Americans seek stories of solutions and inspiration from the media
Summary: More in Common, in partnership with the American Press Institute, sought to find out what Americans want to read or watch in the media. Our findings suggest Americans want a balance of positive and negative stories and have a desire to see more solutions-oriented reporting. Americans also view national media as more helpful for understanding others who are different from them and see local media as more helpful for learning about issues that impact people’s everyday lives.
As the Fourth estate, the news media heavily influences the national conversation. But, what do people say they want in the media they consume? In collaboration with the American Press Institute, we asked Americans* a series of questions about the media and the stories that cover our society.
It turns out, more Americans want to “celebrate what’s right” (88%) rather than “criticize what’s wrong” (63%) in order to make society stronger. At the same time, most Americans also value “spotlighting problems in order to solve them” (87%).
I would like to see more stories that are thought-provoking and focused on optimism and what we can do to make the world a better place--with less sordid opinions that only float one way. – Mack, Traditional Conservative from Ohio
Stories highlighting good works and ways for people to get involved to help those in need. – Kay, Traditional Liberal from North Carolina
I would like for a newspaper to feature stories of communities coming together on issues and helping resolve current problems, instead of trying to create a greater divide. – Amelia, Moderate from California
Solutions-oriented journalism, which focuses on stories that report about responses to social problems, is in demand: many Americans in our research say the media should do more to “report on solutions as much as problems” (63%) and “highlight people trying to make the community better” (60%).
I want to read the stories that are true, whether it's crime, economics, housing, etc. I also want to read about good people making a difference--but from those that come from all nationalities and cultures. – Priscilla, Politically Disengaged from New York
Leaders in media appear interested in solutions reporting as well: a Reuters Institute survey of 303 international media leaders indicated that about three
-thirds plan to publish more inspiring content.
To find out more: the Solutions Journalism Network showcases examples of this kind of reporting at the local, national and international level.
Local media’s strengths
The American Press Institute, which largely works with local news organizations, has previously found that trust in media varies depending on whether people are referring to local or national media. Following this, we also looked at differences of opinion between national and local news.
We found that Americans think that national media is better than local media in helping people understand others with different views (+10% difference) and with different politics (+28% difference). However, most think that the local media is better than the national media at helping people have a voice in day-to-day issues (+55% difference) and at focusing on issues that affect them (+41% difference) and that they care most about (+20% difference).
How can local newspapers organize events that are helpful to their community?
Inspired by engagement efforts in journalism, we conducted an experiment in which participants evaluated local events. Participants were randomly assigned into two groups. The first group received a fictional invitation to attend a civic debate between a liberal and conservative politician.The second group received a fictional invitation to participate in a conversation with other local residents about their vision of an ideal state.
Notably, more people wanted to participate in the conversation than a debate (+17%). And while both events were seen as helpful for improving the community, the conversation event was seen as even more so (+12%).
Learn more and get involved
The American Press Institute is working on projects to help foster community ties and increase diversity and inclusion in journalism. To follow more of their work, subscribe to their Need to Know newsletter.
* The statistics in this newsletter are from two sources. The first is our online research community of 291 representative Americans (data collected between May 8 and June 3, 2022). Participants engaged in activities several times per week via an online research platform where they answered surveys, submitted text responses, uploaded self-recorded videos, participated in group discussions, and completed other activities. Responses to open-ended questions were aggregated, analyzed, and then reviewed for representative quotes that illustrate key sentiments. Names have been changed to protect privacy. The small sample size provided the opportunity to collect rich qualitative data. The second source is an online survey with 2,000 adult US citizens conducted with our partner YouGov in February 2023.
API Local News Summit on Opinion, Civic Discourse and Sustainability
API will hold an API Local News Summit on Opinion, Civic Discourse and Sustainability on April 12-13 in Austin, Texas. This is a call for people in journalism, but also outside of it. Braver Angels, StoryCorps, More in Common, Coral by Vox and Cortico are all examples of groups involved in convenings on this theme — and are a reminder that, while journalism can lead in this regard, we are all in this together.
Request an invitation for the remaining spots at their summit no later than Sunday, March 12, at 11:59 p.m. ET.
Questions about the summit can be directed to: Kevin Loker, director of strategic partnerships and research, at email@example.com.