Solutions journalism investigates and explains, in a critical and clear-eyed way, how people try to solve widely shared problems. While journalists usually define news as “what’s gone wrong,” solutions journalism tries to expand that definition: Responses to problems are also newsworthy. By adding rigorous coverage of solutions, journalists can tell the whole story.
Solutions journalism complements and strengthens coverage of problems. Done well, solutions stories provide valuable insights that help communities with the difficult work of tackling problems like homelessness or climate change, skyrocketing housing prices or low voter turnout. We also know from research that solutions stories can change the tone of public discourse, making it less divisive and more constructive. By revealing what has worked, such stories have led to meaningful change.
The Four Pillars of Solutions Journalism
- A solutions story focuses on a RESPONSE to a social problem — and how that response has worked or why it hasn’t.
- The best solutions reporting distills the lessons that make the response relevant and accessible to others. In other words, it offers INSIGHT.
- Solutions journalism looks for EVIDENCE — data or qualitative results that show effectiveness (or lack thereof). Solutions stories are upfront with audiences about that evidence — what it tells us and what it doesn’t. A particularly innovative response can be a good story even without much evidence — but the reporter has to be transparent about the lack, and about why the response is newsworthy anyway.
- Solutions stories reveal a response’s shortcomings. No response is perfect, and something that works well for one community may fail in others. A responsible reporter covers what doesn’t work about a response and places it in context. Reporting on LIMITATIONS, in other words, is essential.