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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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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Orlando Sentinel focuses on community healing in wake of tragedy

Sentinel

The Orlando Sentinel is taking an unconventional approach to today’s front page in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

Instead of featuring a news article about the casualties, the Sentinel published a front-page editorial that looks at how the local community is coming together to remember those affected by a tragedy that killed 49 people and injured 53 others.

“We decided the front page of the Orlando Sentinel needed to reflect what we were hearing throughout Sunday about the shooting at the Pulse nightclub,” Orlando Sentinel Managing Editor John Cutter wrote. “Many talked of the sadness that we were now the leaders on an infamous list of mass shootings in the United States. But also we heard a growing chorus throughout the day that this horror would not be how we are remembered.”

Titled “Our Community Will Heal,” the front-page editorial emphasizes that the community can’t be defined by what happened but by how it responds.

“We will not — we must not — let Sunday’s heinous act of brutality and cowardice define our community,” the editorial reads. “Beyond offering our abundant prayers and sympathy, we must ensure that those who survive — who will forever carry the scars from the trauma — know that they are not alone today, tomorrow or in the months and years to come. Let our community define itself by our unequivocal response: United.”

In the aftermath of a tragedy like this, it’s too soon to start telling Restorative Narratives that show how people and communities have made a meaningful progression from a place of despair to a place of resilience. Often, these narratives don’t emerge until months or even years after a tragedy has occurred. It’s not too early, though, to report on moments of resilience and to lay the groundwork for what could become a Restorative Narrative later on. This is the time to practice good journalism — to tell the story of what happened and to show signs of hope as community members work together to heal and support one another.

Sentinel staffers are doing a good job of this, and are reminding one another that they need to take care of themselves during this difficult time.

“You can really tell it’s a newsroom that cares about the community,” Sentinel multimedia artist Charles Minshew told Poynter.org’s Kristen Hare. Minshew interned at The Denver Post when the Aurora theater shooting occurred. Hare writes: “It sounds simple, but Minshew’s tried to stop and ask his coworkers if they’re OK. It’s something he saw in Denver. You have to take care of yourself during something like this, he said.”

To see how the community is coming together on social media, follow the hashtags #OrlandoUnited and #LoveisLove.