Reach Marginalized or Undercovered Communities

A Muslim person dressed in all black with forearm crutches smiling in a mosque.
Photo by Renee Jones Schneider for the Minneapolis Star Tribune series on Minneapolis' Somali community.

Our newsroom partners have provided compelling evidence that solutions journalism can build bridges with segments of the community that were previously distanced by cultural, social, or language differences. These connections are fundamental to providing relevant, high-quality coverage that accurately represents the interests and needs of these groups, particularly those who feel that the media has not always acted in their best interests.

Partners have found that inviting people into the newsroom to attend events or talk with reporters builds goodwill, whether it’s a structured discussion with a group of invitees or an open after-hours event with music and food. In particular, structuring engagement around a mutual search for solutions offers the potential to engage underrepresented and stigmatized communities who may feel that news coverage tends to misrepresent them, reinforce damaging stereotypes, or leave them out of the conversation.

Some studies have uncovered a kind of “halo effect” in which solutions journalism strengthens the perception of a newsroom’s trustworthiness. In audience surveys, readers of The Seattle Times’ “Education Lab,” a dedicated solution-oriented series about public education, expressed more trust in the paper than did readers generally.

“We need to think hard about the barriers we put up and how to break that down. Be methodical about how to be welcoming.”

Kate Parry headshot
Kate Parry
Minneapolis Star Tribune

“The focus groups were very powerful, particularly the ones with the kids. It's one thing to read about violence in neighborhoods, and another thing to sit across the table from them talking casually about how it plays out in their lives.”

RITU SEHGAL headshot
Ritu Sehgal
Detroit Free Press


Focus groups conducted by Columbia University’s Tow Center with residents of South Central Los Angeles surfaced a craving for solutions journalism: “In underserved communities of color where audiences feel neglected and even harmed by traditional media coverage, solutions journalism offers a pathway to rebuild constructive and mutually beneficial relationships of greater trust.” Separately, a content analysis of how The Seattle Times’ solutions-oriented coverage of school discipline permeated public discourse found the most pronounced impact among community and ethnic media. Focus groups and surveys connected to our own “Small Towns, Big Change” project found that people living in rural communities wanted and needed more solutions-oriented coverage.