Article Comparison: What is and isn’t Solutions Journalism?

Both articles I have chosen to compare have been written three months apart. Both discuss addiction but in entirely different ways.

“As Seattle eyes supervised drug-injection site, is Vancouver a good model?” by Seattle Times reporter JoNel Aleccia is solutions journalism. The reporter makes a point to discuss a supervised drug-injection site in Vancouver that has decreased. The reporter reveals accurate information about how the center called Insite has reversed over 5,000 overdose-related deaths, prevented HIV high rates, and reduced dangerous litter (i.e. needles) since 2003. Insite is a center that allows users to use their drugs but in a safe environment. They have nurses, sterile needles, and have the correct equipment to reverse overdoses when it occurs. The center has actually helped reduce overdose deaths in the blocks surrounding the site by 35%. Although the reporter reveals these positive attributes, the reporter also provides other people’s critiques. Insite has a partner treatment center called Onsite. However, not many users eventually go to the treatment center and even fewer graduate from it. Supporters of the Conservative Canadian leadership has been trying to close this center for years because it is believed that this center only enables users. They also believe that the center aids in the ideology that users can never recover. Although Insite does not have a lot of data to support that reduces drug use, it is successful in lowering overdoses and spread of disease. That is why supervised drug-injection centers are being considered in Kings County in Seattle. The reporter talks about where the center does and doesn’t succeed in certain aspects. This is also a great solutions journalism piece because there are no ‘heroes’ of the story. The story is just about Insite and it’s perks and downfalls. It remains objective while being fair to people with addiction. It does a great job with steering clear from stigmatizing people.

 

In direct contrast,  “Young Lancaster Woman Shares Her Story of Heroin Addiction and Recovery” by Melissa Holmes is not a solutions story at all.  The main problem is that the story focuses on a single person. This would be fine if the purpose was a profile story. However, singling out a specific person usually has the ‘hero’ effect. The hero effect is not beneficial in a solutions journalism story because the story is supposed to be about fixing a problem, not about a specific person. Although the title includes the word ‘recovery’, this news story primarily focuses on this woman’s addiction. Her addiction is sensationalized with a lot of details about her drug-binging anecdotes, her issues with the law, and unsuccessful stints at various treatment facilities. It is not till the last quarter of the story that the reporter decided to talk about the woman’s recovery. And even when she does talk about recovery, she is not nearly as specific or as anecdotal as when she was reporting on the woman’s addiction. Holmes, the reporter, ends the story with saying that the woman is still in cognitive therapy and is clean. The problem with ending a story like this is that the reporter treated this woman as if she is magically ‘fixed’.  All that does is aid misinformation that people who struggle with addiction magically make the decision to get better and then simply do. Overall, this piece just was not a well-written piece. The article had no sensitivity whatsoever. It’s easy to infer that this story may have been pitched as a features story and nothing else.

 

The main difference between these two articles was that the Seattle Times story made a point to stay objective while being sensitive to all parties involved. The other story was simply sensationalized.

About the author

Taylor Allen

Taylor Allen is a sophomore Journalism major with a Political Science minor at Temple University. She also does the Morning Updates for WHIP, Temple’s student radio station. She is the creator of WHIP’s The District where she and a co-host discuss Philadelphia and Pennsylvania state politics every Tuesday and Thursday night; 7-8 pm. She previously interned for Solomon Jones at 900amWURD for the “Wake Up With WURD” show where she learned about radio production and promotion through social media. She is a member of Temple’s Association of Black Journalists. She has volunteered with Update Now during her first year. She is the executive producer of TUTV’s Temple Talk, Temple’s only entertainment day show. Contact Taylor at tuf89707@temple.edu.

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By Taylor Allen