The above list is by no means complete. Academic research into constructive journalism, solutions journalism and positive news is a growing field. The world’s first PhD in constructive journalism has recently been completed in the USA and journalism schools in the Netherlands and other European countries are starting to include constructive journalism into their curriculum. At the Constructive Journalism Project, we are regularly approached by students looking to complete Master and PhD research projects, theses and dissertations on the topic of constructive journalism. A lot of research is currently in production or under review. If you know of any research we should add to this list, we’d be grateful if you could let us know.
For further academic research links, we also recommend this list compiled by solutions journalism Ph.D student Kyser Lough at the University of Texas.
"Publishing the Positive – Exploring the motivations for and the consequences of reading solutions-focused journalism" (2016)
The full report can be downloaded here.
Jodie Jackson conducted the research ‘Publishing the Positive’ in 2016 as part of her master’s degree in positive psychology at the University of East London. As a research associate for the Constructive Journalism Project, Jodie Jackson has given talks on the psychological impact of the news around the UK to journalism students and at conferences internationally to news organisations.
Abstract: This aim of this qualitative study is to as gain insight into the experience of consuming and producing Positive News, a solutions-focused news publication. Through the use of semi-structured interviews with nine readers and five authors of Positive News, the study explored the meaning that these participants assigned to the term ‘positive news’, as well as their motivations to engage with the publication, and some of the psychological outcomes that they experienced. The existing body of research tends to focus on the detrimental effects of negative news on both the individual and society. However, there is limited research into the conceptualisation of and impact of positive news. This paper aims to address this scholarly gap. Its main findings suggest that positive news can promote optimism, hope, self-efficacy, active coping, increased engagement and social cohesion.
Solutions Journalism: The effects of including solution information in news stories about social problems
(2017) Solutions Journalism, Journalism Practice,
The media contribute to compassion fatigue—or public apathy toward human tragedy—in part by failing to present solutions to the social problems ubiquitous in today’s conflict-based news coverage. Some journalists have attempted to address this issue through a style of news labeled solutions journalism. This experiment tests the effects of this increasingly popular approach. Results revealed that discussing an effective solution to a social problem in a news story caused readers to feel less negative and to report more favorable attitudes toward the news article and toward solutions to the problem than when no solution or an ineffective solution was mentioned. Reading about an effective solution did not, however, impact on readers’ behavioral intentions or actual behaviors. This suggests that solution-based journalism might mitigate some harmful effects of negative, conflict-based news, but might not inspire action.
"Upworthy is on to something: How stories with positive emotions impact newsreader attitudes and engagement" (2016)
By Dr. Karen McIntyre, Virginia Commonwealth University (USA). Paper to be presented at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Southeast Colloquium, Baton Rouge, LA. (2016)
Research overview can be viewed here.
Abstract: The media’s constant supply of negative news has contributed to audience decline, and journalists are experimenting with more constructive story formats to engage readers. This experiment examined the presence and placement of positive emotions in news stories. Results showed that news stories with positive emotions influenced readers’ affect, attitudes, and engagement. Results further suggested it is possible to evoke positive emotions even in inherently negative stories without participants perceiving the story to be less valuable.
"Constructive journalism: An introduction and practical guide for applying positive psychology techniques to news production" (2016)
By Dr. Karen McIntyre, Virginia Commonwealth University (USA). Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, San Francisco.
Research overview can be viewed here.
Abstract: We propose to expand the boundaries of the news process by introducing, defining and subsequently coining the interdisciplinary concept of constructive journalism as an emerging form of journalism that involves applying positive psychology techniques to news processes and production in an effort to create productive and engaging coverage, while holding true to journalism’s core functions. First, we review the critical issues in journalism that highlight the need for this approach. Next, we coin constructive journalism and situate the concept in the field. Finally, we outline techniques by which constructive journalism can be practiced, including the psychological frameworks supporting these applications. Overall, this essay suggests a needed direction for journalism by means of constructive reporting which aims to positively impact journalism’s diminished reputation and weary news audiences.
By Cathrine Gyldensted. The book can be viewed here.Journalists believe that they mirror the world. However, this book argues that journalism move the world. But, in which direction are they moving it? This book by introduces the innovation of journalism through behavioural sciences like positive psychology, moral psychology and prospective psychology.
Associate Professor in Business Ethics at the University of Southampton (UK), conducted the study: “Editors may make decisions on the assumption that “bad news sells”, but the discourse of journalism suggests that it is taken for granted that good news is frivolous and distracts from the serious events. Our research, however, provides strong evidence to show that these arguments are false – indeed the opposite is true.”
The full report can be downloaded here.
This report from the Engaging News Project and the Solutions Journalism Network illustrates that solutions-based journalism can be an effective journalistic tool that benefits both readers and news organisations.
By Ulrik Haagerup. An extract of the book can be downloaded here.
Conflicts, drama, crooks and victims. That’s news. This is our world. Or is it? This first international book on constructive news shows the consequences of media negativity: To people, to the press itself, to the public debate and to democracy. Provocative and engaging executive director of DR News, Ulrik Haagerup, demonstrates how a paradigm shift in news content has succeeded at Danish Broadcaster DR by changing bad news habits and making journalism more meaningful. Constructive News is both a wake up call to a media world struggling for a future and an inspirational handbook on the next mega trend in journalism. A good story doesn’t have to be a bad story.
Jonah Berger, Katherine L. Milkman (2012), What Makes Online Content Viral? Journal of Marketing Research: April 2012, Vol. 49, No. 2, pp. 192-205.The full research can be found here.
Joseph G. Campbell, Assistant Professor of Marketing, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and Katherine L. Milkman, Assistant Professor of Operations and Information Management, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania conducted the study.Why are certain pieces of online content (e.g., advertisements, videos, news articles) more viral than others? This article takes a psychological approach to understanding diffusion. Using a unique data set of all the New York Times articles published over a three-month period, the authors examine how emotion shapes virality. The results indicate that positive content is more viral than negative content, but the relationship between emotion and social transmission is more complex than valence alone.
By Cathrine Gyldensted. The full report can be downloaded here.
Abstract: Consuming and producing news reports have a substantial negative emotional impact on both users and journalism professionals. This is a concern for both the journalism profession and for society. Does positive reporting and positivity have a place within already existing foundational values and ethics in journalism? Key findings from positive psychology may be particularly relevant to media workplaces. To test this notion in the realm of news reporting, 710 participants completed an online experiment. Participants read a negatively valenced classic style news story and one of five experimentally manipulated variants, which drew on positive psychology principles to slightly alter the language and emotional valence. Participants completed measures of affect and offered impressions of the media. Across participants, affect significantly declined after reading the classic story. Results support the detrimental impact of classic-style news reports, and suggest that it may take multiple positive news stories to counter the emotional impact of a single negative story. Some positive versions proved more effectual for inducing positive emotion, whilst still being viewed as fair and balanced reporting. Despite strong core ethics in journalism of minimizing harm, news reporting is often more focused on repairing damage, thus promoting a disease model of human functioning and negatively affecting human flourishing. However, news media has strong potential for innovation by drawing on the principles of positive psychology. This potential is described and concrete suggestions given.