Solutions Journalism vs. Traditional Journalism: What is the Best Method to Tell a Story?

The differences between a solutions oriented story from a traditional news story is astounding. I read two articles about addiction, but the messages in each story were completely different. The authors took opposite routes to tell their stories, and I found the solutions story more compelling and uplifting. Here are descriptions of the stories:

Is Addiction Just a Matter of Choice? – John Stossel

John Stossel of ABC News investigates whether addiction is a disease or simply a choice. As I began reading, I immediately felt offended. Stossel had a blatant, biased position. He writes, “Publicity about addiction suggests it is a disease so powerful that addicts no longer have free will. Lawyers have already used this “addict-is-helpless” argument to win billions from tobacco companies. Blaming others for our “addictions” is popular today.” Even though I was bothered by his mocking tone, I continued to read. I hoped Stossel would include research from an expert to support that addiction is in fact a disease. I was pleased that Stossel included expert Stephen Dewey’s opinion. In a conversation with Stossel Dewey says, “They actually lose their free will. It becomes so overwhelming.” In what looks like an effort to remain close-minded, Stossel follows up saying, “But if they don’t have free will, how come so many people successfully quit?” This comment was off putting, and certainly didn’t add any value to the story. All in all, Stossel’s investigation seemed more like a piece that condemned people suffering with addiction. There was no valuable data, no solutions, and definitely no hope.

How We Got Here: Treating Addiction In 28 Days – Ben Allen
Ben Allen of NPR tells a vastly different story from Stossel’s piece. Allen writes about Louis Casanova of Philadelphia. Casanova relapsed and went back to treatment. Allen was curious to find out why a 30-day rehabilitation center is so common and just how effective the programs can be. He then describes the “Minnesota model,” which is 28 days. Allen provides information for experts and a lot of interesting data. He introduces Marvin Ventrell, executive director of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers. He explains, “the month-long standard comes from the notion that when someone is suffering from addiction — and in the days that this began, we’re pretty much talking about alcoholism — it made sense to people that it took about four weeks to stabilize somebody.” Allen goes on to describe that, despite its popularity, a month long program might not work for every person. I appreciated this because a good solutions piece recognizes that one solution is not the only answer. He writes, “But Casanova is just one person; others prefer inpatient stays that are shorter than a month, followed by intensive outpatient programs.” Overall, Allen’s article was thorough, uplifting, and presented many different opinions.

About the author

Danielle Nick

Danielle Nick is a senior journalism student at Temple University. She believes traditional hard news is valuable, but incomplete. Solutions journalism, on the other hand, offers a new, exciting, and improved way to tell a story. Contact Danielle at danielle.nick@temple.edu.

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By Danielle Nick