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Dr. McIntyre offers webinar on solutions journalism during COVID-19 crisis

Apr 3, 2020

Posted in: News

By Mario Sequeira Quesada, Communications Intern

Despite moving classes to online remote learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Robertson School continues to offer students opportunities to learn and grow. Recently, the school hosted a webinar for media and communication students to discuss solutions journalism and how this type of reporting can provide a different perspective during the current coronavirus crisis. Approximately 50 students and faculty members participated in the online seminar that took place on March 30.

Robertson School Director of Graduate Studies and assistant professor Dr. Karen McIntyre explained that this style of reporting focuses on responses to social problems while targeting the most important information of an issue. The idea of the webinar was to promote discussion and guide students how to cover current news regarding COVID-19 and to provide students and viewers with possible solutions for reporting and interpreting news.

McIntyre discussed how the media is covering the latest advances of the coronavirus. She showed how the websites of the most popular news outlets often highlight a vast majority of problem-oriented news over solution-oriented news. The high number of negative stories can provoke audience disengagement. McIntyre detailed a study that claims 40% of Americans suffer from stress when checking the news.

Journalists still need to inform the public and make sure to provide the most detailed and accurate information. McIntyre said that solutions journalism is a needed type of reporting that explains what is happening, how it is affecting people and possible ways to fix problems. Before reviewing the four building blocks of solutions journalism, attendees watched a video that detailed how this type of reporting can turn the publication of news about an issue into something more valuable, a solution for it.

McIntyre said the first step is to find a problem that is newsworthy and interview people or organizations who are trying to fix it or improve it. In order to be an effective and unbiased story, the reporter must describe the problem and these four elements about the solution:

1. What action has been taken?

2. Evidence of positive results.

3. Insights into how the solution takes place.

4. Challenges and limitations.

McIntyre shared a number of solution-oriented COVID-19 articles from news outlets such as The New York TimesCNBC and the Guardian.  She also encouraged students to explore the solution journalism story tracker of the Solution Journalism Network. Students discussed the articles and shared initiatives to incorporate this type of reporting into their class projects and story development.

“Now, arguably more than ever, is the time for more solution-focused news reporting,” McIntyre said. “With the abundance of alarming news coming to us from most of the mainstream TV networks, it's important to include some solutions journalism in your daily media diet in an effort to mitigate some of the negative effects of negative news.”

McIntyre added that she was happy with the turnout and appreciated the faculty members who will distribute a recording of the presentation to their students. She said it is important for students to apply solution-oriented reporting approach in school so that they can practice and have time to sharpen their skills before joining the industry.

“Dr. McIntyre had a great presentation set up,” said senior Kristinah Archer, senior in the print and online journalism sequence. “It was informative and it definitely helped me to be able to recognize the good things that are happening during such a negative time.”

Archer said the Robertson School has always done a good job encouraging students to attend educational events, whether those are online or on campus. She said it was a timely and relevant opportunity from the school during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The entire webinar is available online along with the slide-show McIntyre presented. She said this webinar was a good opportunity to expand this lecture to all Robertson School students.

“If we were meeting in the classroom, like normal, right now, I probably would have only given this lecture to the students in my classes, but because of remote instruction, I was able to open this up to everyone,” McIntyre said.  “I guess this was a silver lining to our current situation.”

Please also read an interview with Dr. McIntyre in Greater Good Magazine on how to stay informed about COVID-19 while protecting one's mental health.