What if journalists covered solutions as rigorously as they covered problems?
If you read the news on a regular basis, you’ve probably noticed that the media tend to focus a lot on problems. There are far fewer stories about solutions.
Little by little, though, that’s changing thanks to the Solutions Journalism Network, an organization that helps journalists rigorously report on solutions to social issues.
The Solutions Journalism Network’s Tina Rosenberg recently talked about what solutions journalism is — and isn’t — at New Profit’s annual “Gathering of Leaders” event. Rosenberg co-founded the network with David Bornstein, who is speaking at Images & Voices of Hope’s annual media summit this June.
Journalists, Rosenberg said, “feel that if we cover problems, then someone, from Mars perhaps, will swoop in and solve those problems. I think we can all agree that’s a myth, and it’s a dangerous myth. … Our mission is to legitimize and spread the practice of solutions journalism — which is writing about responses to problems with the same degree and rigor of seriousness we apply to the problems themselves.”
Solutions journalism, Rosenberg said, is evidence-driven reporting that shows how people are responding to problems. Here’s what it’s not:
- Stories in which journalists propose what they think should happen to solve a problem, without reporting on what’s actually happening.
- “Hero worship” stories that celebrate people for their kindness and generosity.
- Silver bullet stories that claim much more than evidence suggests.
- Uncritical, fluff stories about do-gooders.
- Stories that pay a lot of attention to problems and, in the last paragraph or soundbite, mention a solution without depth.
- “Instant activist” stories that let people know how they can get involved — by donating money or volunteering their time.
Recently, the Solutions Journalism Network received $180,000 from the Knight Foundation to help journalists cover health care using positive deviant data. The network is partnering with Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which will provide reporters with this data.
Rosenberg explains more about the project in this video from the New Profit event:
If you’d like to find out more about Solutions Journalism, register for ivoh’s annual summit, where David Bornstein will lead a workshop on the topic.