Steps to Creating a Solutions Story

Take Note!

These steps may come in a different order, depending on how you receive information. You may hear about a promising solution first, and then back up to find the extent of the underlying problem. You may hear about a city/county that has bucked a particular trend, and then learn about how they did it. Or, you may hear first about a problem and then work to uncover an existing response. You may also choose to talk to an editor much earlier in the process than we indicated.

Follow your questions. Every story I’ve ever done really comes from one place. What am I curious about? What am I interested in? What seems strange to me? What do I want to know about? That’s it. That’s where you start. What’s intriguing to you? What seems like a screaming problem or an area nobody has looked at? That’s the first place to look. Solutions journalism is just telling a wider story. Fill out the other side. What is the problem...

Claudia Rowe portrait
Claudia Rowe
The Seattle Times
  1. Identify an issue or question of concern (e.g., climate change, public safety, low graduation rates).
  2. Ask yourself: What’s missing in the public conversation? Is there a lack of awareness about the problem? Is there some awareness, but insufficient outrage? If so, traditional journalism that exposes the problem may be the best course. But if the missing parts of the public conversation include “What could be done about this? Who is doing a better job handling this problem?”, then it’s a good candidate for a solutions journalism inquiry.
  1. Start hunting for candidates for solutions journalism stories. Are there places that have consistently done better than average? Are there any noteworthy responses to the problem? See our tips in the section, “How do I find a solutions-oriented story” to guide you.
  1. Select a story to highlight using old-fashioned journalism judgment. You can use our Four Criteria and the section “How do I vet a solutions-oriented story?” to help think through this. Keep in mind: Is there evidence of success? Is the evidence credible? Is it a one-off or are there lessons others could benefit from? If the story is happening outside your community, can you give it local relevance by framing it as something your community needs to know about?
  1. Report the story. Use our resources, “How do I conduct a solutions- oriented interview?” and “How do I structure a solutions journalism story?” for this. If there are multiple responses that are working in different ways, this may be a candidate for a larger series on the issue.
  2. At some point in this process, you’ll want to be in touch with an editor. If you work in a newsroom, you’ll probably develop these ideas with an editor. If you’re a freelancer, see our resource, “How do I pitch a solutions-oriented story?”
  1. Once your story is published, you’ll want to think about promoting it and engaging with your readers/listeners/viewers.