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Chapter I

Introduction

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Contents
  1. I. Introduction (30m)
  2. II. Basic Reporting (60m)
  3. III. Basic Storytelling (30m)
Resources

Basic Toolkit

Welcome

If you’re reading this toolkit, it means you are—at the very least—intrigued by solutions journalism and how it might enhance your reporting skills. Great. We believe journalists gain a lot when they look at responses to problems.

A wide variety of compelling stories simply don’t get covered. Why? The field of journalism has traditionally been resistant to seeing responses as legitimate fodder for investigation. Some reporters and editors fear it will be perceived as advocacy, fluff, or PR. Here at the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN), our mission is to change that perception. We define solutions journalism as rigorous, compelling coverage of responses to social problems—reporting done with the highest of journalistic standards.

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We’re already working with a network of over 170 newsrooms and thousands of individual journalists to demonstrate that solid solutions journalism need not be feared. To the contrary, it’s an important, underused tool in a reporter’s pocket.

SJN was co-founded by David Bornstein and Tina Rosenberg, veteran reporters who write the “Fixes” column at The New York Times, and Courtney E. Martin, a journalist and author who got her start just as online media was exploding. The three of them had unique journeys—through the farmlands of India, the hospitals of Brazil, and the Ninth Ward of New Orleans—that led them all to the same conclusion: there wasn’t enough healthy competition among journalists for great stories about responses to social problems in the world.

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The old thinking: we might compromise our professionalism by covering solutions. The new thinking: we compromise our professionalism by not covering solutions. As journalists, our job is to hold up an accurate mirror to society. If we fail to cover the many ways people and institutions are trying to solve problems—successful or not—we fail to do our jobs. If we only cover the systemic problems in schools, for instance, and ignore the models that are working to improve education, we are not telling the whole story.

Many of us became journalists because we want to have an impact, to make the world better. But uncovering wrongdoing isn’t the only way to have an impact. Revealing problems is crucial, of course—but that impact is magnified if alongside the problems, we report on how people are solving them. Education reporters, for example, produce hard-hitting stories about how public schools are failing poor children. They'd have more impact if they also reported on how some schools are educating all their students, and how they are achieving this. These kinds of stories energize readers, listeners and viewers. They change the public debate. And they change policies.

People don't change merely because someone points out their problems. We need to know that change is possible and see models of how to do it. Societies work the same way.

This Solutions Journalism Learning Lab is designed for anyone who wants to practice solutions journalism. We hope you will find value in these pages, whether you’re a veteran print journalist looking to reinvigorate your approach, a mid-career videographer looking to reconnect to your original reasons for becoming a journalist, a journalism student looking to define your career, or anything in between.

The Learning Lab walks users through the practice of solutions journalism from the first step, which is to identify a response worth investigating, to the last: engaging readers in your piece once it is published. But you need not navigate this resource from start to finish like a traditional book. You can pick the sections that are most useful to you. 

We distill the structures of a few solutions journalism stories, to aid you in times of writer’s block. And throughout the Toolkit, you’ll find videos and interactive exercises that bring the solutions approach to life; links to case studies and model stories from our Solutions Story Tracker; and connections to other resources on our site and elsewhere. Plus, we’ve created special guides for beat reporters focused on health, education, and violence issues.

We see this as a working document and hope that you will talk back. Please give us feedback, whether by emailing, tweeting, or skywriting. We welcome all advice that helps us improve on this resource and makes it more useful to the growing network of people practicing solutions journalism.  

We look forward to hearing from you soon!

2 Comments

  • josé vicente dorado

    Me alegra muchísimo que pongáis a nuestra disposición una herramienta tan interesante en español. Tuve la suerte de conocer a Tina Rosenberg en el taller que impartió el año pasado en Medellín, en el Festival GABO, en el que tuve la suerte de ser admitido. Espero crecer como profesional con vuestra ayuda y las aportaciones de la comunidad. Saludos desde Madrid, España.

  • Erin Bryant

    Thank you for your work and this website! We are thinking about your concept and example this fall as we teach ocean conservation and management at Sea Education Association, the home of SEA Semester college study abroad programs studying the ocean environment, in Woods Hole Massachusetts. Clear, compelling communication of solutions can take us far in the direction of good marine policy!

Resources

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"This isn’t service journalism in the traditional sense; it is rigorous and investigative journalism at its core."

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Paul Edwards
Former EIC of the Deseret News
Basic Toolkit

Welcome
I WORK IN, TEACH, OR STUDY JOURNALISM Not a journalist, but I want to learn about solutions.
AS A MEMBER, YOU WILL BE ABLE TO:
  • Access our training curriculum or attend a training
  • Share your stories
  • Join a local community of journalists
  • Attend story workshops and events to hone your craft
  • Get funding and additional support
  • Access the full Solutions Story Tracker®
  • Save favorite stories and create collections in your user profile
  • Receive emails containing the above offerings via occasional email throughout your membership
TO JOIN, PLEASE SUBMIT THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION (*=REQUIRED)

Not a journalist? Register here instead.

Your information will be used to better support and enable your membership. We care about your privacy and, in accordance with GDPR regulations, request your consent before giving you access to the membership services described above. You will also receive customized communications tailored to your interests as described by your selections. We will never sell your information to 3rd parties. You can cancel your membership and change your communications preferences at any time, though this may prevent you from participating in the opportunities provided by this program. View our full privacy policy here. By clicking submit, you accept these terms.

Here is what you will get:
  • Unlimited access to thousands of stories from around the world
  • First look and access to new features, tools, and resources
  • Curated newsletters with top stories
  • Invitations to SolutionsU community events
  • Receive emails containing the above offerings via occasional email throughout your membership
  • And much more to come…
It’s easy and will take less than 2 minutes.

Journalist or J-School? Register here instead.

Your information will be used to better support and enable your membership. We care about your privacy and, in accordance with GDPR regulations, request your consent before giving you access to the membership services described above. You will also receive customized communications tailored to your interests as described by your selections. We will never sell your information to 3rd parties. You can cancel your membership and change your communications preferences at any time, though this may prevent you from participating in the opportunities provided by this program. View our full privacy policy here. By clicking submit, you accept these terms.