Research shows journalistic support for Restorative Narrative

A study conducted by three professors from around the country has found that journalists are telling stories within the Restorative Narrative framework and have favorable attitudes toward the genre.

The study used data from a sample of more than 1,300 daily newspaper journalists in the U.S. and explored their familiarity with and attitude toward Restorative Narrative, solutions journalism, and constructive journalism.

University of Oregon professor Nicole Dahmen — who received a grant last year to study Restorative Narrative and has been working closely with ivoh ever since — conducted the research in partnership with Virginia Commonwealth University’s Karen McIntyre and the University of Oregon’s Jesse Abdenour.

Dahmen said that while there’s been a recent increase in reporting that goes beyond breaking news, there’s been little academic research on Restorative Narrative, solutions journalism, and constructive journalism and what these “emerging contextual genres” mean for the field of media.

“Our survey results indicated that journalists highly value professional roles associated with contextual reporting (such as being socially responsible) and that they were largely supportive of reporting beyond breaking news,” Dahmen said. “And while they weren’t overly familiar with the terms constructive journalism, solutions journalism, and Restorative Narrative, they expressed positive attitudes toward these genres and experience with the genres after being presented definitions.”

Findings from the research suggest that the work ivoh’s done to develop the Restorative Narrative genre has had a meaningful impact on journalists nationwide. ivoh coined the term “Restorative Narrative” in 2013 to describe a genre of stories that show how people and communities are making a meaningful progression from a place of despair to a place of resilience.

Here are some of the key findings, which were published in greater detail in “The contextualist function: US newspaper journalists value social responsibility” this week.

—>”The journalists in this study indicated that positive news stories can be just as newsworthy as negative stories, and are not merely ‘fluff.’”

—>”Journalists reported having used Restorative Narrative the most, followed by solutions journalism and constructive journalism. When respondents were asked whether they would consider using these techniques after having learned more about them in this survey, the means were higher in every condition. Respondents indicated they were most likely to implement solutions journalism, followed by Restorative Narrative, and constructive journalism. Taken together, these results suggest that some journalists are not familiar with these contextual reporting forms and some discrepancies might exist on the definitions of these terms, but that overall journalists intended to use these genres after learning about them.”

—>”Participants had favorable attitudes toward all three, with the most favorable attitudes toward Restorative Narrative, followed by solutions journalism, and constructive journalism.”

These favorable attitudes are important to ivoh and the work we’re doing around Restorative Narrative. For nearly four years we have been developing the Restorative Narrative genre and building a community of support around it. We don’t pretend to have all the answers about this genre; our work is iterative, and we are constantly learning more about how to best support media practitioners who want to pursue this type of storytelling.

We explore the genre in great depth every year at our annual media summit and with the media practitioners who take part in our Restorative Narrative Fellowship program. Our fellows say that, having gone through the program, they now approach stories with the restorative framework in mind. Instead of telling stories that focus primarily on doom and gloom, they actively look for stories that offer up signs of hope, resilience, and restoration. This openness to Restorative Narratives, they say, has changed the way they tell stories.

“Through ivoh I’ve been able to reframe the way I tell stories about communities that have experienced trauma,” 2016 ivoh fellow Heidi Shin recently told us. “I’ve also gained a valuable community of like minded journalists and storytellers, who are committed to telling these types of stories.”

In 2017, we intend to continue supporting media practitioners who want to embrace and learn more about the Restorative Narrative genre. We are about to launch the third iteration of our fellowship and hope to also develop more learning and educational tools for media practitioners and professors. We believe our work in this area is critical — for both media practitioners and consumers.

Better media coverage starts with individual media practitioners who are willing to take a more holistic approach to storytelling. At their best, Restorative Narratives move beyond daily headlines that leave people feeling helpless and hopeless. Instead, they offer up narratives that show how people and communities are finding meaningful pathways forward in the aftermath of difficult times. Now more than ever, it seems, the world needs stories like this.

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