When you work in the news, you read the news. It's part of the job, but like an estimated 66 percent of the U.S. population, I found myself growing more worn down by news coverage at the start of the pandemic. Despite the pang of guilt that came with spending less time on news apps and social media, disconnecting ultimately made me feel better. By giving less mental space to all that’s wrong with the world, I was able to refocus on what I could do about it.
Millions of news readers are doing the same thing. More than a third of people across 46 countries actively avoid the news at least sometimes, with many saying news coverage negatively impacts their mood, according to 2023 polling from Reuters Institute and the University of Oxford.
As a journalist, findings like these are hard to swallow. My partial media detox may have helped me, but was I writing and producing stories that made people feel as burned out and anxious as I was? Journalists uncover the real story, speak truth to power and share information for the sake of public good. But if the way we do it leaves people hopeless and ready to put their heads in the sand, that’s something we as newswriters need to pay attention to. I couldn’t shake the notion that I, and the platform I loved and edited for most of my professional career, were part of the problem.
In our search for answers, TriplePundit’s editorial team surveyed our community of readers at the start of this year to learn what they enjoy most about our coverage and what they’d like to see us do differently. Nearly half of you said you come to us for “inspiring stories about solutions to big challenges,” and more than 45 percent are looking for more stories about “technologies, systems, and ideas that tackle global challenges like climate change and poverty.” When we worked with the research technology firm Glow to survey the general U.S. population, nearly 40 percent were looking for the same.
With this feedback in mind, TriplePundit relaunches today with a focus on solutions journalism. Grounded in evidence and journalistic rigor, this style of reporting focuses not only on the problem, but also on how people are working to solve it and what we can learn from them — whether they succeed or not. This shift builds on our nearly 20 years covering sustainability and social impact, and it brings a fresh perspective we feel our space needs right now.
Why solutions journalism matters for sustainability and social impact
In the sustainability and social impact space in particular, coverage of widening equity gaps and the latest scientific predictions of impending doom may raise awareness and create a sense of urgency. But it doesn’t give readers anything to do with those emotions, or provide any insight into what can be done to address the monumental challenges we face.
The first large-scale study of climate anxiety among young people, published in 2021, gives us an idea of how widespread this really is. Of the 10,000 respondents across 10 countries, 75 percent agreed “the future is frightening.” More than half said the information they consumed about climate change left them feeling “sad, anxious, angry, powerless, helpless and guilty,” and around 40 percent said their fears about climate change would make them hesitant to have children.
The majority of news readers, particularly people of color, also report being negatively affected by news coverage of social justice issues like police brutality, and most people globally say they’re pessimistic that the gap between rich and poor will be closed in their countries.
As projections about the future grow more grim, and it becomes increasingly apparent that the status quo will not be sufficient to address the challenges ahead, people are thirsty for good news. And not good news that’s fluff — good news about leaders who think differently and develop bold, unique ideas with the potential to make a real impact on the challenges we face.
The structure of solutions journalism is ideal to meet that need. It’s not about cherry-picking winners or focusing only on what works. It’s about bringing visibility to the innovative, evidence-based solutions we already have at hand and learning from the experiences of those who take action, even if they don’t succeed.
Studies show people feel better about the world, and their communities, after viewing this type of coverage. In 2017, the Institute for Applied Positive Research partnered with the Detroit Free Press and the Solutions Journalism Network to find out how people reacted after reading problem- and solution-focused coverage of the issues facing Detroit. Compared to those who read the problem-focused stories, those who read coverage on solutions were more likely to say conditions in the city were improving and that they wanted to do their part.
That’s exactly the spirit our space needs in the pivotal years ahead. By bringing visibility to the great work that’s already happening, we aim to inform, empower and reinvigorate our readers to take action, in whatever large or small ways they can.
What the shift to solutions journalism means for our audience
A shift toward solutions-oriented coverage builds on the evolving themes TriplePundit has covered in detail for nearly two decades. With this transition, we join more than 1,900 news organizations worldwide in providing our audiences with an alternative to the barrage of news coverage centered on problems with little guidance on what to do about them. We’ll be the first publication in the sustainability and social impact space to embed this style of coverage across all of our reporting.
TriplePundit will continue to cover the topics central to our space — including those our readers told us are most important, such as climate change and diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. But each time we do, we’ll provide an example of a person or organization that is acting to address a challenge tied to these topics. We’ll take an in-depth look at what they’re doing — providing insight, evidence and limitations on the response they’ve put forward, with an eye toward learning more about what does and doesn’t work.
As young people flock toward sustainability careers, saying there’s “no point” in doing anything else, the steady flow of ideas these entrepreneurs, scientists, academics, thinkers and tinkerers develop will provide a wealth of news to an audience that needs it now more than ever.
We’d love for all of our readers to be a part of this next step with us. If you have feedback to share or an idea for a story you’d like to see us cover, please use this form to get in touch with us. If you’re interested in sharing more about solutions journalism in sustainability with your followers on social media, this toolkit can help you do that. And keep an eye on our newsfeed for solutions stories on the topics that matter to you.
Image credit: Tierney/Adobe Stock
Mary has reported on sustainability and social impact for over a decade and now serves as managing editor of TriplePundit. She is also the general manager of TriplePundit's Brand Studio, which has worked with dozens of brands and organizations on sustainability storytelling.