Bringing Solutions Journalism to Poland
Why Did We Take it On?
Solutions journalism is an approach to news reporting rooted in the conviction that talking about a problem is just not enough — we need to focus on the broader context and the proposed solutions as well. Solutions stories, anchored incredible evidence, explain how and why responses are working, or not working. That is especially important now that journalism takes the blame for the fake news crisis and resentment against the journalists is on the rise. The idea to promote solutions journalism in Poland came from Ashoka, a global organisation aiming at building a society in which citizens are encouraged to take action and look for solutions to problems they spot around them, so-called „changemakers”.
A whole ecosystem to support a changemaker — says Agata Stafiej-Bartosik, country representative of Ashoka in Poland. — The idea to test the concept of solutions journalism with the Polish journalists is a result of our ecosystem work and a survey we ran with the Warsaw University on barriers to the development of social innovations in our country. One of the obstacles to unlocking our creativity is lack of awareness of existing solutions, Yes, there are many problems, but there are always people who try to solve them — Ms Stafiej-Bartosik explains.
Empowering the Fourth Estate and Engaging the People
One of the issues we wanted to address is the growing animosity towards journalists as reflected by the 2018 World Press Freedom Index. Hostility towards the media, openly encouraged by political leaders, and the efforts of authoritarian regimes to export their vision of journalism pose a severe threat to democracies. The report prepared by Reporters Without Borders highlights that violence from politicians against the media is on the rise also in Central and Eastern Europe. In the Czech Republic, President Milos Zeman turned up at a press conference with a fake Kalashnikov inscribed with the words “for journalists.” In Slovakia, then Prime Minister Robert Fico called journalists “filthy anti-Slovak prostitutes” and “idiotic hyenas.” A Slovak reporter, Ján Kuciak, was shot dead at his home in February 2018…
However, solutions journalism can contribute to the journalistic movement beyond simply fixing its image. It can augment and complement the press’ traditional watchdog role, presenting citizens with a complete view of issues. Besides, as David Bornstein puts it, it can enhance the impact of investigative reporting, by presenting evidence that entrenched problems can be solved. That is particularly interesting in countries where the media scene is extremely polarised. Another side of this problem is the lack of trust that leads to apathy, which results in people not being engaged with politics on a local level. Both issues are very much relevant for Poland at this very moment. One of the goals of solutions journalism is too swift the conversation, from accusations and problems to a more complete and balanced view of these issues, helping to drive more active citizenship.
What Happened So Far?
To that end, we have already held two open meetings for Polish journalists in Warsaw with the representatives of the Solutions Journalism Network. The first one, at the beginning of March, was a presentation from David Boardman, the dean of the School of Media and Communication at Temple University in Philadelphia and a former executive editor and senior vice president of The Seattle Times. The second one took place just last week and was run by Samantha McCann a reporter and Communities Director at SJN, and Nina Fasciaux — a French-based journalist and a trainer, representative of SJN for Europe You can watch both videos on our website in the Talks Section.
Currently, four Polish journalists are working on stories based on the Solutions Journalism methodology. The outcomes of their work will be presented at Outriders Summit on September 26 in Warsaw.