United Nations Director-General calls for media to engage and empower people by adopting a more constructive approach

United Nations Director-General calls for more constructive approach to news

The United Nations Director-General, Michael Møller, is calling on the media to engage and empower people by adopting a more constructive approach to news coverage. His call comes ahead of a meeting in London to discuss constructive journalism, a more solutions-focused style of reporting.

Mr Møller, the Director-General of the United Nations office at Geneva, will meet broadcast, print and online journalists on Wednesday 27 April to discuss how this emerging field could alter the way news is reported – to the benefit of audiences, journalists, proprietors and wider society – and how the UN can help.

Constructive Voices project builds on growth of constructive journalism

The meeting has been arranged as part of Constructive Voices, a newly-launched twin track project to encourage constructive journalism and to ensure the positive impact of organisations offering innovative and effective solutions is publicly heard and used for social benefit. It is being run by NCVO, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. Evidence shows the public are turned off by overwhelmingly negative news and are hungry for solutions – and share these types of stories more.

This constructive approach is being successfully modelled by increasing numbers of outlets and initiatives across Europe and the US, including the Huffington Post and the New York Times. Here, the BBC has recently introduced constructive journalism to news staff via workshops with leading proponents: the renowned US author and New York Times journalist David Bornstein, co-founder of the US Solutions Journalism Network; and Ulrik Haagerup, head of news at the Danish Broadcasting Corporation.

UN Director-General Michael Møller, who has had an eminent UN career spanning four decades, is keen to promote constructive journalism.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mr Møller said:

We are living at a time when the flow of information and the possibilities for citizen participation have never been greater. Yet many people feel disempowered by the news and disengaged from decision-making. This generates a democratic deficit through apathy and indifference.

The choices we make are determined by the information we are given. These are fundamental to how we shape a better world together.

In a world of 7 billion people, with a cacophony of voices that are often ill-informed and based on narrow agendas, we need responsible media that educate, engage and empower people and serve as a counter-point to power. We need them to offer constructive alternatives in the current stream of news and we need to see solutions that inspire us to action. Constructive journalism offers a way to do that.

It’s vital too that we have data and different points of view. That was the reason the UN launched GVADATA, a one-stop portal for searching the largest collection of published information and its sources.

Sir Martyn Lewis, chair of NCVO and a long-time advocate of a more constructive approach to news, dating back to his years as a BBC News presenter, said:

I’m delighted that someone as distinguished as the Director-General of the United Nations is backing constructive journalism and is interested to find out about our Constructive Voices project.

It’s 23 years almost to the day that I first spoke out about the need for more balanced news agenda. I have been misunderstood in the past, with people believing I just wanted fluffy, feel-good news at the expense of covering real news. This is not the case at all. I'd like to see the media engage in solutions-driven journalism which not only reports problems but explores potential solutions to those problems as well.

I would stress that this approach absolutely does NOT mean giving up the traditional approach to journalism, but is complementary to it and, interestingly, there is growing evidence that it makes a lot of commercial sense as well.

NCVO’s media coordinator, Giselle Green, who’s running Constructive Voices said:

As well as championing constructive journalism, we’re creating a resource to help journalists find organisations offering positive solutions to pressing problems on a range of topics, from combatting domestic abuse to taking early action for better health, as well as topical issues such as assisting refugees or encouraging mentoring. These constructive voices need to be heard. Audiences are hungry for solutions and it’s in society’s interests that valuable, positive solutions are aired so they can contribute to the public agenda.

Notes to editors

For further information, please contact Giselle Green, Constructive Voices on 07960 870 035 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Michael Møller has had an eminent career at the UN, including facing the challenge of the Vietnamese boat people in his first post as a UNHCR freshman, helping write the contract overcoming apartheid in South Africa in the early 1990s, and working closely with Kofi Annan for 30 years.

People prefer news that includes solutions: http://engagingnewsproject.org/research/solutions-journalism/

The more positive an article, the more likely it is to be shared: http://www.adweek.com/socialtimes/good-news-social-networks/479660

The United Nations portal for searching the largest collection of published information and its sources.

More about Constructive Journalism in this Huffington Post blog.

More about the Constructive Voices project.

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