KPHO/KTVK (State of Our Schools)

A student raising their hand in a classroom
KPHO Classroom (Source: 3TV/CBS5)

Public schools in Arizona are among the worst in the nation, according to Education Week’s annual report card. Teachers demanding higher pay walked off the job statewide in 2018 as part of the “Red for Ed” movement. The following year, CBS affiliate KPHO and independent station KTVK, both owned by Meredith and co-branded as Arizona’s Family, decided to examine the problems of the state’s schools through a solutions journalism lens.

Coverage was informed by a survey of superintendents in all 207 of Arizona’s public school districts conducted over the summer to which about half responded. A grant from the Solutions Journalism Network paid for staff training in data journalism to help them analyze the responses to discover why some schools succeeded while others failed.

Based on the results, reporters and anchors produced multiple stories each week for a month on challenges faced by Arizona’s schools and how local leaders were solving them. The bulk of the reporting was done by the investigative and special projects teams.

State of Our Schools: The Search for Solutions launched in mid-August as classes resumed in local schools. The stories aired in most newscasts across both stations. The project also had a dedicated digital landing page with a searchable database of schools, a comparison tool and an interactive map of districts.

Screenshot of webpage
KPHO State of Our Schools landing page

KPHO reached out to local and national leaders to explain and build interest in the Save Our Students project. Check the engagement section for details.

“I think that this model of adding a solutions angle is something that we are going to be applying to future projects, not only because I think it’s good journalism, but our managers seem to like it,” Loew told the Cronkite News Lab. “At the end of the day, if I can tell my bosses ‘Give me a small team and we can do 12 stories on this issue,’ they’re going to like that.”


Management support, both in the newsroom and at the station level, can give solutions journalism traction internally and externally.Data journalism training can equip a station to dig deeper to find examples of what works and may encourage additional solutions journalism work beyond the original project.A duopoly that is more cooperative than competitive and that shares a single brand can give solutions journalism a wider impact in a community.