New research shows journalistic support for Restorative Narrative

A new study conducted by three professors from around the country has found that journalists are telling stories within the Restorative Narrative framework and have favorable attitudes toward the genre.

The study used data from a sample of more than 1,300 daily newspaper journalists in the U.S. and explored their familiarity with and attitude toward Restorative Narrative, solutions journalism, and constructive journalism.

University of Oregon professor Nicole Dahmen — who received a grant last year to study Restorative Narrative and has been working closely with ivoh ever since — conducted the research in partnership with Virginia Commonwealth University’s Karen McIntyre and the University of Oregon’s Jesse Abdenour.

Dahmen said that while there’s been a recent increase in reporting that goes beyond breaking news, there’s been little academic research on Restorative Narrative, solutions journalism, and constructive journalism and what these “emerging contextual genres” mean for the field of media.

“Our survey results indicated that journalists highly value professional roles associated with contextual reporting (such as being socially responsible) and that they were largely supportive of reporting beyond breaking news,” Dahmen said. “And while they weren’t overly familiar with the terms constructive journalism, solutions journalism, and Restorative Narrative, they expressed positive attitudes toward these genres and experience with the genres after being presented definitions.”

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As tragic news unfolds around the world, media has an opportunity to be a force for good

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When news organizations first started sending out mobile push alerts, I jumped at the chance to sign up. The ability to receive alerts on my phone, in real time, gave me a rush as a news junkie.

Lately, though, I’ve seriously considered deactivating them. In recent weeks, they’ve delivered updates about shootings, stabbings, and bombings. The jarring headlines, which pop up on my phone without notice, have made the world seem like a dark place — darker than ever, perhaps.

The recent incidences in Baton Rouge, St. Paul, Dallas, Nice, Munich and other cities around the world have been nothing short of tragic. But contrary to what we might think, research shows that the world isn’t more violent than it used to be, even though a lot of media coverage would suggest otherwise.

“People think the world is getting worse. … That’s the perception,” author and computer scientist Ray Kurzweil said at a conference last week. “What’s actually happening is our information about what’s wrong in the world is getting better. A century ago, there would be a battle that wiped out the next village, you’d never even hear about it. Now there’s an incident halfway around the globe and we not only hear about it, we experience it.”

Cognitive scientist Stephen Pinker did extensive research on this topic for his book, “The Better Angels Of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.”

“The only way you can really answer the question — has violence gone up or down? — is to count how many violent incidents have there been as a proportion of the number of opportunities, and has that gone up or down over the course of history? And that’s what I tried to do in the book,” Pinker told NPR in an interview earlier this month. “I looked at homicide, looked at war, looked at genocide, looked at terrorism. And in all cases, the long-term historical trend, though there are ups and downs and wiggles and spikes, is absolutely downward. The rate of violent crime in United States has fallen by more than half in just a decade. The rate of death in war fell by a factor of 100 over a span of 25 years.”

Pinker’s book was published four years ago, but it’s been widely quoted over the past month as people search for answers about whether violence is in fact on the rise. The Republican and Democratic conventions have further fueled the conversation, with Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan and Michelle Obama’s assertion that it’s already great.

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10 tips for media practitioners covering tragedies & Restorative Narratives

evin Becker (right) at ivoh’s Restorative Narrative Colloquium last week. Photo by Gloria Muñoz.

Kevin Becker (right) at ivoh’s Restorative Narrative Colloquium last week. Photo by Gloria Muñoz.

What do communities need from media in the aftermath of tragedy?

We explored this question at length during ivoh’s Restorative Narrative Colloquium and Retreat last weekend. The event brought together a group of about 40 media practitioners, educators, psychologists, and others interested in the impact that Restorative Narratives can have on people and communities.

One of the event’s speakers — clinical psychologist Kevin Becker — shared tips for media practitioners looking to tell Restorative Narratives in communities that have been affected by tragedy. There are three things, he said, that communities need after tragedies: safety, predictability, and control.

