Constructive Journalism: An Introduction and Practical Guide for Applying Positive Psychology Techniques to News Production


  • Karen McIntyre Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Cathrine Gyldensted DIS-Copenhagen (Danish Institute for Study Abroad)



constructive journalism, constructive news, positive psychology, positive news, solutions journalism


We propose to expand the boundaries of the news process by introducing, defining and subsequently coining the interdisciplinary concept of constructive journalism as an emerging form of journalism that involves applying positive psychology techniques to news processes and production in an effort to create productive and engaging coverage, while holding true to journalism’s core functions. First, we review the critical issues in journalism that highlight the need for this approach. Next, we coin constructive journalism and situate the concept in the field. Finally, we outline techniques by which constructive journalism can be practiced, including the psychological frameworks supporting these applications. Overall, this essay suggests a needed direction for journalism by means of constructive reporting which aims to positively impact journalism’s diminished reputation and weary news audiences.


Albeanu, C. (2014, August 15). How constructive journalism can offer a more positive approach to news. Retrieved from

Aust, C. F. (1985). Judgments of well-being after exposure to televised bad and good news. (Masters thesis). Retrieved from ERIC (ED322547)

Author. (2011). Innovating news journalism through positive psychology. (Capstone project). Retrieved from University of Pennsylvania ScholarlyCommons

Author (August, 2014). What makes “good” news newsworthy? Presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Montreal, Canada.

Author. (2014, October 24). How journalists could be more constructive – and boost audiences. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Author, & Bjerre, M. (2014). Haandbog i konstruktiv journalistik (Handbook of constructive journalism) (1st ed.). Aarhus: AJOUR.

Author, & Sobel, M. (August, 2014). Positive news websites and extroversion: Motives, preferences, and sharing behavior among American and British readers. Presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Montreal, Canada.

Author (May, 2015). Constructive journalism: The effects of solution information in news stories. To be presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Puerto Rico, U.S.

Author, & Gibson, R. (May, 2015). Positive News Makes Readers Feel Good: Using a 'Silver-Lining' Approach to Negative News Can Attract Audiences. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Bantz, C. (1997). News organizations: Conflict as a crafted cultural norm. In Berkowitz, D. (Ed.), Social meanings of news: A text reader (pp. 123-137). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Baumeister, R. F., Vohs, K. D., Dewall, C., & Zhang, L. (2007). How emotion shapes behavior: Feedback, anticipation, and reflection, rather than direct causation. Personality & Social Psychology Review, 11(2), 167-203. doi:10.1177/10888 68307301033

Bilton, R. (2014, September 22). Keep on the sunny side: Publishers are chasing good news. Digiday. Retrieved from

Bro, P. (2008). Normative navigation in the news media. Journalism, 9(3), 309-329.

Constructive. (2015a). In Merriam-Webster. Retrieved from

Constructive. (2015b). In the New Oxford American Dictionary. Retrieved from the Apple application.

Curry, A. L., & Hammonds, K. H. (2014). The power of solutions journalism. Solutions Journalism Network and Engaging News Project.

Dagan Wood, S. (2014, September 14). The positive future of journalism. Retrieved from

Edmonds, R., Guskin, E., Mitchell, A., & Jurkowitz, M. (2013). Newspapers: Stabilizing, but still threatened. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center Project for Excellence in Journalism. Retrieved from

Entman, R. (2005). The nature and sources of news. In Overholster, G., & Jamieson, K. H. (Eds.), Institutions of American Democracy: The Press (pp. 48-65). NY: Oxford University Press.

Eriksson, G., & Östman, J. (2013). Cooperative or Adversarial? Journalists’ Enactment of the Watchdog Function in Political News Production. International Journal Of Press/Politics, 18(3), 304-324. doi:10.1177/1940161213482493

Folkenflik, D. (2015, February 6). Huffington Post bets people will read good news – and share it, too. NPR. Retrieved from

Fredrickson, B. L. (1998). What good are positive emotions? Review of General Psychology, 2(3), 300-319. doi: 10.1037/1089-2680.2.3.300

Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56(3), 218-226. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.56.3.218

Fredrickson, B. L. (2013). Updated thinking on positivity ratios. American Psychologist, 68(9), 814-822.

Fredrickson, B. L., Mancuso, R. A., Branigan, C., & Tugade, M. M. (2000). The undoing effect of positive emotion. Motivation and Emotion, 24(4), 237-258. doi: 10.1023/A:1010796329158

Galician, M.-L., & Vestre, N. D. (1987). Effects of ‘good news’ and ‘bad news’ on newscast image and community image. Journalism Quarterly, 64(2), 399-525.

Galtung, J., & Ruge, M. (1965). The structure of foreign news. Journal of Peace Research, 2(1), 64-91.

Galtung, J., & Ruge, M. (1973). Structuring and selecting news. In Cohen, S., & Young, J. (Eds.), The Manufacture of News: Social Problems, Deviance, and the Mass Media. Constable: London, pp. 62–72.

Gerbner, G. (1998). Cultivation analysis: An overview. Mass Communication & Society, 1(3-4), 175-194).

