Brief But Spectacular take on telling the whole story; Solutions Journalism; COVID and Things are always working out for me.
Welcome to the September edition of Tips and Topics from Australia.
In SAVVY, watch David Bornstein make the case for Solutions Journalism to activate people to be powerful players in a participatory democracy.
In SKILLS, be part of telling the whole story, not just focusing on the problems. “It is as if your parents were always criticizing you about what you were doing wrong and never letting you know where you have possibilities to grow.”
In SOUL, I have adopted more robustly the attitude of “Things are always working out for me”. A number of events on my Aussie trip would seem to contradict that. But as I reflect on the events midway through my trip, and my week of COVID, I’m sticking with my story.
I had never heard of Solutions Journalism until last month when watching the PBS NEWSHOUR and hearing from David Bornstein and his “Brief But Spectacular take on telling the whole story”. It’s only 3 minutes 59 seconds.
What is solution based journalism?
“Solutions journalism is an approach to news reporting that focuses on the responses to social issues as well as the problems themselves. Solutions stories, anchored in credible evidence, explain how and why responses are working, or not working.”
Solutions journalism tells the whole story about a community not just the bad news, which creates a bias about those communities and the people there.
What is the Solutions Journalism Network and who is David Bornstein?
“Transforming news is critical to building a more equitable and sustainable world. The Solutions Journalism Network is leading a global shift in journalism, focused on what the news misses most often: how people are trying to solve problems and what we can learn from their successes or failures.”
“David Bornstein is co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network, a group that works with news organizations to produce rigorous reporting on responses to social problems. The goal is to “rebalance the news” to provide people a sense of investment and communities with the information they need to participate in a healthy democracy.”
Here is a summary of a few points David Bornstein made that stood out to me.
If we only focus on the problems (wars, corruption and malfeasance), “we will be leaving the best of human nature on the table”.
“Journalism at its best should activate people to be powerful players in a participatory democracy.”
The way the news harms democracy, is by providing a view of the world that is largely deficit-framed. For example, if all the stories you hear about a community is the violence, it biases you about such communities and can affect how we make decisions about those communities.
Get informed about what is growing and the new possibilities that are emerging and developing.
We are amply informed about what is going wrong. But this leads to a very one-sided flawed view of the world and communities. “It is as if your parents were always criticizing you about what you were doing wrong and never letting you know where you have possibilities to grow.”
Many people who want to contribute, don’t think they have the power to do so….Especially in communities that have a history of poverty and in communities of color.
“Catch the world doing the right thing and let that also spread”.
Type in a Search of some communities and most of the stories are about violence as if that is the majority of activity in that community.
If we don’t cover the whole story, we create bias in the minds of people, often within the very people who have power over those communities.
Because David Bornstein is focused on Solutions Journalism, Bornstein’s head is full of the many solutions he sees, which inoculates you against some of the bad stuff coming our way.
We can’t all be Bornsteins, but we can start looking for when the world is doing the right thing and start spreading that around in our conversations and attention.
Recently, I have adopted more robustly the attitude of “Things are always working out for me”. Most religions and world views have their version of this.
I am writing and sending this month’s Tips and Topics from Australia where I am spending 4+ weeks. So bang in the middle of my trip, COVID caught up to me and I just finished a week of isolation. “Oh, nice philosophy you have there,” you say. “How are things working out for you, now!!”.
Well funny you should say that because I was just reflecting exactly on that. Here’s a review:
- My childhood friend (and best man at my wedding in 1972) arranges well-researched trips when we have our usually annual reunion with longtime friends.
- Wayne excelled again for a week of fabulous excursions out of Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia in Crocodile Dundee country.
- We had just flown to Adelaide, the capital of South Australia ready for a weeklong road trip that included 2 days at the country retreat of one of my oldest friends whom I have known for over 65 years.
- I had just rented the sleep in van that would tag along with Wayne’s fancy motor home when his wife called to inform me that Wayne was going to the hospital with angina and other cardiac symptoms. The roadtrip was off!
- While worried, I was undeterred as the first part of the week was to be at Bronwyn’s country retreat anyway. So off to a beautiful country weekend.
- The day after Wayne’s hospital admission that would see him need stents to open up two arteries that were 99% and 95% occluded respectively, I felt a slight headache, fever, cough and sore throat.
- Wayne had avoided a significant heart attack and had no cardiac muscle damage. We had been doing lots of walking and climbing in rugged Australia and he could easily have succumbed in an area that had no angioplasty facilities. He was a hair away from a heart attack.
- Back to my symptoms….being prepared like a good boy scout, I used the Rapid Antigen Test I had brought with me since to date, I had not had COVID. You guessed it…..Positive!
- Bronwyn and her partner had themselves had COVID just a few weeks ago so felt quite comfortable that they were safe; and were generous to have me isolate in their country retreat for the week.
- What perfect timing – Wayne was in hospital so we couldn’t do our road trip anyway; and now I had COVID at the same time with a perfect beautiful country home in which to isolate.
Symptoms were mild enough and happily my immune system strong enough that I am well and ready to complete the rest of my trip without COVID hanging over my head.
Now I ask you, “Doesn’t that sound like things are always working out for me?”
Reflecting on my week of COVID
If you focused only on the constant scary stories we heard so much about at the start of the pandemic – the deaths, hospitalizations, ventilators, tragic stories, long-COVID etc – a positive COVID test could fill you with fear.
Solutions journalism balances all of those real public health statistics and warnings with the news that people’s response to COVID spans being asymptomatic, to mild symptoms, to brief illness and rapid recovery. In fact because much of the news emphasized the worst cases, statistics and prognoses, a sizable proportion of news consumers started to disregard the facts and deny that COVID even existed.
When the news is unbalanced, reports of only the worst case scenarios don’t fit with what may other people were experiencing in their neighborhoods, with their friends and in their daily life. This breeds suspicion of well-meaning public health officials and contributed to a mistrust of the “facts”.
It worked in the opposite direction too. People against vaccination and other public health mandates cited cases of severe vaccination reactions and other “facts” that were not balanced with the reality of the success of vaccination to prevent severe illness and death. Unbalanced news serves no-one and contributes to the polarization we all experience in attitudes, beliefs, and practices……and with Midterm elections looming, it is only going to get worse.
As I finish writing SOUL, I feel fine apart from tiredness that could just be from late nights visiting with family and friends. Seems pretty clear to me that “Things are always working out for me”.