Media makers can take this into account when telling Restorative Narratives. Specifically, they can provide safety by creating a safe space for people to talk about what they’ve been through, and by letting sources know that they are committed to telling their story accurately and fairly. They can providepredictability by giving sources a sense of what the story will be about so that they’re not surprised when they open the paper or turn on the TV. Additionally, media makers can provide control by letting sources know that they have control over whether or not they choose to share their story and over what information they choose to share.

Becker, who has specialized in crisis intervention and trauma for 25 years, shared several other helpful insights during the colloquium and in a follow-up conversation with ivoh. Here are some related tips for media practitioners to consider when telling stories in a tragedy’s aftermath …

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Mother who lost daughter writes about resilience & the ‘slow awakening’ of hope

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In 2015, Images & Voices of Hope spent a lot of time exploring Restorative Narratives‘ role in news stories. As we look ahead to 2016, we’re interested in learning more about how this genre can play out in various types of media and story forms.

Along these lines, we were recently drawn to a personal essay, “Dear Kate,” which embodies many of the key tenets of Restorative Narrative. The essay — which was recently published in Indianapolis Monthly — details how Nancy Comiskey has coped with the loss of her daughter Kate, who died in a car crash in 2004.

Comiskey writes that in the first year after Kate’s death, she didn’t have any “brilliant insights on healing and hope.” In the decade since, she has learned to grieve and has reflected on what it takes to cope in the aftermath of a devastating loss.

Comiskey doesn’t gloss over difficult truths in her essay; she acknowledges them and explains how difficult her journey has been. Similarly, Restorative Narratives don’t wrap up everything with a pretty bow. They often dig deep into a tragedy but they don’t get stuck there; instead, they show how the people and communities who were affected are finding meaningful pathways forward.

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WBUR’s Kind World series shows power of small acts of kindness

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When he started his job as a social media producer at WBUR, Nate Goldman had negative news fatigue. A lot of us have probably experienced it: the feeling that news stories are too heavy and make the world seem cold and callous.

Goldman saw stories about violence, crime and despair on news sites. But while on social networks, he came across different stories — about small acts of kindness people had experienced. Many people on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit were not only sharing these stories but having lively conversations about them.

“It signaled to me that there was a real appetite for that kind of stuff,” Goldman said by phone.

Inspired by what he saw, Goldman set out to create a series that would highlight how small acts of kindness can profoundly affect people’s lives.

He started asking people on social media to talk about their encounters with kindness. He got several responses, interviewed a few people, and then produced some audio pieces as a proof of concept. His editor, John Davidow, liked the idea and encouraged him to pursue it.

From there, Goldman created a “Kind World” Tumblr in July 2012. It has since gained a lot of attention from readers — so much so that WBUR created an accompanying on-air series, which just finished up last week. All of the Kind World stories set out to answer the same question: “What is it that makes someone stop and help a stranger in need?”

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Upworthy’s most popular stories show desire for uplifting, serious content

Research shows that people are increasingly sharing upbeat content on social networks. But “upbeat,” it turns out, doesn’t necessarily mean “happy-go-lucky” in the world of social media sharing.

Upworthy, a site that publishes uplifting content and generates millions of social shares, found that some of its most popular stories in 2013 were about heavy topics like economic inequality, domestic violence, global health and the media’s portrayal of women.

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Drawbacks of some upbeat stories that get shared, go viral

Dictionary definition of "Truth"With the emergence of sites like BuzzFeed and Upworthy, there’s been an interesting shift in the type of content people want to share. Recent research shows that people now gravitate toward — and share — upbeat stories. Much of this has to do with social media.

Time Magazine’s Eliana Dockterman wrote in August:

Researchers are discovering that people want to create positive images of themselves online by sharing upbeat stories. And with more people turning to Facebook and Twitter to find out what’s happening in the world, news stories may need to cheer up in order to court an audience. If social is the future of media, then optimistic stories might be media’s future.

Why there’s reason to be optimistic about journalism’s future

????????????????In recent years, there have been countless stories about layoffs and budget cuts at news organizations, making it seem like the future of journalism is bleak. As 2013 drew to a close, though, I was struck by how many articles painted a more optimistic picture of journalism’s future.

Caroline Little, CEO CEO of the Newspaper Association of America (NAA), says despite what cynics say, the future of newspapers is bright. In an article published Friday, she shared some NAA research.