Solutions journalism and where to find it
Good practices to disseminate effective solutions journalism stories — but also not to get the whole thing wrong
If looking at those stories that picture a single human being finding a perfectly fitting answer to a community problem makes you think of solutions journalism, you are most probably on the wrong track. The presence of a “single human being” who tackles a “specific problem” should be a warning for what solutions journalism is not. During our second talk of Project Zoom online series, the Executive Director and Editor in Chief at Transitions, Jeremy Druker, better clarified the concept. First of all, a definition:
solutions journalism consists in a rigorous evidence-based reporting on existing responses to social problems.
The focus here is on the community, other than the individual — and even more on the possibility to replicate the solution in different contexts, other than praising a single solution working only for a specific community.
Four qualities of solutions journalism
As explained by Lucie Černá, Head of Solutions Journalism Program at Transitions, this type of story reporting always features a response, other than just a person; provides evidence related to the real impact of such response; provides insights, meaning replicable models that have positive impact; and does not describe a silver bullet, but instead openly discusses the possible solution’s weaknesses to support the debate about how to overcome them.
Something important to highlight is that even without strictly following this rules, we might have solutions-oriented stories that could still contribute to make a change.
..but what kind of change it makes?
Looking at the solutions journalism’s theory of change, its final goal is to provide evidenced-based support to politicians and decisions makers more generally. If the general public is not aware of the problem, traditional reporting journalism might still be more impactful; but when awareness on potential responses to a problem is what is missing, then it’s the right time to do solutions journalism! The clearest of the examples in these pandemic times is the amount of news addressing the Covid-19 issue from any possible angle, with very few of them talking about solutions. This is the time in which this type of reporting could be most effective.
And where is the best place to start with solutions journalism stories?
Try to find who is directly involved in a specific problem — whether they study and analyse it or simply are affected by it. Get in touch with think tanks, academic experts, networks of innovators, program officers in foundations and associations or look into the existing database of solutions journalism stories. Hundreds of these stories are just waiting to be unveiled!