Hey y’all, this is the first in a series of many blog posts about our project, Covering Addiction. Hopefully this can be a place where our team is able to casually explain our interactions with the subject of addiction, our in-class discussions and meetings, and, specifically today, the lessons we can learn from Solutions Journalism pros over at the Solutions Journalism Network.
Lessons Learned – Solutions Style
Put Up or Shut Up: Sometimes it can be tempting to tell the story of the people with the best intentions, but solutions journalism, like all journalism, is about the facts. Reporting should focus on who and what has worked, or what might (provided there’s evidence to back it up).
Targets Institutions: By knowing what solutions journalism ISN’T (one-off pieces about specific fundraisers for a specific person), we know that solutions journalism looks at the long-standing institutions and seeks out long-standing responses or the work being done to dismantle these systems.
For Click’s Sake: The Solutions Journalism Network claims it increases reader engagement – from social media shares to direct interaction with the piece.
Transformative: Journalism academics and I have (at least) one thing in common: we both tend to ask (critically, in some cases, desperately in others) ‘what’s the point?’ when we think about journalism. Solutions journalism offers a clear answer: it can transform the way we think about a problem on a societal, organizational, or even personal level.
Quiet Priority: Though it’s often clear where and when a news organization should show up to report on something (A fire downtown!? Quick, get the cameras!), solutions stories often go underreported while being perhaps the more pressing story. The editorial decisions become difficult quickly; when an incident arises, should we report on the after-effects or those prevented by unnoticed programs?
Proactive, Not Reactive: Solutions stories are often the opposite of a classic news piece. Instead of walking into the newsroom and asking what’s happening in the world, solutions stories ask the journalist to identify an issue before seeking out what’s happening. Although it may seem limiting, this procedure allows for a clear, focused, and ultimately open-minded approach to tackling a story.
Data Nerds, Rejoice!: Finally, all of those people who passed statistics (or maybe didn’t, no judgement) can put their hard-earned grades to work. Data is often one of the driving forces of solutions journalism, proving what is or isn’t working.
Close to Home: David Gambacorta of Philadelphia Magazine is not only a member of the Solutions Journalism Network, but an avid practitioner as well. In addition to reading his thoughts on the subject in the toolkit itself, you can read his solutions stories about topics like gun violence.
Your Story Is Not The Solution: Eventually you’ll be tasked with dealing with a failed solution, or at least a partial failure. It’s important to remember that your story is not a failure, or even deviating from a solutions script, just because a particular approach failed. Report on it, and let the source explain how it might have succeeded.
Make The Response The First Story: Often times when news breaks of a massive scandal or policy breakdown, an apocalyptic piece seems like the correct response. Instead, it might be appropriate to show how people are responding to this seemingly desperate issue, especially if they’re going about things the “right” way.