I’m positive this works

It’s always gratifying receiving positive feedback from charities you’ve helped to secure media coverage. What’s less usual is to get positive feedback from journalists thanking you for enabling them to cover a positive story.

Last week I was chatting to Nicole Morley, the experienced assistant news editor of Metro online, about a story suggestion I’d shared with her: Fight for Peace, the charity which uses boxing to keep young people away from gangs and support those who feel alienated from or hostile to society. Nicole spent an evening at their boxing club in South East London, meeting and interviewing young people who’d benefited from their work. You can read her excellent report in Metro. She told me how much she enjoyed covering this story, how it made a refreshing change to be reporting on a positive development rather than the usual negative stories and how she came away in a better mood.

Constructive journalism

Nicole’s acknowledgement was reiterating something an award-winning Danish journalist has written about.  Cathrine Gyldensted tells how she found herself disillusioned by the negativity bias in conventional media and acknowledged that she, like much of the media today, was guilty of ‘throwing stones in a glass house, leaving all the windows shattered and the structure wrecked. We news reporters normally then leave without looking back.’ This led her to seek an alternative approach and, with colleagues, she coined the term ‘constructive journalism’, a more productive, solutions-based approach to news coverage.

Solutions stories

Studies show that readers, too, feel more optimistic and more empowered after reading solutions stories. They’re also beneficial to society.  As David Bornstein, the founder of the US Solutions Journalism Network, says: ‘For society and also for journalism to thrive, it needs to be regularly highlighting with rigor new ideas and models that are showing results against our most pressing problems.’

Another journalist who focuses specifically on solutions stories is the BBC World Service’s Tom Colls. He works on World Hacks, which uses short videos, longer radio features and podcasts to flag up brilliant initiatives around the world. The top three elements he says he looks for in a potential story are:

  1. A clever, innovative solution
  2. Evidence it works
  3. A powerful human story

That’s useful advice for when you’re pitching any story to the media: tell the journalist about the serious problem you’re tackling; explain your clever solution; show the evidence for how it’s working; flag up any limitations (honesty and transparency are crucial); and demonstrate the impact it’s having on real people.  You’ll be highlighting your positive impact, you’ll be helping break the negative news spiral – and you may even get a personal thank you from the journalist concerned.

Giselle runs NCVO’s Constructive Voices project.  If you want to find out more – and join the hundreds of other charities and social enterprises who’ve already signed up – read here.

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Avatar photo Giselle is in charge of 'Constructive Voices', an NCVO project aimed at ensuring the positive impact of charities and social enterprises is heard and encouraging a more constructive, solutions-based approach to news coverage in general. Giselle is a former BBC News producer on The World at One and PM.

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