  

Another similar study found (McIntyre et al (2)) people who read a story that evoked positive emotions were more likely to sign a petition that supported the homeless and also donate money to a homeless charity than those who read a story that evoked negative emotions.  

There aren’t enough studies on this topic to be able to conclusively say that the way news is constructed and consumed has a positive or negative impact on society but it does provide an interesting and much-needed alternative perspective.  

McIntyre et al (2) argue the production of news stories and what is easily available for consumption should include the application of Positive Psychology with emphasis on constructive reporting rather than frivolous, sensational, and bad news, where people are more likely to disengage and suffer from compassion fatigue.  

The Researchers describe a Dutch news site called “De Correspondent”, which features prospective (future-oriented) news where Reporters focus on “traditional news” and in addition have a “Progress Correspondent” looking at ” future societal scenarios” that are hopeful and positive. They also have a section focusing on “curiosity and innovators” dedicated to growth and advancement.  he news is still accurately reported but has been constructed in a more balanced and beneficial way for its consumers and society, looking forwards, not backward.

Currently, the mainstream news is more about conflict, no end of problems and tragedy moving quickly on to the next depressing story. Constructive and positive news reports on the realities but with a shift in focus with the goal of contributing to the well-being of society. This journalism takes responsibility for how news is portrayed and what is made available for consumption. They take a look at how problems might be solved, where and how the roots of the problems started, show people are collaborating, that progress is being made. The negative is not ignored there is just less focus on disaster and hopelessness.       

 

Constant shocking news seems to be the dominant source of information at this point in time. It may make more money but is it productive or helpful? Exactly who benefits from each story chosen and how it is told? Constructive news is transparent about who benefits from the stories.  

In the current climate crisis there are huge challenges to face that aren’t going to be solved overnight. Sourcing and reading more positive and constructive news can be empowering and enlightening. I’ve noticed in the last 12 months is more of this news being produced to meet what seems like a growing appetite. This demand is being met because of the choices people are making about what they want to read and know about.    

I am paying much more attention to the positive news stories and am extremely grateful to all those who are producing and reading it, shining more light where it is really needed. A fairer reflection on what is happening includes the good and bad that is less distorted and less draining. And with it, there seems a sense of a taste for more individual and social responsibility, which is where more problems can be tackled and potentially solved.

More and more stories positive news stories and stories from Constructive Journalism inform us of what action has and is being taken and that change is possible. This is what I want to read more and more about.

 

(1)Denise Baden, Karen McIntyre & Fabian Homberg (2019) The Impact of Constructive News on Affective and Behavioural Responses, Journalism Studies, 20:13, 1940-1959, DOI: 10.1080/1461670X.2018.1545599

(2)McIntyre, Karen & Gyldensted, Cathrine. (2017). Constructive Journalism: An Introduction and Practical Guide for Applying Positive Psychology Techniques to News Production. The Journal of Media Innovations. 4. 20-34. 10.5617/jomi.v4i2.2403

 

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