1. “If we fail to cover the many ways people and institutions are trying to solve problems—successful or not—we fail to do our jobs.”
I think this sentence sums up solutions journalism in the best and simplest way possible. It encompasses the idea of collecting the whole story and puts to rest any concerns people might have about solutions journalism being activism. The most important thing to understand about solutions journalism is that it’s not activism — it’s following through on a story, past reporting on the problem.
2. “Documenting the causes of that problem will clarify the opportunity for a solution to create leverage and impact.”
This is an important part of solutions journalism because it’s easier for readers to understand why you’re reporting on the solution when it’s contextualized with the problem. That makes it easier to justify the reporting as more than PR or hero worship.
3. “Focuses on effectiveness, not good intentions, presenting available evidence of results.”
I think this highlights the best way to keep away from activism while reporting a solutions journalism story.
4. “By showing that something is working in one place, it takes away the excuses for failure elsewhere.”
One of the best things about solutions journalism is the extra layer of accountability to which it can hold leaders. Removing those excuses make the story much more powerful for the public to read because it gives them something to be informed about when they confront leaders.
5. “Solutions-oriented stories, on the other hand, are rarely breaking news events (though they can be done as follow-ups to breaking news events).”
I think this is a great way to approach solutions journalism because when you outline a problem in breaking news, you can find so many solutions angles as a follow-up to the breaking news. This saves you the time that would be devoted to outlining the problem in an in-depth story and lets you cut to the chase with the solution, while still being able to refer back to the original reporting on the problem.
6. “Look for positive outliers in data.”
I love data, and this is a genius way to look for stories. So many people look for the worst groups in datasets, and looking for positive outliers yields just as many stories as the negative data — if not more.
7. “It’s very important in a solutions story to include informed skeptics.”
I like that we are encouraged to include skeptics in our reporting because it adds another level of credibility to the story. It also provides an analysis or opinion that we aren’t always allowed to include as objective journalists.
8. “Rather, the tension is in answering the questions, ‘How will they solve this problem that has stumped so many others? How do they overcome the obstacles in their way?'”
This is a great way to figure out how to keep the story compelling, which can be hard with longer, more in-depth pieces.
9. “In addition to ‘What do the experts think?’, ask ‘What do the people directly affected by this model think?'”
I think it’s really important to report by the adage, “You can’t do something about us, without us.” Including the people directly impacted by an issue and the attempted solution is what helps us figure out whether that solution is effective and it provides the best backup for humanizing the problem and provides good characters to focus on.
10. “Systemic responses to entrenched social problems require more than a few extraordinary people; they require armies of ordinary people employing strategic and effective techniques.”
This is a great way to create a distinction between an effective solution and hero worship. It’s more effective to report on something that includes strategy over good intentions or individuals. By focusing on systematic solutions, they are more applicable to the wider population and can be carried over to other places or institutions.