What is solutions journalism? Why is solutions journalism important? How to make a story solutions-based? These were the questions that were answered during a webinar hosted by the Solutions Journalism Network. Kyuwon Lee, international associate at the Solutions Journalism Network and Rhiannon Davies, multimedia journalist, co-hosted the webinar and provided tools and insights on what solutions journalism is and how to write a solutions-based article.
Solutions journalism is the “rigorous, evidence-based reporting on responses to social problems”. There are four pillars that encapsulate solutions journalism:
- Reporting on the response to a particular problem
- Including evidence or data of impact (who was impacted by the problem). Solutions journalism focuses on a problem that has happened or is happening. The data can be qualitative or quantitative
- Produces insights or teachable lessons that others can use or learn from
- Reporting on what is not working. Does it point out the limitations of a response to a problem, for example, why is it not working for everyone?
The webinar also focused on what solutions journalism isn’t. It is very important for journalists writing solutions-based articles to not fall in the trap of writing an article that praises an individual or is a marketing piece.
Some of the types of stories which are not solutions journalism are:
- Not hero-worship; the story should focus on a systemic problem or a wider problem not idolising or praising an individual. Rather use characters to tell the story or to talk about systemic change. It is not about one hero but a character
- Not a silver bullet
- Not a favour for a friend
- Not a theory
- Not activism
- Not an afterthought
- Not fluff
How to do solutions journalism? Firstly identify the issue or question of concern, then ask what is missing from the public conversation and start looking for sources for solutions stories.
Where to find these stories?
- Think tanks/policy experts
- Academic experts
- Large datasets
- People involved in implementation
- People involved in the problem
- Networks of innovators
- Programme officers in foundations
- Look at your own life
- Solutions Journalism Network Story Tracker
Once you have your story, these are some questions you should consider asking:
- How does the response work?
- What parts of the problem are not addressed by the response?
- Where did this idea come from?
- Is it being replicated elsewhere? With what effects?
- What does the research say?
- What do the critics say?
- What metrics matter when it comes to measuring success?
- In what ways is that response working, in what ways is it not working and how do we know?