Solutions journalism investigates people's attempts to solve common problems and explains them critically and clearly. Journalists usually define news as "what goes wrong", and while solutions journalism tries to broaden this definition to include responses to problems, it deserves news coverage as well. By carefully covering the solutions, journalists can tell the full story.
Solutions journalism is complementary to coverage of problems, and journalists often get frustrated when their painstaking investigations fail to bring about change. We expose our city's failures to save children from the effects of lead paint, to protect high school football players from concussions, or to recover from the aftermath of big factory closures — but all too often, officials simply ignore these investigations. , saying, "We're doing the best we can."
But with solutions journalism approaching these investigations, we can show how other cities are solving these problems, putting officials in a very awkward position. Excuses are not enough, and change is already happening.
The solutions articles do not celebrate or defend responses to problems, but rather cover them and investigate what was done, what worked – or didn’t work – and why, as well as the limitations associated with these responses.
This type of essay often begins with statements of where solutions do best, usually in the form of a puzzle to answer questions such as: Where is the dropout rate from high school lower? How does that happen and why? What does the school, district, or state do differently to achieve a better outcome?
Typically, journalists prefer to cover successful solutions, but solutions articles can also cover partial success or failure to achieve results. For example, if our city is about to launch a new initiative, the article could address the program's performance elsewhere: Where has it succeeded or failed? And what made the difference?
If implemented well, solutions articles provide valuable insights that can help communities address problems such as homelessness, climate change, skyrocketing housing prices, or low voter turnout. Research also indicates that solutions articles can influence public discourse and make it less divisive and more constructive . By uncovering successful solutions, articles like these have led to real changes.
The Four Pillars of Solutions Journalism
- Solution articles focus on the response to a social problem, and how that response succeeded - or failed -.
- The best solutions articles anchor lessons learned that make the response relevant and can be implemented by others. In other words, these articles offer ideas .
- Solution journalism looks for evidence —that is, data or qualitative findings that show whether or not solutions are effective. Solution articles are usually upfront with the audience about these guides and what they mean. An innovative response can make a good story even without a lot of evidence, but the journalist must be transparent about the lack of evidence and explain why the response is nonetheless worthy of reporting.
- Solution articles reveal the shortcomings of responses. There is no perfect response, and some work in certain communities and not others. So the responsible journalist covers the reasons why it didn't work and puts them in the larger context. Thus, coverage of restrictions is essential.
Examples of distinguished solutions reports in English
- Rethinking Health Care: A West Virginia Town Is Giving Up Coal Mining Published via 100 Days in Appalachia
- Investigating Moms , Posted by The Philadelphia Citizen
- " They've Seen Only the Worst of Me " This article was produced for ProPublica 's local press network in partnership with WRKF and WWNO , and published jointly with The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate
- A couple of coroners try to solve transgender missing persons cases , Posted via Xtra
- The Invisible Shield: How Activists and Lawmakers Confront Officials' Immunity , Posted via Amsterdam News
- “ Protecting Soils is a Matter of Life and Death ,” Published by Montana Free Press
- Quarantine and the future of food , Posted by Gastropod
- How does this California county support Hispanic caregivers? Posted by Democrat & Chronicle
- More Collaborative Companies Empowering Employees , Posted via Mother Jones and Economic Hardship Reporting Project
- Non-profit store serving nutritious food at affordable prices , Posted via Dallas Free Press/Dallas Morning News
- A group that turns religious leaders into gay rights advocates Published via Reasons to be Cheerful
You can see the Solutions press group for more examples and examples.
This article was originally published by Solutions Journalism Network and has been authorized by IJNet.