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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 70 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!

1 Comment

  • 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."

Pauledwards
Paul Edwards
Former EIC of the Deseret News
Introduction

How do I know it's Solutions Journalism?
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.

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.

Help us grow our database of solutions stories! Please enter the following information. Our staff will review the story, and if it meets our criteria (see below), it will be added to the Solutions Story Tracker®.

If you want to get notified when your story is added, register or before submitting stories here.

Please submit a valid URL starting with 'http'
Please fill out this field

Great suggestion! So great, that we already have that story listed in the Solutions Story Tracker®. View it here.

It may take a few weeks to see your piece in the Solutions Story Tracker®, as we have a backlog of submissions longer than Ben Hur that we’re diligently working to eliminate. We appreciate your patience.

SJN'S CRITERIA FOR GOOD SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM:
  • Comes from a news outlet; has a date and a byline.
  • Focuses primarily on a response to a problem.
  • Conveys insight, so that its lessons are relevant and teachable to others.
  • Provides evidence of an approach's success or failure.
  • Addresses an approach's shortcomings or limitations.
  • Avoids advocacy, PR, and hero worship—instead focusing on credible, objective reporting.

If you want to get:

JOIN TODAY! It only takes 2 minutes and its completely free.

Please log in to continue:

Not a member yet? Click here to sign up,
and learn about our community and tools.

Get solutions stories in your inbox:

The response

THE RESPONSE FREE!

Weekly email with three solutions stories illustrating responses that work, pivoting off the latest news moments.

CLICK HERE to subscribe in your profile
WHICH COLLECTION DO YOU WANT TO ADD THIS STORYLINK TO?
+ CREATE A NEW COLLECTION
INCLUDE A NOTE ABOUT THIS STORYLINK (OPTIONAL)
Done
Add collection white

Collections are versatile, powerful and simple to create. From a customized course reader to an action-guide for an upcoming service-learning trip, collections illuminate themes, guide inquiry, and provide context for how people around the world are responding to social challenges.

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Name and describe your collection

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Add Stories

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Add external links at any time

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Add to your collection over time and share!

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Add stories to your collection from your list of Favorites below, or add stories directly to a collection from Search or Discover. Anytime you see the collection icon you can add a story. Just click the icon and follow the instructions on your screen.

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This is a powerful feature to provide context and additional information to enhance your collection. Add a link to a relevant website, and a short description about how the resource relates to your collection.

ADD STORY FROM FAVORITES
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Add stories directly from your Favorites, or Search for stories in our database.

If you come across a story you want to add to a collection, click the Collection icon and follow the instructions on your screen.

TITLE
NEWS OUTLET & JOURNALIST
DATE & LOCATION
THERE IN THIS COLLECTION:
THERE IN THIS COLLECTION:
ADD STORY FROM FAVORITES
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Add stories directly from your Favorites, or Search for stories in our database.

If you come across a story you want to add to a collection, click the Collection icon and follow the instructions on your screen.

TITLE
NEWS OUTLET & JOURNALIST
DATE & LOCATION
DONE

You are about to un-favorite a item. Click YES if you want to delete this item from MY FAVORITES.

Photo Credits: Almudena Toral; Gabe Hernandez/Corpus Christi Caller-Times; Cody Pope; Matt Stokes

All other photos are licensed under Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license, and are credited to the following photographers: Rowan El Shimi; Samuele Arcidiacono; Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum 2017 © DW/H. W. Lamberz

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