While Sawsan’s change in career trajectory has been an interesting outcome of the fellowship, it has also raised questions for me about whether journalism and activism can ever be comfortable bedfellows.
Such compartmentalising may be possible for freelancers like Sawsan – so long as they are transparent about their other roles and continue to approach their journalism with rigour and due impartiality – but the challenges of working in newsrooms are quite different as Lina Ejeilat of Jordanian news website 7iber explains in her article.
Finding national titles willing to accept stories that question the kafala system (See Box 2) and human rights abuses can be problematic, with some fellows choosing to publish some of their stories outside their country or even under pseudonyms.
The activist versus journalist dichotomy was one of the hottest topics of debate during the workshops that accompanied the fellowship programme, especially when we focused on “solutions” or “constructive” journalism.
While the constructive and solutions journalism movement has gained momentum in recent years many journalists remain uncomfortable with the concept.
The main hurdle for some of the fellows, and many others, about solutions journalism, is the misconception that advocating for more solutions journalism means that problems and negativity should be avoided, or not remain the vast majority of news reporting.
In her new book, You Are What You Read, researcher and campaigner Jodie Jackson writes that advocating for more solutions journalism should not be confused with calling for the eradication of what she terms “problems-focused journalism”.
She argues that “including solutions is not to be seen as a manipulation of the media to create a false impression of the world. In fact, it is quite the opposite. At the moment we are confronted on a daily basis with a pathological report of the world that is heavily geared to get our attention and to provoke a reaction through negative news reporting.
Solutions-focused journalism advocates are not suggesting the pendulum swing the other way […] Instead, we are advocating a better balance in the new narrative, in order to have a more accurate and complete understanding of the world and its affairs.”