We don't cuddle with anyone

By Melody HansenLex KlerenMisch Pautsch Switch to German for original article

Listen to this article

We are often asked: What exactly is constructive journalism? In an article first published in forum magazine in summer 2022, editor-in-chief Melody Hansen summarised the Journal's very personal answer to this question.

It's mid-June and the coronavirus is making the headlines less and less, but monkeypox has arrived in Luxembourg. Climate change is making great strides and causing dangerous heatwaves. For the first time in decades, war is raging in Europe again, a war that no one knows how long it will last. Over 100 million people around the world are on the run. Racism, inflation and hunger are other buzzwords that dominate the news.

It all sounds bad. Despairing, to be honest. It feels like the world is on the brink of collapse and there's nothing we can do about it anyway. What difference does it make whether I throw the plastic bottle in the rubbish bin, take the car instead of the bus to work or put the steak on the barbecue instead of the vegetable skewers?

The multiple crises the world is currently facing are serious. We all need to work together resolutely to tackle them. The problem is that many of us are not determined at all. Instead, we feel helpless, desperate and powerless. We capitulate to the challenges we should actually be facing. It's a vicious circle: news triggers negative feelings in us, which leads us to avoid it – at a time when well-researched, quality journalism is essential for maintaining our democracy.

A feeling of helplessness

A recent study – conducted by the Reuters Institute at Oxford University – shows that people are increasingly avoiding news. It is based on online surveys conducted by the opinion research institute YouGov, in which 93,000 people from 46 countries were questioned. The result: four out of ten respondents (38 per cent) state that they sometimes consciously avoid information. In 2017, this figure was 29 per cent. The main reason given by 43 per cent of respondents was that the repetitive nature of many articles was annoying, especially when reporting on coronavirus and politics. 36 per cent said that they avoid news that gets on their nerves. 17 per cent want to avoid the arguments that talking about the news could cause and 16 per cent want to avoid the feeling of helplessness and therefore read fewer negative headlines. 29 per cent ignore the news because they don't trust it.

Media professionals can do something to change the fact that people feel bad about their news consumption. Because when we no longer just read, hear and see how bad everything is, but also how it can be made better and in some cases already is, we stop feeling helpless. The work of journalists is to present the world as it is. To show the truth. And part of the truth is that for every problem, there are many people working to solve it. Countless researchers, inventors, activists, politicians, volunteers and citizens deal with the challenges of our world every day, fight for justice, work on solutions and find them. They can show us what we too can do to play our part in restoring balance to the earth.

At Lëtzebuerger Journal, we specifically try to give these people a voice. Because the approach of constructive journalism as we pursue it does not mean covering reality with pink icing and only showing the good in the world. It means recognising the challenges of our time, addressing them and pointing out possible solutions and ways out: so that the reader is not left hopeless and despairing at the end, but enlightened and motivated because he*she has the feeling that he*she can change something about the situation – that he*she is in control of his*her own destiny. It's about giving people back a sense of control.

Regaining control

This has a positive effect on mental health. People who are well are better able to help other people. They have the strength to reach out to others. Because only together can we take small steps towards a better world. Progress rarely happens in the way that books and films suggest. The fact that a hero takes on a problem, solves it in a short space of time and is celebrated for it is something that rarely happens in real life. In reality, progress is slow and is driven forward by many people working together. It is quiet and inconspicuous because it happens gradually over many years. Things that happen slowly and don't tell a hero story just find it much harder to make it into the headlines.

"The work of journalists is to present the world as it is. To show the truth. And part of the truth is that for every problem, there are many people working to solve it."

The Lëtzebuerger Journal has received a lot of positive feedback for its constructive approach, but it has also often been criticised. For example, it has been said that we practise cuddly journalism and that our topics are not political. And that constructive journalism is just a trend and that there is research that questions whether people feel energised when reading solution-oriented texts. I want to contradict that.

Our editorial team focuses on highly political dossiers such as climate change, the rights of minorities and the consequences of war and pandemics. According to the traditional definition, our online magazine usually covers "social issues", but what is more political than our society? We also talk to and about politicians – but it is much more important to us to let people have their say. Those who are directly confronted with the problems that politicians are responsible for. And we talk to those who have found out how these problems can and should be solved. Pointing out a possible solution also makes politicians responsible: "Look, there are solutions. Why don't you apply them?" The Lëtzebuerger Journal is political – just in a different way.

We decide for ourselves

I cannot say today whether a more hopeful view of the world is enough to successfully master the challenges we face. What I can say, however, is this: Each individual can decide for themselves whether they want to feel helpless or hopeful in all of this. We decide for ourselves whether we want to consume media that makes us feel powerless or media that enlightens and motivates us. If everything turns out to be in vain in the end, at least we won't feel miserable every day. We can say that we have tried everything – and perhaps we have succeeded together.

Sign up for our newsletter and don't miss a thing.

To complete the subscription process, please click the link in the email we just sent you. Check your spam or junk folder too, in case of doubt. It may take us a few minutes to update your Journal profile, so please be patient.

An error occurred while subscribing to our newsletter. Please contact us at abo@journal.lu.


Press freedom: A promised tide of change in Guatemala