Accentuate the positive

Times editor John Witherow is pioneering a new approach to reporting the news.

By James Evelegh

Accentuate the positive
Photograph: Jungwoo Hong on Unsplash

Good news has a bad name. It doesn’t sell like the negative stuff and it’s, well … err, a bit soft.

But the all-pervading negativity in some quarters is a contributing factor to the low regard in which the press is held.

Times editor John Witherow, giving the recent Society of Editors Bob Satchwell lecture, has an answer – ‘constructive journalism’:

“We are all familiar with Kipling’s six honest serving men – the What, Where, When, Who, Why and How.”

“Constructive journalism is one way in which trust in the mainstream press can be restored. How? By adding one more element to the mix. What Now?”

“So, when we report the London knife crime epidemic, we spend more time explaining how Glasgow combated the equally bad problem they once had. When we cover climate change, we seek to explain which green solutions work. If we have a teen suicide problem, we look at how other countries deal with the problem, and where there are hopeful remedies.”

“I think we have tapped into a demand among readers. They want to know what they can do with information. Who the experts are. Where they can learn more.”

“All these should have the same aim: to empower readers to improve their lives. News you can use, if you like.”

“We can enlighten them on the problems of the day and we can point to potential solutions too.”

“Why? Because it’s helpful, it’s valuable and it isn’t negative.”