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Paul Jay says that at TRNN, investigating and reporting on effective solutions is a crucial part of our mission

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PAUL JAY: When we started The Real News, I spoke at a class in journalism school. And I was describing all the apocalyptic things that were happening, and how dangerous everything was. And at the end of it there was a Q&A, and a young woman at the very back of the room put her hand up. And she said, you know, I listen to all the horrible things that are happening. And honestly, what I really do after hearing-. What I want to do after hearing all this is take drugs and get laid. And and someone else said, yeah, or shoot your brains out.

As I said in other interviews, you know, we’re doing this because we want things to change, and we get the dangerous moments we’re in. So solutions, if people don’t have the solutions in sight, a vision of things to fight for, I don’t think there’s going to be any change. People aren’t going to change just because you keep describing how horrible the circumstances are. On the other hand, we don’t want to be Pollyanna about it, and anything that claims to be a solution, and go la la la about it. All politicians claim to have solutions. Nobody runs on a platform that I don’t know what to do.

So part of our job is to look with some objectivity, with some science, with data, with facts, what actually works. And also seek, find people that are working on models for change, whether sometimes they’re at a city level, or some cities have sort of progressive takeovers, and they’re passing legislation. Not just minimum wage, but other ways to use taxation and sources of revenue to solve problems.

Climate is maybe the most important area where there’s all kinds of things being talked about, but perhaps not all effective. We talk a lot on The Real News about financialization, and how people, you know, how finance tries to make money out of everything. Well, climate’s a big one. The financialization of climate change. For example, cap and trade is a place where the financial institutions would make a lot of money out of the process of cap and trade. Is it effective? Perhaps sometimes it is, other times it isn’t. But we try to unpack that. And just because something claims to be a solution, we don’t, we don’t just buy it.

At a local level, the Department of Justice did a scathing report on the police department in Baltimore. And it was a good report. The critique was good. But the solutions are more training. Sensitivity training, cultural sensitivity training. Well, that’s been talked about for decades, and we don’t get much difference in how police forces operate. So for us we think community, real community control of the police, with the power to hire and fire a police chief, that seems to be a solution. And there are some examples of it in some cities that might really be effective. The issue of the police as a buffer between people that own stuff and people that don’t, and raising that as an issue within the policing discourse, that you’ve got to talk about poverty and unemployment, and also look at what are effective solutions there.

In Baltimore, for example, there’s all kinds of private-public partnerships with a lot of public investment in developing areas. And the evidence so far is most of the benefit goes to developers, and not so much of the development goes to the communities. But maybe some does, and maybe there are models of that kind of partnership maybe that could work. I mean, you know, we don’t want to be closed minded to anything. But our starting point is, one, does it really benefit the majority of people? Does it really do what it promises, it being whatever solution we’re talking about? And then we want to be more proactive. You know, what would be an effective solution? You know, whether it’s the massive amount of boarded up houses in Baltimore, and the chronic poverty; or on the big picture stuff, you know, like climate change. What are real solutions?

So news for us is about staying within the lines of journalistic methodology, but it’s got to be connected to changing the world. And if it isn’t both for us, I think all of us here would rather go do something else.

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Paul Jay was the founder, CEO and senior editor of The Real News Network, where he oversaw the production of over 7,000 news stories. Previously, he was executive producer of CBC Newsworld's independent flagship debate show CounterSpin for its 10 years on air. He is an award-winning documentary filmmaker with over 20 films under his belt, including Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows; Return to Kandahar; and Never-Endum-Referendum. He was the founding chair of Hot Docs!, the Canadian International Documentary Film Festival and now the largest such festival in North America.