Solutions journalism

10. SoJo radio /

There are still too few opportunities for solutions journalism on the airwaves. It has yet to be invented. And it is in Africa that new narratives are beginning to be explored.

Radio is the fastest, most direct and, in many countries, the most developed media. But it is not the preferred channel for solution journalism enthusiasts. There are relatively few examples of programmes devoted to solutions journalism and very few features. In fact, when solutions are put forward by journalists or radio presenters, it is very often within the framework of a special broadcast on the environment, health, science, or the economy. This is the case with the science programme “La Terre au Carré” on France Inter and the ecology weekly “C’est Pas du Vent” on RFI. The solutions aspect is not systematic but it is recurrent.

On French radio stations, however, two personalities are asserting themselves as the defenders of this constructive journalism. Philippe Bertrand and Patrick Longchampt.  Both prefer an interview format.

Finally, it is probably in the DRC that we find the most innovative programmes with mini-dramas as a bonus.

The advantages of SoJo on radio  

The reactivity of the listeners. On France Inter, every day in “Carnet de Campagne”, Philippe Bertrand asks listeners region by region to identify local initiatives: the associative, cultural, cooperative network and all that relates to the alternative economy… Listeners write in to describe their activities.

On the Christian radio station RCF, Melchior Gormand splits his two-hour “Je Pense Donc J’Agis” morning show in half. The first hour is spent going into a subject, often in the news, in more depth with experts. In the second hour, the programme gets into the action, calling on actors in the field and listener testimonies.

The local link. Radio, even national, finds local solutions. Summarised by Philippe Bertrand: “If we had national solutions from the top, we would know about it. It’s not decrees and laws that make the good life. It’s the whole army of invisibles creating new lifestyles, alternatives, options for the future, and who are have a hard time conveying them upwards”. In terms of solutions, radio can become a bottom-up media.

This is also the philosophy applied by Patrick Longchampt in his show. On Sun, a local radio station in Nantes. In “Sun Est Que Le Debut”, the journalist interviews those he calls “actors of change” who want to change the world by applying the 15 sustainable development objectives, from start-ups to associations, and including large companies.

The time to listen. The advantage of radio is time. In “L’Eco Des Solutions” on RCF Patrick Longchampt has one hour of air time to get to the bottom of issues with his guests: “they can more easily develop their arguments. We aren’t polluted by images. In fact, when TV channels want to develop solution programmes, they create a podcast.” This is the case with the news channel LCI whose solutions journalist Sylvia Amicone has launched “Impact Positif”, a podcast where she can devote around forty minutes to her guests…

Congolese radio SoJo on Kandindi

Lack of rubbish and waste water sanitation, human rights violations, robberies, kidnappings, rapes, deforestation by charcoal production, irritating administrative red tape, arbitrary arrests … the menu for Kandini’s first “Agir Ensemble” broadcasts retransmitted in different radio stations in the RDC resembles a catalogue of all the evils that afflict Africa. Except that this litany of problems is not at all depressing to listen to. Quite the contrary.

Admittedly, there are some edifying reports on the dramatic conditions people are living in. But they are counterbalanced by other topics on initiatives. And expert analysis providing the thread. Kandindi’s other touch is that these programmes are introduced by an extract from another programme “Mbongwanan”, which picks up the problem theme in the form of sketches. Then programmes in French are translated into national languages in local radio stations. And they are accompanied by “feedback” with interventions from listeners.

It’s funny, profound, interactive: it’s the best of radio SoJo. The concept is supported by Patrick Busquet from the Information Pour Le Monde Suivant network (see episode 15) and funded by Swedish and American cooperation. And it is very inspiring…

Something to think about before programming

  • What is the best format for your station? Are there any programmes into which SoJo items could be slotted?
  • What can you ask your audience for? Ideas? A bank of initiatives? Eyewitness accounts?
  • Small exercise: go straight to episode 13, identify the tensions that undermine your country and imagine a constructive debate programme with the questions you never ask…

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