Joy Kibarabara Photo: Private Joy Kibarabara Photo: Private

The Discourse and Practice of Constructive Journalism

The question as to what constitutes journalism, and for that matter ‘good’ or ‘quality’ journalism continues to be the focus of much journalism scholarship today. Central to this discourse is the need to preserve journalism’s normative role of nourishing democracy. This role is said to be weakening owing to tensions precipitated by radical technological and economic factors, low levels of public trust and the rise of fake news. This current state of flux has prompted academics and practitioners alike to rethink how the field of journalism should position itself at a time when its legitimacy is being questioned. One idea that is gaining traction is constructive journalism. Envisioned as ‘quality’ journalism, constructive journalism is said to possess a self-corrective ethos needed to counter the negativity bias of the media. It does so by offering compelling, in- depth and solutions-oriented news reports. But while it has been hailed as a transformative idea by its proponents, questions abound regarding its rationale as well as its feasibility and achievability in practice. This, granted past similar journalism reform movements such as civic journalism that gain popularity for a season, only to fade away. Moreover, how would constructive journalism reshape journalism practice in the context where it has been introduced. The present study seeks to interrogate these and related questions from the perspective of Kenya’s journalism practice. More specifically, the study will employ multimodal critical discourse analysis of three purposively sampled cases (terrorism, environmental conflict and labor protests) as covered by Kenya’s leading newspapers to examine the extent to which the coverage relates to constructive journalism ideals. This analysis will focus on both text and visual aspects of the selected news articles. In-depth interviews of Kenyan journalists will provide more insight regarding their perceptions of constructive journalism and if, and how, it could impact their daily practice. The interviews will also reveal the broad range of issues shaping Kenya’s journalism practice. An empirical inquiry of constructive journalism is therefore important in current journalism discourse for a number of reasons. For starters, it will shed more light on the potentialities of reform journalism movements to respond to journalism’s crisis. An empirical focus will also test the applicability of constructive journalism ideals in highly emotive news events such as the ones under study. Lastly, the present study will also confront theoretical and conceptual questions facing constructive journalism with the goal of distinguishing it from similar forms of journalism, as well as to develop an empirically derived analytical framework that could be applied in future research.

Key Words: constructive journalism, quality/reform journalism, multimodal critical discourse analysis

Please mail us for further queries about the JMK Higher Seminar. 

More upcoming events

All upcoming events at the Department of Media Studies
All upcoming events at the JMK