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

2 thoughts on “Why is it Comforting to Listen to Problem-focused Media

  1. HumansAreWe

    Hello Alan. I am very impressed by your work. I would like to answer your question about Why we watch Problem Based News vs Solution Based News.

    Atleast for some one like myself, I understand why things go wrong. People are fallible and getting into an emergency dare I say, is very easy. Getting out is difficult because the problem(s) seems to widen.

    Problem Solving, be it minute or grand, stays a problem and usually increases for a simple reason: Its easier to ignore it, even though people would rather have it solved. Just think of all the movies (and I do have a point here) where there is a group of people who are stuck in some unfortunate dramatic incident. If I use an example of seven people in said traumatic situation, there is one person, possibly two, out of that seven who take action. The rest just go along and complain when they find something wrong with the solutions presented.

    My Point: There are a minority of thinkers who take action in this world to solve problems. You, and I are included in this minority. The rest are just critics when people like us (the doers/activists) make error. Think Theodore Roosevelt and the Man in the Arena Speech.

    I will consider your book. Thank you Alan. from HumansAreWe.com

    1. Alan Kay

      Thank you. Yes, it’s often the few who take action that make the solutions happen. With solution focus we help more people move away from problem analysis and begin to think about the solution that would work for them. It’s their ownership of the solution that helps them move forward. Instead of a few making a difference many take action.

Comments are closed.