Evidence shows that reading or watching the news leads to a drop in mood and can leave you feeling anxious, passive and helpless; in despair rather than informed.
The impact of negatively-framed news is also bad news for the voluntary sector. It’s been proven to make people significantly less likely to take positive action or donate to charity.
How do we break the negative news spiral?
One answer is constructive journalism, a more solutions-based approach to news coverage. This emerging field includes a focus on what’s working rather than only concentrating on what’s wrong.
There’s plenty of evidence that shows the public are not only turned off by negative news but they prefer news that includes solutions. They are also more likely to stick with news outlets that provide this type of coverage and share these stories more on social media. With online traffic increasingly being driven by social media shares, these are really powerful incentives for news editors to ensure their journalists incorporate a constructive element in their reporting.
This approach also dovetails well with the work of the voluntary sector, as solutions-based journalism can draw on the wide-ranging positive solutions offered by charities and volunteering groups. What’s more, the research also reveals that positive news stories are more likely to motivate people to take positive actions, such as donate to charity, be environmentally friendly, or make opinions known.
The media is starting to pay attention, as demonstrated by the rise of online outlets focused on constructive news such as Upworthy, the magazine Positive News, a growing Solutions Journalism network in the US and initiatives across Europe. The Huffington Post has also expressed a strong commitment to sharing constructive news and recently launched What’s Working and Impact sections. Former CNN anchor and Huffington Post adviser, Willow Bay said in an interview:
I think the world of news is filled with heartwarming stories, and that's great, but that's not really what we're talking about. We're talking about stories of things that are — as I call it — the people, policies, institutions and innovations that are working. And I think those stories should be a more significant part of the mix than they are now.
Introducing Constructive Voices
That’s why NCVO has launched Constructive Voices, a new project to encourage constructive journalism and improve links between the media and those who are contributing positive solutions to the pressing issues we face today.
- We’re asking you to send us your case studies showing how your work has achieved a positive impact. We’re kicking off with a few specific areas. We’ll then be able to quickly and easily connect you with relevant journalists writing stories in those fields.
- We’ve set up a twitter account – @ConstructiveVox – which we’ll use to alert followers to breaking stories so you can piggy back on the news and flag up your own constructive solutions. Read more here.
- We’re collaborating with CharityComms. We’ll be working to get more charities and more journalists to sign up to AskCharity, the CharityComms service helping journalists and charities work together. We’ll encourage journalists to use it as a way of finding and integrating a constructive twist into their reporting. And we’ll encourage charities to use it to showcase the positive impact they’re having.
The more who register, the more chance reporters will find what they’re looking for – and the more chance of media coverage. Constructive Voices will also use AskCharity to alert charities to big news so they can react quickly to stories relevant to the area in which they operate. So look out for email alerts from us.
Charities are a brilliant, often untapped, resource of ready-made solutions to problems being highlighted by journalists. If we can get them heard, the public will be better informed and feel engaged and empowered. Journalists will be able to offer a more rounded picture, news editors will retain audiences and keep them happy, and charities will get their solutions into the public domain, enriching everyone’s lives.
Find out more about the Constructive Voices project from NCVO.
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AskCharity is a free service to help journalists and charities work together – register for free.