The aim of constructive journalism is to work against the media inertia of scapegoating and polarisation. It's a fresh take on what journalism should be about: seeking solutions, not just churning the problems. The principles of constructive journalism are simple: when interviewing someone, ask questions, which would help to avoid defensive replies and instead prompt a helpful discussion. When writing about an issue, think about possible initiatives, which will work in future. Avoid pointless opinion pieces which simply polarise the society into "us vs. them".
Imagine you get to interview a villain like Mugabe or Putin. You may have dozens of points to score with either of them, but try to think of constructive questions to ask instead. "Mr. Mugabe, what might be your legacy?" might prompt Zimbabwe's autocrat to think about the impact of his rule on ordinary people. "Mr. Putin, what should the government do to prevent outflow of human capital from Russia or indeed to attract Russian talent, currently working abroad, to return and contribute to the Russian economy?" As part of the workshop, I thought of a dozen of questions I'd ask Putin if I had a chance. It is possible to address even the most flammable issues without causing the person across the table to walk off or engage defensive tactics. If you want someone to open up and offer solutions to a crisis, you have to ask constructive questions not attack your opponent with a verbal tirade.
It seems to me that the British press covering the general elections has largely been doing the opposite of constructive journalism. We have heard plenty about the crisis of the NHS, the so-called "dementia tax" and that grammar schools aren't the solution. Previously, you might recall, we have also been told that the academies aren't working either. As someone who is not a stakeholder in the British school system, I haven't learned anything from the education debate other than criticism. The same applies to social care. The coverage of the problems has been more than adequate, but the proposed policies haven't been explored at length. I would much rather understand how a pilot programme for universal income (proposed by the Greens) would work than marvel at the ingenuity of some of the Tory sound bites.
The UK terrorist attacks have posed a colossal question for the Western world. How do we address extremism after three attacks in the UK in just over three months? Some people say "love, peace and more cat videos" and other people bark "ban Islam and send immigrants home". Neither is the solution. What we need is a comprehensive plan which would address the issues of radicalisation of young muslims born and bred here among us, the supply of weapons to ISIS and the foreign policy. I'm no expert but these things spring to mind.
Constructive journalism is also about us, general public, indicating what we want to consume. No, it's not about donating money to the Guardian, but it's about our marginal decisions affecting editorial policy and commercial success of the media today. If you click on a gossip column, advertising dollars flow to the Daily Mail (and therefore more of its garbage gets commissioned and written). If you share an article you read in The Economist among your friends or followers on social media, then more of serious journalism will be produced. If you liked a considered interview on TV, tweet about it. Every media establishment these days analyses data and does what consumers indicate they want. Click wisely.