Why is it Comforting to Listen to Problem-focused Media

Problem-focused Media, TransparentThe job of the journalist is to create transparency.

So, why do we pay so much attention to the media’s incessant drumbeat about the world, our country and our city falling apart?

Why do we turn on the online news before breakfast and again for the 6 o’clock TV news to hear the latest list of situations and issues presented as catastrophes? Why is it that journalists dutifully ask a politician who is problem-focused ask questions about the problem that the politician has divined as critical to our well-being (when it’s actually, a vote gathering tactic)?

As Lyndon Johnson, a media observer, says: Journalism, largely, has become a battle for clicks and attention, and there is little in the way of true investigative journalism anymore.  In part, it’s because solutions aren’t interesting to the masses.  The train wreck is far more interesting than how to avoid its recurrence.

Suppose the media turned to solutions journalism – would it necessarily mean less engaging, ‘happy news’ would become the norm? No. Instead we’d see more of the story. Can we totally avoid problem-focused news? No, some catastrophes need to be reported the way they are, e.g., the recent unexpected volcano eruption in Japan that killed nearly 50 people. Or, when a bomb explodes in a crowded market. That said…

The job of the good journalist is to create transparency…from all sides!

Can Solution Focus help the journalist (and their editor) do a better job creating transparency? Here’s a framework that might help:

  • What’s the problem/issue we are investigating and reporting?
  • How can we clarify the nature of the issue without focusing on only one part?
  • What’s the other side of the problem story, i.e., what about the part of the story that is not a problem, and/or what’s being learned from this change that we are reporting?
  • What questions can we ask the person explaining the problem, (e.g., the politician) that can help them highlight where progress can be made?

More video on Solutions Journalism