Urban Journalism Institute

Urban Journalism

Positive news for fighting ignorance

In an era defined by relentless media consumption, where negativity often saturates headlines and discerning truth from misinformation presents a daunting task, some media outlets spotlight stories of positivity and solutions-oriented approaches. These efforts reshape the dominant narrative and play a pivotal role in rebuilding trust and fostering informed citizenship. 

Positive news and factual evidence profoundly impact the fight against ignorance and indifference. Urban journalism is uniquely positioned to inform communities about the positive impacts of urban changes and initiatives while investigating unaddressed local issues. 

The 2023 Pulitzer Prizes for Journalism underscored the importance of local reporting, with five out of fifteen winners focusing on local angles. Among them, AL.com’s exploration of how Alabama’s Confederate heritage perpetuates racism and exclusion through tours of historical sites and The Miami Herald’s expose on the failure of Florida officials to deliver promised amenities to residents over decades stand out.

Initiatives such as the Solutions Journalism Network reinforce the need for a solutions-focused approach in journalism. Their focus on how individuals address problems and the lessons learned from their efforts is more critical than ever in today’s media landscape. 

Hannah Ritchie, a Scottish data scientist and environmentalist born in the 1990s and named Scotland’s Youth Climate Champion, released her first book, Not the End of the World: How We Can Be the First Generation to Build a Sustainable Planet, at the beginning of 2024. Ritchie, a guest on Bill Gates’s latest podcast series, “Unconfuse Me with Bill Gates,” on 1 February 2024, had her book recommended by Gates for the 2023 Christmas holidays.

As a deputy editor of the online platform Our World in Data and a researcher at the University of Oxford, Ritchie considers herself a science communicator. She also runs her blog, Sustainability by Numbers. She argues that zooming out and examining the data reveals significant progress, putting us on track to achieve true sustainability for the first time in history. Ritchie envisions that “Ours could be the first generation that leaves the environment in a better state than we found it.”

Her approach is so fresh that it opens a hopeful scenario for changing narratives, not for showing “fake progress” but for avoiding the permanent discourse of “problem, problem, problem” to “problem, solution, solution.” She proposes to talk about sustainability as an opportunity, “not a sacrifice,” since most people would not get on board with “stripping” their lives back to have the lightest footprint possible. “We need a vision that we can get excited about,” Ritchie insists. 



The narrative about sustainability is key because it is as if the majority equate it with a healthy environment. Still, there is a second component for her: “decent living standards.” In Gates’ words, “[…] if we don’t zoom out and look at the larger picture, we don’t just miss out on learning that progress has been made. We miss out on learning how.”

Her inspiration was Hans Rosling, a Swedish physician and academic dedicated to using data to explore global development issues and the upbeat track on key human wellbeing metrics. Ritchie’s book is a legacy of Rosling’s posthumous book, Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think, published in 2018.

Rosling, a co-founder of the Gapminder Foundation, and his son, Ola Rosling, focused on fixing systematic misconceptions about global trends and exploring new ways to explain them through data visualisation. The most exciting part of Gapminder is the “Ignorance Project,” which aims to identify misconceptions about global issues. They ask questions to the public in many countries, check data from reliable sources, and pinpoint the most significant global misconceptions. Gapminder then flips these misconceptions to become fact-based and promotes them through data visualisation tools, tests on various global topics, and teaching materials. 

For journalists, Gapminder offers several tools, including The Worldview Upgrader,” a collection of people’s biggest misconceptions about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This tool allows users to choose each SDG, check existing misconceptions, and test their biases against factual evidence. Gapminder also conducts specific studies on critical topics, such as the 2023 study on refugee misconceptions. 

Cofounded by the European Union This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of UCLG and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.