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

Basic Toolkit

How do I know it's Solutions Journalism?

Here are four criteria to apply when writing or producing a solutions journalism story. These criteria inspire us, and are the foundation of how we define solutions journalism in practice and for the Solutions Story Tracker. These criteria can be applied with flexibility for diverse narrative styles and story formats. Even with flexibility, each solutions story should contain all four pillars to some degree.


A solutions story focuses on a RESPONSE to a social problem — and how that response has worked or why it hasn’t.

If the story doesn’t describe a response, it’s not solutions journalism. That response should be explained in the context of the problem it’s trying to address, and the story should delve into how it works. The narrative is driven by the problem-solving and the tension is located in the inherent difficulty in solving a problem. Documenting the causes of that problem will clarify the opportunity for a solution to create leverage and impact.


The best solutions reporting distills the lessons that makes the response relevant and accessible to others. In other words, it offers INSIGHT.

What makes solutions journalism compelling is the discovery—the journey that brings the reader or viewer to an insight about how the world works and, perhaps, how it could be made to work better.


Solutions journalism looks for EVIDENCE — data or qualitative results that show effectiveness (or lack thereof).

Solutions stories are up front with audiences about that evidence — what it tells us and what it doesn’t. A particularly innovative response can be a good story even without much evidence — but the reporter has to be transparent about the lack, and about why the response is newsworthy anyway.


Reporting on LIMITATIONS is essential.

Solutions stories reveal a response’s shortcomings. No response is perfect, and some work well for one community but may fail in others. A responsible reporter covers what doesn’t work about it, and places the response in context.


  • Sophie Fung

    As an educator, I can guarantee you these 4 principles also work perfectly for planning lessons in social studies !

  • Barney Lerten

    In other words, every response/'solution' has tradeoffs - unintended consequences, messy details, political challenges and the like. But it sure beats just leaving people shrugging their shoulders and saying "yeah, that's a problem, alright - but what can I do?"

  • Joel Viets

    I love the fact that you point out how a responsible reporter covers what doesn't work and is transparent about it. I feel like I've seen a lot of very biased reporters over the last few years who only want to present one side to a story or discussion.

  • Amijah Jackson

    It seems that asking follow up questions during the interview process could be beneficial in Solutions Journalism. I think by asking follow up questions based from what the interviewee says it can make writing the story smoother because more information was collected, than just the questions prepped before.

  • Karis Balôck

    In order to practice this module, I have created a two-part exercise : I went back to an article I had written about a solution and highlighted with 4 different colors the sentences that corresponded to each aspect of solutions journalism. After that I have written a new outline of the same article using the Solutions Journalism lens. It actually helped me see with more clarity what made this solution so efficient.

  • Ify Yusuf

    Open ended questionnaire is best for SOJO. I think this should be reviewed to include an element of sustainability. In a case where there is no data your focus would be on explaining why its not working within that context.

  • Kunnathully Kishore

    I am a working journalists, also involved in training the rural journalists not having basic education in journalism mainly in tribal belt of Chhattisgarh, India. We have been laying emphasis on solution based journalism from the negativity. I hope these course will provide better insight into the solution based journalism.

  • Sallu Kamuskay

    I am from Sierra Leone, a country where most journalists don't have time to find solutions to the stories they share, this is mostly because most of them are politically divided. all they care about is the bad or good news depending on the party in power. not the problem, why the problem, and the solution. This is one of the reasons that pushed me into a freelance journalist and created a blog, I am looking forward to learning and sharing these ideas with my team. thank you so much for this. very very helpul.

  • Naima Mungai

    The link for the final questions has an error code. Otherwise, very interesting set of problems.

  • Lourdes Perez Ramirez

    ¿Consideran ustedes que hay alguna diferencia entre el periodismo social (social journalism) y periodismo de soluciones? Do you consider there is any difference between social and solutions journalism? If so, which and why? Thanks.

  • Crysly Egaña

    El periodismo de soluciones está enfocado en la respuesta a un problema social. Ahora, si la respuesta no tiene buena repercusión, de acuerdo con la evidencia encontrada ¿aún se presenta como periodismo de soluciones? Pareciera que el enfoque solo se utiliza si la respuesta, con su respectiva evidencia, dio buenos resultados.

  • Chidindu Mmadu-Okoli

  • Chidindu Mmadu-Okoli

    I love this approach to journalism. Most stories tend to have open-ended angles seeking answers. But, these five points pf focus have opened my eyes to know that stories can also be told from the angle of impact and response and how it is measured.

  • Andrew Hobbs

    These resources are excellent, and I use them in teaching. One question: can you give an example of the 'insight' point?

  • Miguel Herrera Castro

    I'm no a journalist but this approach to journalism is a very interesting angle from which to explore how to communicate NGOs and government's social programs from an insiders view. I think it's always relevant to discuss (in point 2) how the solution can be financially sustainable, what segment of people it targets and what are the intermediate results between the solution and it's desired impact.

  • Chibuike Alagboso

    So does it mean that an amazing idea that has potential to impact a large group of people can be investigated as a solutions story? This is in reference to the last part of point 3 - For early-stage ideas, where the only “evidence” may be the assertions of credible observers, the key is to not overclaim.


“I felt a great deal of satisfaction in those stories because I was not just lamenting a problem in Philly, but offering readers some new ideas. And I think the response on social media underscored that people are looking for that type of engagement, because it sparks more of a dialogue.”

David Gambacorta
Philadelphia Magazine!
Back To Learning Lab
Quiz Yourself

Spot the "imposter"

Can you tell which stories are good solutions journalism—and which are just posing? Click on the links to read both stories in each pair, and select the one that you think meets the five criteria. Then click the buttons below to reveal the imposters.

Pair 1 (of 4)

Story B is the imposter!

The word “hero” is the giveaway here. Maggie Doyne obviously is doing good work for children in Nepal. But the focus of this story is her, rather than on the response itself and how it works. In a solutions story, the idea comes first; a visionary leader can be an important character, but that person shouldn’t drive the narrative."

Pair 2 (of 4)

Story B is the imposter!

Solutions stories stick to the facts: Here’s what’s happening, here’s how it works, and here’s the evidence. This piece invites readers to take specific actions as ways to address the problem of homelessness among veterans. It’s not bad for people to get involved in causes – but encouraging them to do one thing or another isn’t the job of journalists.

Pair 3 (of 4)

Story A is the imposter!

Usually, a ball is, in fact, just a ball. This story actually does a good job of explaining how One World Futbol works, but it dramatically overclaims without corresponding evidence. Remember: There is no perfect or even “best” response to a problem; every solution has weaknesses, and those should be acknowledged.

Pair 4 (of 4)

Story A is the imposter!

We call this a “think tank” story: It reveals an idea for a response to the problem of access to higher education – but that idea is just an idea, not an innovation that’s been put into practice. Think-tank stories typically emerge from academic research or the policy realm, and they can be useful in guiding reporters to actual responses that are playing out on the ground. But solutions journalism is anchored in responses that actually exist now.


How do I know it's NOT Solutions Journalism?