KXAN (Save Our Students)

An orange board with paper flowers with the words What Does Self Care Look Like?
KXAN Crisis Call Center (Source: Erin Cargile/KXAN)

One year after a high-school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, the state legislature approved new laws to increase funding for school security and to improve student access to mental health services. KXAN, the NBC affiliate in the state capital, Austin, used the legislative actions as a springboard for a 2019 solutions journalism project focused on student mental health.

Save Our Students (S.O.S.) was a major station initiative, involving reporters, photographers and producers for both television and digital, with multiple engagement efforts and contributions from creative services. According to Josh Hinkle, director of investigations and innovation, almost 60 people participated, more than half of the station’s staff.

Over a three-month period, five reporters worked with four photographers to shoot a total of 15 stories that aired in August 2019, the week classes resumed in Austin public schools. An additional 15 stories produced from subsequent interviews and events aired the following week. Stories from the Save Our Students project were published online by all 11 of the other Nexstar-owned stations in Texas. Three of those stations also ran stories in their newscasts.

A grant from the Solutions Journalism Network enabled KXAN to fund reporting trips to Ohio, California, and within Texas. Stories aired in all newscasts and in the station’s weekly public affairs program, State of Texas. The morning show also aired video clips from a roundtable discussion with school counselors and hosted live interviews with a different school superintendent each day.

Screenshot of Save Our Students webpage
KXAN S.O.S. Landing Page

The project landing page includes a “story behind the story” video that aired before the project launched. Reporters explain why the station chose to explore mental health as one of the deeper causes of school shootings, and how the solutions journalism approach is different from what they’ve done in the past.

KXAN also made an extensive effort to reach and engage their audience in the Save Our Students project. Check the engagement section for details.


Explain to the audience how solutions coverage is different and why. Do it on air and keep it online.If doing a special project to launch solutions journalism, include a wide range of people and job categories in the newsroom to spread the knowledge.Use existing systems for soliciting audience input and story ideas in service of solutions journalism.