Journalists are excellent smoke detectors: We sound the alarm when there’s a fire. We analyze how the fire started and who is responsible.
When we say it would be good to use a fire extinguisher or a fire blanket or call the fire department, we call it constructive journalism.
But we don’t jump forward to pull a child from the flames or coordinate an operation. What is humanly imperative is deemed unethical in journalism.
Yet, journalists are in the perfect position to initiate social transformation processes, accompany them critically, and moderate sustainable solutions:
We talk to farmers, fishers, activists, politicians, architects, doctors, indigenous people, social workers, scientists, and the guy at the bar. Many protagonists have ideas for partial solutions to significant social challenges. But they don’t meet because they move in different social, professional, political, or geographical circles, often don’t speak the same language, or are not seen as experts.
We connect ideas and protagonists virtually when we write stories or edit films. What happens when we bring them together in real life and moderate solutions?
Transition Journalism combines well-researched quality science journalism with transition, transformation, social and eco-social design, participatory arts and mediation, facilitation, and coaching techniques. It connects people and their ideas to develop sustainable solutions to complex problems, linking existing knowledge and generating new knowledge.
In this way, Transition Journalism strengthens social participation and enables freelance journalists and media to work on issues for longer, regain lost trust, and develop new business opportunities.
Most journalism today follows a linear production model:
research –> story –> research –> story –> research…
Constructive journalism adds an important question to the assembly line:
research –> story –> what now? –> research –> story…
There are several problems with this dominant production model; as we jump from topic to topic, valuable knowledge is lost, stories often do not reflect the complexity of our world, and we miss the chance to advance the political and societal discourse in a meaningful and constructive way.
We also constantly need to produce new stories to feed this system. Journalists are paid per word, minute, image, or their time. Not for the value we provide. While media companies profit from packaging, bundling, and distributing our stories, journalists remain poorly paid suppliers of raw materials.
Transition Journalism establishes a cycle of research, publication, solutions, new realities, and questions and builds a new business model that generates knowledge and market expertise. It looks something like this:
We would still do our research and publish our stories over a wide variety of media channels. But we wouldn’t stop there. Instead, we would connect experts, protagonists, and stakeholders we have met during our research for various stories, invite them to join a community of practice, and moderate a solution-focused dialogue. Connecting these diverse stakeholders, their expertise, and ideas creates new knowledge from which new realities and stories can emerge. This process promises to instigate real, tangible change, advancing our societal narrative from despair to hope.
Transition Journalism requires and enables journalists to work on stories for longer and spend more time on the ground, leading to deep, complex, layered reporting and more significant, higher-value stories. These command higher publication fees, can be relicensed multiple times across various media, and open up critical income streams such as grants, lectures, books, and exhibitions.
Furthermore, projects that develop sustainable solutions can apply for social, environmental, and technical innovation funding, start-up, EU, or academic research funding and attract patrons, foundations, or investors. These projects are also ideally positioned to engage the community with membership models to bring in additional ideas and funding. Based on the new knowledge generated, Transition Journalists can earn coaching, consulting, and speaking fees multiple times higher than the usual day rates in journalism. Finally, they might also benefit from products or start-ups developed within the project.