fbpx Skip to main content

On March 5, the Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF) hosted a panel, “Defying Despair: Journalism’s Bold Stand Against Pessimistic Headlines,” at the Conduit in Oslo, Norway. Moderated by Elisha Maldonado, director of communications at the Human Rights Foundation, the conversation addressed the delicate balance between news value and impact.

The event brought together four renowned journalists to forge a “toolbox for hope”:

– Jack Hewson, an award-winning foreign correspondent for PBS NewsHour based in Kenya

– Intisaar Ali, a news journalist at VG

– Ingrid Tinmannsvik, constructive news editor at NRK 

– Kyrre Lien, a foreign affairs journalist at VG  

One of the first lessons journalists are taught is the principle that “if it bleeds, it leads.” If violence, conflict, or death is involved, it will always get the most attention; it’ll be top-billing television, above the fold in newspapers, and, in the Internet era, the top story on a website. It is, after all, the news, and it must be reported — and it often isn’t pretty. 

However, a new type of storytelling and reporting is beginning to emerge, especially in Europe, called constructive or solutions-based journalism. It seeks to create a more realistic worldview, helping to see the good despite the bad. It aims to expand journalism beyond the narrow focus of crises, problems, and despair. As VG’s Intisaar Ali noted, this is especially important as stories get more sensational and dramatic to foster more audience engagement while having the opposite effect: people abandoning traditional media as it adversely challenges people’s mental health.

At the Norwegian Public Broadcast (NRK), editor Ingrid Tinmannsvik now guides every journalist to work with the principles of constructive journalism in the stories they report on. The goal is to find ways to supplement the pessimistic but often necessary headlines of the day with more in-depth, multi-perspective stories.

Foreign correspondents Jack Hewson and Kyrre Lien touched on the difficulties of finding hopeful stories in the war zones from which they’ve reported and what it’s like to look for other perspectives rather than confirm preconceived notions about a country or region, which in turn helps challenge biases or stagnant ideas about a place or people.

Join us on June 3-5 in Oslo, Norway, for the 16th annual Olso Freedom Forum. You can find additional details about the event and participating speakers at oslofreedomforum.com and on our X and Instagram.