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Exploring solutions journalism with David Bornstein

David Bornstein believes we need more stories examining solutions to the world's problems.

Are you unconvinced by the do-gooder stories that imply all we need to defeat poverty and inequity are altruistic superheroes? Or, conversely, are you deflated by all those news reports that describe some tragedy or outrage but stop short of exploring whether or not there’s anything we can do about it? Well, there’s a solution for that.

For today’s Humanosphere podcast, we’ll be talking with journalist David Bornstein. Yes, it’s another case of journalists interviewing journalists. This is happening a lot these days as news organizations try to fill in for gaps in coverage – with NPR or CNN interviewing a BBC reporter on the scene, or some such. But attempting to disguise our lack of adequate staffing is not what we’re doing with Bornstein. We are talking to him because he’s a change agent. Bornstein is a journalist who has reported on efforts aimed at reducing poverty and inequity worldwide. He is now championing a strategy aimed at fighting what might be called news poverty – stories about social problems or challenges that don’t go anywhere, that report on a crisis, catastrophe or some other problem in a way that may only leave a reader feeling hopeless or cynical. Bornstein, with colleagues Tina Rosenberg at the New York Times and author Courtney Martin, are proponents of what they call Solutions Journalism. Humanosphere’s editor-in-chief (or editor in Idaho, as was the case with this remote-sounding recording) Tom Paulson was dubious of this strategy when Bornstein and his colleagues first launched it. In part, as Humanosphere reported at a gathering of media funded by the Gates Foundation, Paulson’s fear was that Solutions Journalism was just a fancy way to disguise the desire (by donors, NGOs and others) for success stories, for promoting particular products or agendas. Paulson still has some concerns with the potential for Solutions Journalism to slip into advocacy or puffery, but done right he now believes it may help save the world, and maybe even journalism.

But first, Tom and I explore some of the top news stories this week in the Humanosphere including the Pope’s call for humankind to accept its moral responsibility to fight climate change, visualizing the stagnant funding for fighting diseases of poverty and the potential threat of a poison pill for global health hidden within a big trade deal being pushed by the Obama Administration.

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About Author

Gabe Spitzer

Gabriel Spitzer covers health and science at KPLU, after a year covering youth and education. He joined KPLU after years covering science, health and the environment at WBEZ in Chicago.