April 29, 2020 (Updated )
A lot of the time the news is a downer. It’s kind of part and parcel of the news cycle, and as journalists we often find ourselves working on stories about the problems in our societies – whether that’s homelessness, the climate crisis or a worldwide pandemic. That’s where solutions journalism comes in.
In short solutions journalism is a way of not just looking at the problems society faces, but the solutions we’re exploring too. It’s a rigorous form of reporting that isn’t just about seeing the good side of things – it’s about creating high quality news that holds power to account, critically looks at solutions, and helps build trust in the media.
In conjunction with the Solutions Journalism Network, we want to help you bring solutions journalism into your reporting – whether you’re a student, in your first job, or well into your career. Oh, and we’ve done it as a choose your own adventure game. Give it a go below and let us know what you think.
Want to join us for the official launch party of the game on May, 18? Head over to our Ticket Tailor now to reserve your spot for an evening of talks, interactive games, and questions.
Give It A Go Here
Simply tap on the image above to give the game a go or click here, and it will load directly into your browser. If you want to give yourself the best shot, you may want to read our basic guide to solutions journalism first.
What Does Solutions Journalism Mean?
In short, solutions journalism is a form of rigorous reporting about responses to social problems. We know that working in a newsroom can be stressful, and you’ll most likely be publishing a lot of stories every day. The good news is that solutions journalism won’t add anymore work to your day – it’s more of a mindset.
The key principles of solutions journalism can be covered off with just five simple bullet points, which also neatly sums up into the mnemonic whole. Like telling the whole story, geddit?
- W – What is the response to the problem you’re looking at? You’ll need to make sure both the problem and the response is really clear in your reporting.
- H – How does the response work. The most crucial part of solutions journalism is making sure to ask questions about how this solution actually works. It’s not about fluffy optimism.
- O – Offers insight. Solutions journalism isn’t about just writing up a press release – it needs to give the reader some real, critical insight into the problem and the proposed solution.
- L – Includes limitations. We live in an imperfect world and there will never be a silver bullet solution. Solutions journalism is about looking at the whole picture, including where it might not work.
- E – There should also be evidence of impact. A solution isn’t really a solution if it hasn’t been put into practice or they haven’t thought about ways of measuring how successful it’s been.
Other things you’ll want to think about are making sure you’ve got voices who work “on the ground”. For example, if it’s a story about homelessness, you’ll want a voice from a homeless person who can explain how it actually works. Equally, while it can be character driven, it shouldn’t just be glorifying the work of one person without examining it critically.
Top tips for making it through our game…
- Think about all the things you need to stack the story up – how many interviews will you realistically need? Should you be doing your own research?
- Think about the questions you’re asking your interviewees – do they actually talk about how it will work, or are they just skirting the surface?
- Remember that you’re a hard-working 90s journalist. You want to do more work than just rewrite a press release, but you can’t spend all day on one story.
It might sound like a lot of work, but in reality it’s more about thinking about the kind of questions you should be answering. And even if your story doesn’t tick all of the boxes, even hitting some of them is a step in the right direction. In practice, this could mean you do a number of things at work, such as:
- Work out which stories you get sent could work as a solutions journalism piece and which couldn’t, so you can work out how to divide up your time.
- Do a bit of independent research about the problem they’re claiming to solve. For example, trying to find quality information on the scale of the problem, and what’s been tried before.
- Trying to find a second voice on stories that doesn’t come from someone involved in the project, such as an expert or a person with lived experience of the problem.
- Thinking carefully about the questions you ask interviewees, so you can delve into the heart of the problem. You want to get the human angle, but you also need to know how it will work.
Want to know more about how solutions journalism works? You can find tonnes of resources in the Solutions Journalism Network Hub. It’s completely free to sign up and offers self-directed learning at your own pace, webinars, in-depth articles and inspiration.
Done A SoJo Story You’re Proud Of? Send It To Us!
Have we inspired you to create some solutions journalism of your own? We’d love to see it and share it with our network. You can send your finished solutions journalism to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or if you’d like some advice on your story, drop us a line at email@example.com.
We’ll share the best examples in our newsletter, which goes to more than 5,500 people every week, and we’ll also get your story submitted to the Solutions Story Tracker for you, a curated database of the best solutions journalism stories around the world, read by thousands of journalists.
This project was made possible by generous funding from the Solutions Journalism Network. You can see more about our work as a LEDE Fellow here, as well as the inspiring work of 20 other fellows around the globe.