The program aims to develop a framework of solutions journalism to help society multiply success stories, and recover faster from the economic, psychological, and personal crises caused by the pandemic.
In an era where journalism relies on breaking news, re-publishing press releases, or drive-by attempts that do little to illuminate the audience, complex issues such as rural economy and rural development are yet poorly covered in mainstream media. Even though 21st century Romania is still almost 50% rural stories about agriculture are scarce and appear to emerge only in times of deep crisis, such as the African Swine Flu; and even then, they are superficial.
RAF funds a theory of change that includes solutions-oriented journalism: in-depth documented storytelling, bringing relevant actors to the table to discuss topics covered, creating the right contexts to encourage and generate new connections, and solutions.
Starting with 2019 Media DoR Association (DoR) received a grant from the RAF to pilot and develop solutions-oriented journalism.
The new Journalism for Reconstruction and Resilience II program expands solution journalism to three of RAF’s areas of interest: rural development, education, and civic engagement. DoR will bring in the spotlight captivating people, places, organizations and stories, with a particular emphasis on existing or potential solutions, which have the power to generate relevant transformations in the community, not only by sharing them, but also by the dialogue it can generate among various communities.
In a first stage (pilot 2019-2021), the chosen thematic area was rural development. The DoR gathered and told stories about rural entrepreneurs, generated in partnership with the community, focusing on evaluating change initiatives.
A team of dedicated reporters, editors and photojournalists made reports about these communities and their stories, which were published on the decatorevista.ro platform, under the heading La noi. Journalists also work with other media outlets to share their stories and disseminate them in as many publications as possible, thus multiplying their impact.
This approach was designed to give communities (geographical or of interest) the opportunity to exchange experiences, gather and discuss (online and offline), to build a set of case studiesrelevant to funders and decision-makers interested in rural development, and to draw up a roadmap for stakeholders who can bring about change on a smaller or larger scale.
The project team also worked with facilitators – especially those with good knowledge of local communities – to create an appropriate structure for dialogue and / or listening.
Since March 2020, when the pandemic hit Romania, the DoR and the RAF have realized that this is a long-term reality and have identified the need to expand solution-based journalism – hitherto focused on rural development – to another five to seven additional areas essential for the resilience and reconstruction of post-pandemic Romania.
In the pilot phase, the Journalism for Reconstruction and Resilience program generated:
- 56 photo reports on the economy and social life in rural areas, published in the La noi section of the DoR platform.
- Online and offline meetings with community members (both DoR readers and other stakeholders) – from film screenings to food hub debates and short supply chains during the pandemic.
- A live storytelling event (with an audience of about 500 people).
- A dedicated newsletter (which was produced for seven months, until the onset of the emergency caused by the pandemic).
- Three magazines (fanzines) delivered to the communities where they were generated.
- Continuous presence on social media.
- Other DoR newsletters (weekly DoR community newsletter; bi-monthly newsletter one: one; Pandemic Journal – daily, March-May 2020; Concentrate – daily from June 2020).
Currently, the Journalism for Reconstruction and Resilience program continues to pursue the objectives of the previous stages, using the experience gained by the DoR team (before and especially during the pandemic), and the feedback received that validated their journalistic approach. The DoR journalists start from the premise that the public knows what is not working and wants to find available potential solutions, as well as possible good or bad parts of the different angles of approach. Moreover, the audience wants to be involved – either at the beginning of a story or in the conversations at the end. And journalists, in turn, feel their work weighs more if they manage to respond to real needs, and to questions from the public or a certain community.
Therefore, DoR continues to create solutions-oriented journalism to:
- increase the level of understanding on various topics in the three proposed areas, such as what living, working and trying to create a viable business today’s rural Romania entail, or what the change from the bottom up would look like for the educational system.
- promote the personal stories of those involved in changing the three fields, from farmers and teachers to organizations working with them or to local authorities.
- contribute to a better understanding and evaluation of the solutions used in different public or private programs in the three areas of interest, with emphasis on impact and lessons learned, such as how education has been influenced by various public or private efforts, the evolution of the Food Hubs in Romania, or the change generated in the community in the over 10 years of existence of the community foundations throughout the country.
- Place on the public agenda issues that are barely or not at all addressed and solutions that have not been discussed and expose decision makers and the general public to good practices, as well as to the provocative aspects or even failures of certain programs, in order to calibrate the public policies so they become efficient and impactful.
In the period 2022-2023, the DoR team:
- Will publish monthly stories from the three areas of interest, integrating them into the DoR newsletters and constantly creating content for social media around those stories.
- Will perform monthly community-oriented journalism acts, meaning public involvement in the journalism act through various methods (moderating live or online meetings and events; focus group talks, webinars, etc.), to identify and tell stories, bring together actors with relevant experiences and expertise, continue the discussion after the stories are published, and highlight lessons learned and solutions identified.
- Will increase the expertise among the team of internal journalists, so that they become content experts in a certain domain, but also take on roles adapted to the requirements of new forms of journalism, much more complex in relation to readers, such as moderating journalists of some discussions.
- Will disseminate stories on other platforms and in other publications where they may be relevant to other audiences (including regional and / or international – such as, for example, promoting Romanian models in Central and Eastern European countries).
- Will constantly use and refine its journalistic impact measurement framework, assessing the extent to which the stories told have produced (or still produce) change.