Is Solutions Journalism the answer to cynicism about the media?

Strive: Toward a more just, sustainable future

27-10-2023 • 33 min

If you’re like me, you’ve probably heard a lot of negative talk about the media in recent years. Much of it has focused on the integrity of the so-called mainstream or legacy media that has dominated the information landscape in recent decades, or longer. These attacks, which sometimes actually degenerate into physical assaults, call into question how honestly or fairly these outlets portray the world, including in politics and global issues such as the Covid-19 pandemic.

In response, the established media has often seemed on the defensive or facing renewed competition from platforms that claim to be righting the balance in providing coverage of all voices, often amplifying those on the so-called right wing of the political spectrum. But it has been rare to hear about innovative approaches emerging in response to the criticism.

Solutions journalism is one exception. It focuses on examining attempts to solve major issues facing societies and then analysing the success of those initiatives. It is, says today’s guest – Hugo Balta, publisher of the US-based Latino News Network – one way of going beyond a simple presentation of the day’s ‘bad news’, and then offering possible ways forward.

As I mention in this interview, I know from personal experience that watching the nightly news can be a recipe for frustration and cynicism. I gave it up years ago and instead sought out media that presented more in-depth coverage. That didn’t necessarily mean it was delivering solutions to the major problems of the day, but I somehow felt less detached watching a report that was minutes rather than seconds long. In my own journalism too – although I was initially sceptical about focusing on a single way forward rather than balancing various approaches to an issue – I believe I have naturally gravitated towards reporting about an issue and then exploring possible ways out of an impasse.

Balta, who has worked more than three decades as a journalist, says his former approach was very top-down – “It was ‘we know better than you, the public, what you need to know today’. Solutions journalism helped us to flip that, from a top-down to a bottom-up approach,” he adds. “It’s more about listening and getting direction from the audience that we’re working to reach. They’re telling us what they need from us.”

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