Credit: Ron Smith on Unsplash

When uncertainty about the future looms and anxiety is at its highest, reporting on solutions rather than adding to scaremongering is just what your audience may need to keep sane.

Solutions journalism works best when measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus can be rigorously investigated for their effectiveness, although the rapid nature of this ever-changing pandemic makes evaluating effectiveness difficult, according to Julia Hotz, communities manager, Solutions Journalism Network (SJN).

When looking for what works to tackle the pandemic, journalists can start by examining successful strategies in places like Hubei province in China, Singapore or South Korea, who have dealt with the virus for longer.

The challenge, however, is to get accurate and uncensored information from foreign countries, said Cathrine Gyldensted, director of constructive journalism at VersPers in Denmark.

"This is a transformative time that will change the media industry," she says.

"Scandinavian newsrooms are now moving towards more informative reporting because - as journalists - we have started to ask ourselves what do citizens really need."

If you are looking for more accessible sources, the SJN invites newsrooms to explore who is making even modest progress in responding to not only the medical consequences of the virus but also the social and economic consequences.

You can also look for stories of people who are making progress to protect frontline workers, address social isolation, connect vulnerable populations to key health, safety, and economic resources.

For instance, SJN's Leslie Cory has already chronicled more than 30 examples of solutions stories covering how the world is responding to the coronavirus.

Another reason to integrate solutions journalism to your workflow is simply to help your audience keep going.

"Research has shown that high volumes of negatively framed stories can turn people away from the news," says Seán Dagan Wood, publisher, Positive News.

"As journalists, right now we have a responsibility to not just report the truth but to do so in a way that empowers people, otherwise we aren’t helping.

"Uncovering positive responses and potential solutions to the challenges of the pandemic will help people to stay engaged with trustworthy journalism, rather than feel overwhelmed and turn away, and this will help society to deal with the pandemic more effectively."

To offer some practical help to journalists overwhelmed with the 24/7 news cycle, the SJN is also developing resources to cover covid-19 through a solutions lens. It will soon offer a webinar for the international community of journalists which will be announced through The Hub, and the team has just released a list of 24 questions journalists can use to frame their solutions reporting on coronavirus.

Wood advises that the starting point is to get into a constructive mindset.

Firstly, journalists need to accept that solution-focused stories are valuable and are relevant alongside problem-focused stories, he said. Then, when planning and framing a story, you need to ask: how can I report on this in a way that empowers the audience and does not leave them hopeless and helpless?

Finally, you can find a constructive angle by looking for an individual, community or organisation that is doing something positive in response to the problem being reported on and leading with that.

"In the end, through the power of where we put our focus and how we frame stories, the news can feed a downward spiral of disengagement and survival self-interest, or it can feed an upward spiral of engagement, compassion, and altruistic action."

What do you need to keep going during these uncertain times? How can the journalism community help? DM us at @journalismnews or drop us a line at marcela[at]

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