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The Constructive Journalism Project is to start running workshops in universities from next month, teaching journalism students how to approach stories in a more solutions-oriented way.

Speaking to Journalism.co.uk, Seán Dagan Wood, co-founder of the project, said its focus was on "rigorous journalism" with "more positive and constructive elements, so it ends up engaging readers more and creating a fuller picture".

The team is also developing practical resources and tools for journalists to use, added Wood, who is also editor of Positive News.

February's workshops follow funding from the Economic and Social Research Council, secured in partnership with the University of Southampton.

The Constructive Journalism Project has been running paid-for courses in the UK aimed at freelance journalists since November, but the team noticed those who expressed interest in these workshops were often students and younger journalists.

Course leader Danielle Batist said: "We realised that students quite often have a much more open mind about where they want to go with their journalism, but also are quite clever at using the tools at their disposal to look for different stories."

The workshops will explore story angles, the way issues are approached and questions are asked, as well as offer advice on how to fund constructive journalism projects and where to pitch them.

Wood said the team's constructive journalism courses were focused on "breaking down assumptions... that you always have to primarily look for what's gone wrong".

While holding power to account and highlighting corruption are "essential parts of journalism," he said a constructive approach means looking at building on these stories and addressing them in a more balanced way, for example showing what's being done about the problem.

"[Social media] is empowering a lot of new voices, a lot of new publishers and platforms, and I think what that's doing is showing both people working in the industry and the public that there are multiple narratives," said Wood.

He explained that social networks are highlighting the varied ways of looking at the world and of presenting information, and younger journalists are looking for different approaches to stories that reflect this this view.

For example, research has shown that people are more likely to share stories on social media if the writer has also explored solutions to the issue recounted in the piece.

Wood said pursuing what is usually seen as good journalism, which can often be "hypercritical and negative", means "we end up shooting ourselves in the foot" as readers can be turned away.

And as media organisations explore new ways to "keep committed readerships", people are increasingly open to constructive journalism, he explained.

The Solutions Journalism Network published a toolkit for journalists and editors looking to report on issues in a more constructive way, and the Huffington Post has included positive angles in its reporting, highlighted by Arianna Huffington in a memo in December, for example.

"The main thing for... pitching a story to an outlet is to have a compelling story, and constructive journalism isn't just a buzz story that isn't rigorous, it's still a compelling story in the end," said Batist.

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