November 18, 2016

Beginning Saturday, the BBC World Service is trying something new. Or, at least, newer.

A new weekly radio and digital program, “World Hacks,” will look at the problems facing the world along with the people who are trying to fix them.

“It’s really a program that focuses for once not just on the bad news, the problems, the challenges that of course we know the world faces and of course we report on regularly,” said Mary Hockaday, controller of BBC’s World Service English.

Instead, “World Hacks” focuses on those problems and their solutions. The BBC tried solutions journalism before with a six-part series, but this is its first regular solutions journalism program. Early subjects will include delivering aid and training police.

The launch of the show was driven by demand from the BBC’s audience. Specifically, its younger, global audience told the BBC that news was often difficult to take in. They wanted to hear good things, understand positive change and learn from people who are making a difference. They want news that empowers them, Hockaday said, not just news that depresses them.

Many areas of coverage do this naturally, she said — science, health and technology stories often feature innovation and change. At the BBC, they wondered, how could this apply more generally to society?

From NewsU: Solutions Journalism in Every Newsroom

Solutions journalism is becoming more popular in countries including Holland, Denmark and the U.S., according to a story by Emily Kasriel, head of editorial partnerships for BBC World Service Group. The approach has also lent itself to investigative projects.

Like other practitioners of solutions journalism, Hockaday is clear about what the practice is and what it isn’t.

“It isn’t just sort of fluffy good news reporting,” she said. “It’s not lazy reporting. It’s not buying into any one view of how to improve things for people. It’s challenging, and it’s rigorous and it’s multi-sourced.”

Some solutions journalism is local and specific to certain communities, Hockaday said. But since the BBC is a global network, the program wants to explore big issues and offer a platform for their audiences to connect. The main segment of the program will examine those issues as well as allowing audience members to share their more personal problems and solutions.

A man in Uganda, for instance, can’t sleep because of the noise from all the traffic. The best advice, Hockaday said, came from someone in a big city in India. “World Hacks” will use its digital platform to crowdsource those more personal solutions, but “we probably won’t be trying to fix people’s love lives,” she said. “You never know.”

Solutions journalism allows journalists to bring the audience along for reporting process and builds openness and transparency, Hockaday said, an important confidence-builder in an age of public distrust of the media.

When you combine that with the power of digital and social media, she said, “it’s possible to create a global open space in a way that wasn’t possible a couple of decades ago.”

One thing Hockaday has learned is that innovation doesn’t come from one place, but many: individuals, governments, businesses, tech, non-governmental organizations and communities.

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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