The new new media network coordinator appointed by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations plans to persuade journalists to take a more "solutions-based" approach to their news coverage by convincing them that there is a strong business case for them to change their ways.
Giselle Green, a former radio producer who began a 12-month contract at the NCVO in October, wants to encourage journalists to incorporate a solutions-based approach into their coverage of social issues so that, rather than just reporting on problems, they also explore potential solutions.
Asked how she would do this, she told Third Sector she planned to form relationships with journalists and sell the notion of constructive news to them.
"There is a lot of evidence to show that constructive news is good news for news organisations, and I will be making the point that there is a strong business case for news organisations to think about taking this constructive approach," she said. "If they understand that audiences prefer and are more likely to stick with news organisations that are using this approach, then they will realise it’s in their interest to include a constructive twist in their news coverage.
"I’ve spoken to some journalists about this already and they think it would be useful."
Green referred to a study conducted by the University of Texas that found adults who were given news articles containing potential solutions to the problems reported had an increased desire to share what they read and to seek out other articles covering stories in a similar manner.
Another study she cited, carried out by the BBC World Service, found that 64 per cent of people aged under 35 said they wanted news that provided solutions to problems, not news that merely informed them about issues.
Green said she planned to carry out this work as part of a project called Constructive Voices, which she announced in a blog on the umbrella body’s website this week.
She acknowledged that the Daily Mail, ranked last year by the National Readership Survey as the best-read newspaper in the UK and the publication responsible for the bulk of the negative coverage of charities in 2015, did not appear to have followed a constructive news agenda, yet remained popular with the public. She said that although people might read the Mail’s stories, they were less likely to share them if they were negative in nature.
"People are biologically adapted to pay attention to alarming information, but you’ll probably find that people are sharing more constructive news with their friendship groups and work groups, which is driving traffic to websites," she said.
She referred to comments from Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the online news source The Huffington Post, who said last year that good news content was shared three times more than more than all other types of content on the news website.
But Green said she had not examined why the Daily Mail continued to be successful and whether its negative stories were shared less than its more positive ones.
Another element of the Constructive Voices project is the launch of a new service on the NCVO website that provides case studies provided by charities working in key cause areas. Green said journalists would be able to access these case studies when news stories arose relating to the selected themes, which she said would help charities with limited press contacts or expertise to gain more media coverage.
For more on Giselle Green and the Constructive Voices project, see A plan to get the media to report more constructively.