In her crowdfunding campaign, Jackson pledged to promote solutions journalism to challenge the mainstream news cycle dominated by negativity. Her research showed that consumption of negative news is linked to feelings of helplessness, pessimism and ultimately, disengagement. But this can be changed.
Offering a sneak peek into her findings, Jackson said that she studied people who regularly read and wrote about solutions and has documented how they were more readily able to articulate contexts, failings and personal impacts around an issue, rather than dwelling on the problem itself.
In a podcast with Journalism.co.uk, she attributes the ability to find practical solutions to a reduction in anxiety, improved mood levels, higher social cohesion and a sense of empowerment.
"'You are what you read' highlights a lot of the often unexamined effects of the negativity bias on our mental health and the health of our society," she explained.
"But then it goes on to make a case for increasing the reporting on solutions, on progress and on development as an antidote to this negativity bias.
"This book is an invitation to the consumer to be a part of that revolution and help them understand the effect it has on them and what they can do about it."
"An incredible, thought-provoking and important book that will give you the tools to navigate the rampant negativity on the news. Jodie Jackson provides insights and tools to help you stay informed without getting depressed. A must-read!" @MichelleGielan on #YouAreWhatYouRead pic.twitter.com/hTZnzxIZxw— Jodie jackson (@JacksonJodie21) January 10, 2019
With the publication date in view, Jackson reveals the depth of research that went into getting words on the page. She went back to university to complete a masters degree in positive psychology, in order to understand core concepts and mental states such as hope and optimism in practical terms.
"I delved head first into a century’s worth of media research that was available about the psychological effects of the news," explains Jackson.
"It’s really important to stress that it’s not the reporting on problems that creates this harmful effect on us, it’s the excess of reporting on problems without the balance of understanding of what is being done about them which can lead us to have an inappropriate assessment of risk, so we actually come to believe the world is more dangerous than it is.
"This gives us a fundamental, inaccurate understanding of the world because our perception is different from reality."
To show that solutions journalism is a real audience demand, Jackson points to the $2.5m crowdfunding success of The Correspondent in 2018. Although the publication is not exclusively about solutions, this mindset is part of their membership philosophy.
Jay Rosen tonight on @Trevornoah "A rule for [@The_Corres]. No reporting about a problem unless they also report what you can do about it, what we as a society can do about it." Great show tonight, @jayrosen_nyu! Helping to spread #unbreakingnews that better tells #TheWholeStory— Solutions Journalism Network (@soljourno) December 7, 2018
"Another example is in 2014 with the Ebola outbreak, most news organisations flooded the public information that focused on the thousands of deaths in Liberia, in Guinea, and in Sierre Leone," she said.
"But very, very few reported on countries like Mali, Senegal and Nigeria that contained fewer than 30 Ebola cases collectively, and followed up with what we could learn from them.
"It’s this imbalance which creates a misunderstanding of the threat. Public health experts have since said that the way in which the news was reported actually caused more deaths because of the inflamed sense of panic combined with the inaccurate information. This made it more difficult to solve the problem at a grassroots level.”
Can solutions journalism boost newsrooms’ cashflow? Find out more at Newsrewired on 6 March at Reuters, London.
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