BY: Victoria Heath
For people who actually want to “change the world,” or at least stop themselves from making it shittier, news today is extremely frustrating. It’s primarily negative, full of the same pointless rhetoric, and riddled with bickering hosts or guests. More often than not, it’s a cesspool of bias, inflammatory language, sensationalism, and inaccuracy. It’s particularly enraging when media outlets jump on news stories and start making assumptions before they have the facts straight. This is a problem in American media, exemplified by the differences in coverage of catastrophes such as the Paris and Beirut attacks in 2015.
Many journalists have blamed the 24-hour news cycle for the “death of journalism,” because it not only created a saturated market, but also encouraged the manipulation of news in order to make it “entertaining” for audiences. This was satirized by the Hollywood comedy Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. In the movie, the main character Ron Burgundy is recruited to anchor the first 24-hour news channel. In order to beat his rival’s ratings, Burgundy resorts to “uber-patriotism, celebrity gossip, puppy photos and car chases,” changing media forever.
Lamenting on the direction the media and journalism have taken, Jeff Sorensen wrote in 2012, “serious stories and reporting has been purposefully desensitized to the average view. It’s why a massacre of thousands in Syria is a secondary story to the girl from Twilight cheating on the guy from Twilight. Serious journalism doesn’t get the viewers anymore. Loud music over a waving U.S. flag and flickering lights bring in the audiences. Journalism is now clipped to a sentence that scrolls at the bottom of the screen.”
What if it doesn’t have to be that way, though? What if we could turn back time, or even better, create a future where solutions and innovative ideas are valued, discussed and analyzed without all of the bullshit?
That’s where the podcast “How Do We Fix It?” comes in. Its creators, Richard Davies and Jim Meigs, are two journalists who recognized the world is full of problems, and that no one seems to be talking about them in the right way. Searching for more solutions instead of just rhetoric, the pair developed the show just over a year ago and have since tackled issues ranging from environmental claims for utilizing nuclear power, to the lack of sleep Americans are getting due to stress. Each show features at least one expert or practitioner on the subject, who discusses the issues with Davies and Meigs. Thankfully, the conversation always ends on a “lighter note” with each guest offering some sort of solution to the problem–a welcomed change from mainstream media.
David Bornstein, the writer of the “Fixes blog” of the New York Times, featured on the show “#48: A Better Way to Report the News,” told Davies and Meigs:
“The news tends to focus far more on what’s wrong than on the credible efforts around the world of people who are trying to fix things, whether they are successful or not. I think the main thing is that the problems scream and the solutions whisper.”
Essentially, “How Do We Fix It?” aims to be a digital “repair manual for the real world,” as well as prove that the news doesn’t need to be sensationalized to be interesting.
Perhaps journalism isn’t dead after all, and “solutions journalism”–the reporting of news without the “fluff, advocacy or PR”–is a future we can all look forward to.