Haagerup, U. (2014, November 20). Constructive news: The next mega-trend in journalism? [Part 1]. The Media Online. Retrieved from

Haas, T. (2009). Civic journalism. In Sterling, C. H. (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Journalism. (Vol. 1, pp. 303-306). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Hammonds, K. (2014, June 2). Lab test: Solutions journalism beats brand X. Solutions Journalism Network. Retrieved from

Harcup, T., & O’Neill, D. (2001). What is news? Galtung and Ruge revisited. Journalism Studies, 2(2), 261-280.

Huffington, A. (2015, February 6). What's working: All the news that's fit to print. Huffington Post. Retrieved from

Jones, S. (2011). “BBC Trust Review of Impartiality and Accuracy of the BBC’s Coverage of Science.” London: BBC Trust.

Kinnick, K. N., Krugman, D. M., & Cameron, G. T. (1996). Compassion fatigue: Communication and burnout toward social problems. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 73, 687-707.

Kleinnijenhuis, A., van Hoof, M. J., & Oegema, D. (2006). Negative news and the sleeper effect of distrust. Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics, 11(2), 86-104. doi:10.1177/1081180X062865417

Knobloch-Westerwick, S., Dillman Carpentier, F., Blumhoff, A., & Nickel, N. (2005). Selective exposure effects for positive and negative news: Testing the robustness of the informational utility model. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 82(1), 181-195.

Lasswell, H. D. (1948). The structure and function of communication in society. In Bryson, L. (Ed.), The Communication of Ideas. NY: Harper and Brothers.

Lauterer, J. (2006). Community journalism: Relentlessly local (3rd ed.). North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press.

Maymann, J. (2013, November). Non-traditional forms of storytelling and their impact on the industry. Session presented at the annual News Xchange conference, Marrakesh, Morocco.

Netzley, S. B. & Hemmer, M. (2012). Citizen journalism just as credible as stories by pros, students say. Newspaper Research Journal, 33, 49-61.

Niven, D. (2005). An economic theory of political journalism. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 82(2), 247-263.

Noack, M., Orth, J., Own, B., & Rennick, S. (2013). A transformational journey: Adopting solutions journalism at Utah’s Deseret News. Solutions Journalism Network. Retrieved from

Patterson, T. E. (2000). Doing well and doing good: How soft news and critical journalism are shrinking the news audience and weakening democracy – and what news outlets can do about it (Faculty Research Working Paper Series). Cambridge, MA: John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

Pilane, P. (2014, September 4). South Africa: Can reporters find a way to make SA’s news more constructive? All Africa. Retrieved from

Potter, D. (2000). The shrinking local news audience. American Journalism Review, 22(10), 64.

Potter, D., & Gantz, W. (2000) Bringing viewers back to local TV. NewsLab. Retrieved from

Rosen, J. (1999). What are journalists for? Binghamton, NY: Vail-Ballou Press.

Schudson, M. (2011). The sociology of news (2nd ed.). New York, NY: W.W. Norton.

Seligman, M. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. Free Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.: New York, NY.

Seligman, M. (2013, February 17). Ideas at the House: Martin Seligman on well-being & happiness. Retrieved from

Seligman, M. E. P., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, 55(1), 5-14.

Seligman, M. E. P., & Fowler, R. D. (2011). Comprehensive Soldier Fitness and the Future of Psychology. American Psychologist, 66(1), 82.

Shoemaker, P. J. (1996). Hardwired for News: Using Biological and Cultural Evolution to Explain the Surveillance Function. Journal of Communication, 46(3), 32-47.

Shoemaker, P., Danielian, L., & Brendlinger, N. (1991). Deviant acts, risky business, and U.S. interests: The newsworthiness of world events. Journalism Quarterly, 68(4), 781-795.

Shoemaker, P. J., & Reese, S. D. (2013). Mediating the message in the 21st century: A media sociology perspective. New York, NY: Routledge.

Sillesen, L. B. (2014, September 29). Good news is good business, but not a cure-all for journalism. Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved from

Solutions Journalism Network (n.d.). “About us.” Retrieved from

SPJ Code of Ethics. (n.d.). Retrieved February 12, 2015 from

Tenore, M. J. (2014, September 2). How constructive journalism can improve the way media makers tell stories. Images & Voices of Hope (IVOH). Retrieved from

Terry, T. C. (2011). Community journalism provides model for future. Newspaper Research Journal, 32, 71-83.

Tomm, K. (1988). Interventive interviewing: Part III. Intending to ask lineal, circular, strategic, or reflexive questions? Family Process, 27, 1-15.

Trussler, M., & Soroka, S. (June, 2013). Consumer demand for cynical and negative news frames. Presented at the annual meeting of the Political Science Association, Victoria, British Columbia.Tullis, Ashleigh. 2014. “Constructive Journalism: Emerging Mega-Trend or a Recipe for Complacency?” World News Publishing Focus, November 18.

Veitch, R., & Griffitt, W. (1976). Good news-bad news: Affective and interpersonal effects. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 6(1), 69-75.

Wallberg, M. (2014). New Washington Post newsletter delivers optimism to readers’ inboxes. Images & Voices of Hope. Retrived from

Yarow, J. (2013, Dec. 6). The world’s most controversial viral site posted a great defense of itself. Business Insider. Retrieved from