“Perspektiven has generated the largest feedback from the audience that the channel has ever received. Listeners were relieved to be getting something different in their news mix.”
Adrian Feuerbacher, NDR
NDR offers “perspectives”, or solutions stories, within its daily radio news casts. The format has now also been developed into a podcast series.
How They Did It
Radio newscasts represent a tight timeline for editors and reporters but former Editor in Chief of NDR Info, Claudia Spiewak, had the idea that the goal of their news output should be “to show the whole picture.” “We continue to show grievances, but that is only a part of reality. There is also progress and success, people who do not resign, but tackle challenges.” She wanted to give airtime to these stories and gave her news department the target of implementing stories into their mix of daily news.
Though intrigued by the constructive journalism approach, Spiewak left the implementation of her idea up to her editorial staff, setting up open discussions to consider which strategy would work best in their newsroom.
Reporters strive to show ‘the whole picture’ covering progress and solutions
This program features ‘StoP,’ a Hamburg project against violence in partnership. The main focus is on what neighbors can do about domestic violence.
Format of Perspektiven
Adrian Feuerbacher, current Editor in Chief of NDR Info radio, was already working at the news department when the challenge was set for the news teams. It created some of the most controversial discussions about news content he had encountered in the department during his 21 year career at NDR. The newsroom was sharply divided between those incredibly enthusiastic about the idea and those that were extremely resistant.
The department ultimately decided on a branded segment called “Perspektiven” – floating content within the hourly news bulletins during the day. The “Perspektiven” are now part of the news mix, but they are not tied to a specific day or specific broadcast time. The argument and hope is that a wider audience can be reached in this manner.
In general, reporter stories on NDR Info last around 3.5 minutes, but the “Perspektiven” tend to last longer – occasionally up to 8 minutes. This extra time allows reporters to outline the problems more intensively and discuss ideas of possible solutions relating to the stories they are covering.
Constructive news is now incorporated into the mainstream news workflow
Initially the department set up a dedicated team to cover the constructive news stories: an editor supported by up to three freelancers conducting research for the stories. They concentrated their work on finding constructive news stories, with their efforts leading to reliable, interesting and varied constructive content. This set up also meant, however, that it was fairly easy for other colleagues in the newsroom to ignore constructive news because they knew it was already taken care of.
Constructive news has now been incorporated into the general overall workflow in the newsroom. Adrian Feuerbacher believes that “when constructive journalism is put into the newsroom routine, everyone is in charge of fulfilling it.” A small group of three to four reporters has been tasked with a few shifts during their week to research constructive stories.
The White Dots
There is still some resistance; around 20% of reporters are reluctant to work on stories that fulfil the criteria of the “Perspectives”. However, most staff at NDR Info now believe that constructive journalism simply covers all angles of a good news story, which is looked upon from different perspectives.
Adrian Feuerbacher was a convert from the start. He argues that “constructive journalism broadens the picture. Journalists should ask themselves whether the entire picture is black, or whether there are some white dots we should cover?”
1. Involve everyone. Special teams help kick start constructive journalism output but ultimately the whole newsroom needs to be involved not a dedicated section.
2. Audience support. Solutions stories are popular with radio audiences.
3. Longer segments. Constructive journalism in a newscast may need longer segments than straight news.