Let’s have even more solutions journalism in Croydon


By - Friday 12th January, 2018

The borough needs more journalism that brings change rather than just reporting it


Let’s get to work fixing Croydon.
Photo by stvcr, used under Creative Commons licence.

Croydonians don’t value news journalism

Everyday, so much happens here in the largest town in Europe. And it’s tempting to believe that there is value in journalists covering it in the news. But as I’ve explained time and time again: nobody really cares about local news. Readers will tweet their favourite journalist a message of support, they’ll even share an article or two online, but will they actually deign to part with their money for it? Nope, nope, nope.

Which is why I am such a big fan of solutions journalism – as opposed to news journalism – and want to see more of it in Croydon.

What is “solutions journalism”?

Solutions journalism is the reporting of instructive, actionable responses to social problems. Solutions stories can take many forms, but they share several key characteristics:

They identify the root causes of a social problem; propose a practical, workable response to the problem that can be actioned immediately by readers; presents evidence of the impact of that response; and explains how and why the response is working, or not working. Ideally, the proponent of the solution should also be a part of actioning it themselves.

This differs from news coverage which is simple ‘this happened yesterday’ reportage, and it also differs from views coverage which is often ‘this happened yesterday…and now I’m going to moan about it across 450 words but not actually do anything to materially change it’.

Solutions journalism in Croydon

While I’m not a member of its editorial team, I’m a huge lover of and contributor to the Croydon Citizen. A big reason why is that since its inception, the Citizen has led the charge on solutions journalism in Croydon. Indeed, it’s raison d’etre has always been to move beyond the feckless documenting and bemoaning of Croydon’s problems to actively mobilising and empowering citizens to take charge of this town and change it specifically, publicly and measurably for the better.

It’s had myriad successes in this time: here you can find Andrew Dickinson publish his own Old Town Masterplan, Charles Barber used it to launch his litter cleaning task force, Anna Arthur single-handedly delivered Croydon’s annual multisite alternative theatre festival, Pancho Lewis outlined – and then built – his tech idea to house Croydon’s homeless, Ally McKinlay created a haven to save our bees. Every day, locals use the Croydon Citizen to announce, evaluate and deliver solutions to Croydon’s most pressing social, economic and cultural problems.

And that’s before we consider how it’s the site-of-record for the economic movement that made post-riot Croydon “the UK’s fastest-growing economy”!

We need more solutions, we need more action-takers

Recently, the Croydon Citizen held a roundtable to discuss ‘What does Croydon need in 2018?’. As the paper’s editor-in-chief concluded, there is still work to be done.

Yet for that work to get done cannot mean sitting around waiting for politicians to fix it or some other agency to clean up the mess: it requires us all to take action.

So my challenge to you, reader, is if you’re reading this now to ask yourself, “What solution do I have to Croydon’s most pressing problems?”, and once you decide write it down here in the Croydon Citizen – and then lead by example and carry it out.

News and views are lovely. Solutions and action is even better.

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose is a committed Christian who has lived in the Croydon area for nearly twenty years. He is an active participant in his local community, serving at Grace Vineyard Church and organising Purley Breakfast Club, and was ranked "Croydon's 37th most powerful person" by the Croydon Advertiser (much to his amusement). He is the Head of Content at marketing technology company Idio, the founder of the Croydon Tech City movement, a LinkedIn coach, and creator of Croydon's first fashion label, Croydon Vs The World. Working on Instagram training. Views are his own, but it would be best for all concerned if you shared them. Please send your fanmail to: jonnyrose1 (at) gmail (dot) com

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  • http://smeneeds.co.uk Nigel Davey

    So, Jonny, where would you start?

    • http://idioplatform.com/ Jonny Rose

      :) – I’ve already started (Croydon Tech City), if anything it’s more a question for *you*.

      There are lots of problems and imperfections in Croydon, so it’s up to individuals to:

      a) identify a problem that they are particularly sensitive to,
      and b) feel they are able to articulate (and carry out) a solution to!

      • http://smeneeds.co.uk Nigel Davey

        Thanks Jonny. There are lots of things that I’d love to see improved about Croydon and can suggest a solution. The question about being able to carry out a solution is a different one.
        My wife would love to see a resolution to the rush hour traffic through Shirley and I believe a review of the traffic light timings (as well as a big encouragement to get people onto buses) would help, but I have little ability to initiate change. I will however, have a think

        • http://idioplatform.com/ Jonny Rose

          Your article in The Croydon Citizen today is a helpful addition to this thinking: I love the idea of making goals and tasks to change S.M.A.R.T! :)

          • http://smeneeds.co.uk Nigel Davey

            thanks Jonny

  • Steve Thompson

    Fair enough, but journalism should also challenge. Challenge why (e.g.) Croydon Council seems to favour Boxpark over other local businesses, challenge why flytipping is not dealt with promptly, challenge why local people’s views are not taken into account in the many ‘consultations’ etc… Then suggest solutions.

    Otherwise we will end up with a situation like the BBC’s coverage of sport and entertainment, where nothing is challenged.

    • http://idioplatform.com/ Jonny Rose

      I don’t disagree – but challenging *views*/journalism rarely changes anything and too many people stop there; thinking that if they write about a problem and how it makes them feel (especially a political problem) that it will suddenly get rectified or they have somehow “spoken truth to power”.

      It needs solutions and people carrying the solution out, rather than just a “here’s a problem – isn’t it bad. /End article”.

      Also, I think the idea of journalism even challenging structures is a myth. I go into my thinking a bit more here: https://thecroydoncitizen.com/politics-society/rip-croydon-advertiser-cant-say-surprised/

      • lizsheppardjourno

        I don’t disagree either, up to a point. But many of Croydon’s more serious problems are systemic. Individuals can’t act on them – structural change is needed.

        You give great specific examples of action, but there are also many circular discussions. Well-meaning people go round and round the same issues, discovering for themselves each time that the levers of power are not in their hands.

    • http://idioplatform.com/ Jonny Rose

      This is the bit of the article that might explain how I think about journalism (in a Croydon context) – hope it explains my thinking a bit better!! :)

      –>

      “Many journalists go into their trade thinking that they are valuable truth-tellers and saviours, and will often make the case that they’re a ‘public good’ that needs to be preserved.

      Their benefit to society is supposed to be their function as a watchdog on both the public and private sectors – disciplining waste, fraud and abuse – and as a source of information for the public about important issues of public policy.

      The problem is:

      – Croydon journalism does not ‘comfort the afflicted’

      – Croydon journalism does not discipline public and private sectors

      – Croydon journalism is consumed but not acted upon”