The Discourse and Practice of Constructive Journalism

Sammanfattning: This dissertation critically interrogates constructive journalism for the purposes of developing, enhancing and contextualizing related theory and practice. Constructive journalism is an emerging approach that aims for societal well-being by covering stories about progress, achievement and collaboration as much as stories about devastation, corruption and conflict. Interrogating this is important for a number of reasons:  First, there are ongoing sustained efforts to establish and legitimize constructive journalism globally. Second, constructive journalism has been positioned not only as a counter discourse, but also as possessing a ‘self-corrective ethos’ to established news practices (for e.g. negativity bias, or problem-based narratives) associated with mainstream journalism. It is imperative to understand what this entails, especially within the discourse of socially responsible journalism. Third, constructive journalism has also been presented as an adequate framework to respond to perennial questions of quality, declining trust, disengaged audiences – issues that continue to confront journalism practice. This goal would be accomplished proponents argue, by aiming for more depth and context, source diversity, and balance (i.e. not only exposing social problems, but also possible solutions).  The study utilizes mixed methodology consisting two phases. First, a content-oriented phase that includes quantitative content analysis and multimodal critical discourse analysis of news coverage (herein, highly emotive news topics: terrorism, environmental conflict, and protests). Second, an interview part consisting in-depth interviews with 19 journalists practicing in Kenya and two focus group discussions with news audiences in Kenya. The study’s theoretical framework is anchored in cultural studies and critical political economy.  Overall, the results provide a nuanced and in-depth understanding of constructive journalism as it pertains to: news coverage (i.e. the applicability of constructive journalism techniques), journalist role conceptions (i.e. balance between critical-monitorial and interventionistic roles) and audience perceptions, especially the extent to which they can be a conduit for the implementation of constructive journalism in a given media context.  Beyond this, the study illuminates de-Westernization debates, especially the ethnocentrism of Western scholarship that has tended to ‘undervalue’ research from non-Western contexts. The study also illuminates the centrality of the political economy of journalism in informing the long-term sustainability of constructive journalism. The study contributes to theory building as pertains to constructive journalism, the outcome of which is a concrete analytical framework comprising ten interrelated attributes that can be useful to scholars and practitioners.

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