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The UN initiative is backed by NCVO chair Sir Martyn Lewis. Photograph: Dan Wooller/REX/Shutterstock

Listening to Radio 4’s ‘The Media Show’ this afternoon, I completely agree with Martyn Lewis’s notion of ‘constructive news’, even though both the interviewer, Steve Hewlett, and Joan Smith, the other journalist being interviewed were (pretty obviously) against it. This has got to be one of the main things wrong with society today: the proliferation of ‘bad news’, making the average individual feel disempowered and apathetic (‘everything is so bad, what can I do to stop it?’): it also makes people feel hopeless and sad, which can be seen in the prevalence of various forms of melancholia in today’s society. As Lewis said, it makes people feel as if the world is going down the plughole. (And people do feel this way, even though this was met with a laugh by Smith.)

Another thing wrong is the absence of information about:
a) what is being done to combat the problems portrayed in the news (with Lewis giving as an example the high number of charities, charity workers and volunteers in this country)
b) what can be done to combat the problems (on a large scale)
and c) what the individual can do to help combat these problems. The reality is that the vast majority of individuals simply do not know what they can do to help.

Smith disagreed with Lewis’s idea of the journalist’s role as one who holds up a mirror to society. Smith argued that a journalist’s role is to delve beneath the surface, dig up the dirt, and ask questions (difficult questions), not provide solutions. She said that that was the politician’s role – a politician ought to identify problems in society and think up solutions to these problems. Now in a time when politicians are so far removed from the lives of the average individual that they are working to ‘reduce the deficit’ at the least cost to the (very) wealthy, and at the most cost to the poor, I think it is ridiculous to say that we should simply sit back and wait for politicians to solve society’s problems. This seems to be the very stuff that breeds political apathy!

To me, the benefits of ‘constructive news’ are obvious. Any child knows that the best way to fix a problem is not to dwell on the problem but to focus on finding the solution. Why shouldn’t this be the case with journalism?

Thankfully, the UN are onto it! They are currently urging the media across the globe to begin creating news which is more constructive and solutions-based. The UN director general Michael Møller said on Monday: “In a world of 7 billion people, with a cacophony of voices that are often ill-informed and based on narrow agendas, we need responsible media that educate, engage and empower people and serve as a counterpoint to power. We need them to offer constructive alternatives in the current stream of news and we need to see solutions that inspire us to action. Constructive journalism offers a way to do that.”

You can read more on this here: The Guardian