Engaging Audiences With Local News: Can Solutions Journalism Be a Solution to Local Media Crisis?
This article explores whether the increasingly touted power of solutions-oriented news serves as a potential measure for local media to attract and engage audiences. We take one local outlet in a London district (Chiswick) as a case study and investigate the audience’s evaluation of and engagement with two local solutions news stories during the pandemic to explore whether or not this type of journalism helps local media overcome the problem of disengagement with audiences. The findings, from in-depth interviews with 21 local news users, indicate that audiences judge local news based on their community experience and prior knowledge of local news outlets. In doing so, they may express a degree of skepticism about the positive tone of the solutions-oriented news in question. Their concerns can be explained in light of audience expectations of what Silverstone calls the “proper distance” between local journalists and their sponsors and sources. The general demand is that local news should stress its monitorial role, not a promotional one, even in small community contexts.