'If it bleeds, it leads' is a saying familiar to many in the news industry, but while it is important that publishers continue to cover stories of war, crime, scandal and tragedy, some of them are also beginning to embrace solutions journalism in their reporting.
Also known as constructive journalism, this type of coverage tackles responses to social problems in society, highlighting possible answers, rather than just the issues themselves.
Not to be confused with positive news, which present uplifting events happening around the world, solutions journalism aims to improve the standard of reporting presented by the mainstream media, by encouraging journalists to investigate issues more thoroughly, and offering audiences a better representation of what's happening in society, explained Stephen Hull, editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post UK.
"As journalists, our responsibility is to give audiences a fair, balanced and accurate picture of what's happening – only showing tragedy and violence, which focuses on what's broken and what's not working, misses too much of what is happening around us," he added.
Since last year, Hull's team at HuffPost UK has focused on solutions journalism through its What's Working initiative, which aims to explain how and why responses to problems around the world are working – or not.
Only showing tragedy and violence, which focuses on what's broken and what's not working, misses too much of what is happening around usStephen Hull, Huffington Post UK
"It is an everyday activity to look at stories with a solutions focus – a bloodline that runs through the business.
"We try to look at each story in a different light, rather than cover the issue in the way our instinct would take us, and we're able to do this because we cover the problems equally to their solutions."
When news breaks, the outlet will report on the event and then use a solutions outlook to produce follow up stories that look deeper into the issue at hand, giving audiences more context around a story.
"The point of solutions is to fill in the other half, giving people the whole picture."
When recent government legislation introduced a 5p plastic bag charge, other publications described it as 'madness' and a 'bureaucratic nightmare', whereas The Huffington Post focused on how the money could help fund charities and other initiatives of this kind around the UK.
The HuffPost UK newsroom is made up of four teams: News, Politics, Entertainment and Life, which individually come up with their own solutions-based initiatives.
For example, instead of focusing only on soft news, such as the latest fashion trends or celebrity gossip, reporters on the Life team have created Reclaim, a series of features looking at the problems facing the fashion industry, like mass production of clothing and poor factory conditions, and what is being done to solve them.
The big challenges facing news organisations can be tackled when they think about what their content stands for, how they want to cover the news, and how they want to make a purposeful impactStephen Hull, Huffington Post UK
The publisher has found readers respond more positively to solutions journalism, with internal figures showing an average of 70 per cent more visits to solutions stories on the website, and 86 per cent more visits from social media in comparison with non-solutions reporting.
"These figures are a pretty good indication of our desire to redefine how news is reported."
Recent research conducted by the Engaging News Project has also found that readers are more likely to click on solutions headlines than non-solutions headlines, by testing how people reacted to more than 50 stories.
The Huffington Post's Young Minds Matter initiative, which discussed problems, causes and solutions to the stigma surrounding mental health issues faced by children in the UK, had an overwhelming response from audiences and other publications around the world. And the outlet's Building Modern Men editorial franchise will now run for the second year in a row throughout November, focusing on mental health and well-being issues that affect men's lives.
"Last month, I read an article in The New York Times which said that 'digitally, many free newspaper sites have become click-hungry attics of tat. They have to be' – I fundamentally disagree with that view," said Hull.
"The big challenges facing news organisations can be tackled when they think about what their content stands for, how they want to cover the news, and how they want to make a purposeful impact. "
Free daily newsletter
- Young people need to see hope in the news cycle
- Solutions journalism superstars: media mentor and trainer, Swati Sanyal Tarafdar
- Solutions journalism superstars: Innocent Eteng, managing editor, Prime Progress
- Solutions journalism superstars: Assunta Corbo, editor-in-chief, News48
- Solutions journalism superstars: freelance journalist and researcher Nieves Zúñiga