Solutions journalism is a new genre of journalism. According to SolutionsJournalism.org, it’s defined as a rigorous, compelling way of reporting about responses to social issues. Solutions journalism looks into and clearly explains how people are working towards solutions for social problems. In addition to reporting about what tactics are working, solutions journalism also reports how and why certain solutions are working. Also, this type of journalism explores the solutions that are not working as planned and why they’re coming up against roadblocks.
Solutions journalism uses the evidence available to look deeply into an issue and its attempted solutions. The report is often delivered as an investigative mystery or puzzle. Reporting includes solutions that are working, somewhat working, or not working at all. If a solution doesn’t seem to be working, the journalist may still explore the insights the failures are offering. Journalists believe that information can be gleaned from failures just like it can be gleaned from successes.
In 1998, journalists noticed that a new type of reporting was emerging. This new journalism examined what individuals and organizations were doing to deal with social issues. Journalists and critics of journalism began to realize that traditional journalism, which was firmly based in the reporter’s ability to expose misconduct and wrongdoing, wasn’t altogether successful. Reporting on problems and only problems wasn’t going to solve the world’s major issues.
Solutions journalism differs from traditional journalism in that it doesn’t stop looking at the issue after discovering the problem. Instead, it continues on to research the responses. Conventional journalism tends to stop investigating after it discovers the problem. By giving people an honest, compete view of an issue, the public is able to take that information and become better, more informed citizens.
The main goal of solutions journalism is to offer insight about how communities are effectively – or ineffectively – handling big social issues. Effective solutions journalism engage people in a variety of ways. When done correctly, reporting can change the discussions the public is having to make it more constructive and less alienating. By showing what has worked in the past, solutions journalism can lead to important change.
There are additional types of journalism that have strived to respond to the public in the same way that solutions journalism does. Civic journalism, which first gained popularity in the 90s, attempts to engage readers in public discussions to encourage participation in the community and to start the process of change. Constructive journalism, which started in Denmark, is another similar style of journalism, though it preceded solutions journalism.
In 2010, Tina Rosenberg and David Bornstein, both journalists, started the New York Times’ Fixes column in the Opinionator section. This column is a weekly deep report that examines responses to social problems. Since reader response was so strong, Rosenberg and Bornstein teamed up with another journalist, Courtney Martin, to found the Solutions Journalism Network. The network is an independent non-profit that strives to normalize solutions journalism and bring it into the mainstream.
Solutions journalism isn’t focused on easing people’s minds or advocating for a certain solution or policy. It’s not about showing the balance between the positive and the negative. Instead, it’s about informing and empowering the public in a deeper way than traditional journalism often does. Solutions journalists investigate issues deeper, reporting on what works and what doesn’t.