Most journalism is about what’s wrong in the world, with very little focus or reporting on what is working. Similarly, much of higher education focuses on critical analysis of what is wrong, with much less emphasis on describing, analyzing and understanding solutions.
While the 24-hour news cycle acts as a behavioral feedback mechanism for society, it tends to exploit what researchers call negativity bias—our tendency to register negative stimuli more readily. Not only does this negatively biased news have an adverse effect on our psychological well-being, it also provides an inaccurate and distorted view of the world. Increasingly, research in the field of positive psychology suggests that a focus on resiliency, inspiration, and hope can act as an effective counterbalance to the constant stream of negative news we encounter. The stories in this collection provide more convincing evidence that we are hard-wired to want to share stories that ignite our passions. The questions that accompany these stories are designed to help you think about the implications of shifting the focus to solutions for your own life, and for society as a whole.
- Define and discuss the concept of “social norming.” What does it mean as Bornstein describes it? What are the implications for society?
- Find a story in the Solutions Story Tracker that illustrates this concept and describe how the actors in the story you read exemplify the phenomenon of social norming.
- Does reading solutions journalism stories make it easier for you to imagine yourself as an agent of social change?
- Do you believe that solutions journalism can contribute to solving social and environmental problems? Why or why not?
- Journalism is a collaborative practice: reporters are writing for their community, but they also depend on community members as sources for information. Indeed, the very purpose of journalism, according to the American Press Institute, is to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments. With that in mind, SJN wants to help connect news readers and journalists. Beside the name of the journalist on any of our story pages or the results page of the Solutions Story Tracker, you’ll find a Twitter icon that will link you directly to the journalists profile. Tweet at them with questions or compliments about their piece - you might be surprised by how much writers want to engage with their audiences! Don’t forget to tag us too (@soljourno) and use the hashtag #journalistintheclassroom if you are reading as part of an academic assignment.
“Social norming” is the idea that individuals respond to what they imagine their peers are doing and will conform to these perceived norms of the social groups to which they belong whether or not they are factually true. Note the case study about binge drinking discussed in the article. The way this applies to society at large is through a sense of learned hopelessness, which, Bornstein argues, “can reduce prospects for improvement.”