Journalism and democracy are inextricably linked. The practice of journalism plays a critical role in the democratic process, not only by increasing transparency and keeping the public informed, but also by empowering and amplifying the voices of various communities. Furthermore, research shows that the simple act of picking up a newspaper can boost turnout among non-voters.
However, even with today’s unprecedented access to information, the press is faced with major challenges. Local news struggles to break through the cacophony of global headlines vying for consumers’ attention. All over the globe, journalists face backlash and threats. In the United States, news organizations denounced President Trump’s characterization of the press as “the enemy of the people” as well as his weaponization of the term “fake news.” And yet, the ease with which disinformation spreads makes protecting the values of fair and balanced journalism all the more challenging.
Producers and consumers of journalism must both remain vigilant. Journalists may see themselves as objective witnesses. However, if journalists only focus on what’s going wrong in the world, they fail to portray an accurate picture. Consumers of news, for their part, must also be careful to discern careful reporting from disinformation. This collection contains solutions-oriented stories that report on what’s working to strengthen journalism and democracy worldwide.
Click here for more stories in the Solutions Story Tracker on journalism
- What is solutions journalism and how can this style of reporting address concerns about political efficacy?
- Define “media filter bubbles.” Explain the significance of the term and how it might affect civic discourse.
- Explain and assess the significance of fake news in democratic politics. What, if anything, can social media companies, publishers, and consumers do to create a better-informed society?
- How has technology affected the practice of journalism? In what ways has it made journalism more democratic, and in what ways has technology posed a threat to journalism?
- Choose an Issue Area or a Success Factor related to strengthening democracy. Then, create a collection and select at least 4 (or more) stories from the Solution’s Story Tracker that relate to your topic. If working in groups, each group can present on the issues and solutions they found most compelling.
- Journalism is a collaborative practice: reporters are writing for their community, but they also depend on community members as sources for information. Indeed, the very purpose of journalism, according to the American Press Institute, is to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments. SJN wants to help connect news readers and journalists. Beside the name of the journalist on any of our story pages or the results page of the Solutions Story Tracker, you’ll find a Twitter icon that will link you directly to the journalists profile. Tweet at them with questions or compliments about their piece - you might be surprised by how much writers want to engage with their audiences! Don’t forget to tag us too (@soljourno) and use the hashtag #journalistintheclassroom if you are reading as part of an academic assignment.
- Solutions journalism refers to journalism that investigates, explains, and uses evidence to examine responses to social problems. Solutions journalism must fit a set of criteria, including: dealing with a response to a social problem, explaining how it works, offering insight into the solution, considering limitations or challenges, and making assessments using evidence. Solutions journalism is important because it pushes against the learned helplessness that comes from the negativity present in the feedback loop of the 24 hour news cycle. If people don’t see the whole picture—including what’s working—they can become discouraged and no longer interesting in being civically engaged. Solutions journalism, on the other hand, can show people what’s working and how they can become involved.
- Media filter bubbles contribute to information silos and intellectual isolation. They are a result of personalized social media pages and web searches that are driven by algorithms informed by a users past behavior. They tend to reinforce what people want to see or hear, and are less likely to expose them to something new or a divergent opinion. Read more about the impact of social media here and here.
- In recent elections, especially correlating with the rise of social media platforms during the previous decade, the role of misinformation and disinformation campaigns has been particularly visible. While “fake news” can refer to a variety of things (President Trump is known for calling any reporting critical of his administration “fake”), the term typically refers to false information spread with the intent of making the truth less recognizable. The ability to distinguish the credibility of information that we receive through various platforms is also referred to as civic online reasoning by Stanford University.
- Multiple pieces in this collection explain how the rise of social media has had a serious impact on political polarization and the ease with which fake news proliferates. However, startup publications like the Trolley Times also rely on social media and web distribution to grow their audiences and access volunteer labor like translation services.
- Answers will vary—for more on creating collections, click here. For more on Success Factors, click here.