Chapter III

Teaching Solutions Journalism as a Module

Contents
  1. I. Introduction (5m)
  2. II. The Essentials of Teaching Solutions Journalism (60m)
  3. III. Teaching Solutions Journalism as a Module (15m)
  4. IV. Customized Approaches to Teaching Solutions Journalism (25m)
  5. V. Resources (45m)
Resources

J-School Curriculum Builder

Text Course: Maureen West, ASU

Professor

Maureen West

Maureen West at Arizona State University’s Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication teaches solutions journalism to 100-150 students a year as part of the school’s intermediate reporting class.

At Arizona State University, all Intermediate Reporting courses delivered a solutions journalism module and students were assigned to write a semester-long enterprise story with a SoJo focus. Lecturer Maureen West, who championed this endeavor with the support of her associate dean, Kristin Gilger, delivered the solutions journalism lectures as requested and provided us with her Intermediate Reporting syllabus to illustrate how the SoJo story became part of the curriculum. This section is based on Maureen West's approach. The syllabus can be found to the right: take note of the "Enterprise/Solutions Journalism story" assignment it entails. We encourage you to adapt it for your needs and share the results with us so we can include them in updates of this toolkit.

Solutions journalism was introduced in week four of a 15-week intermediate reporting class, with a lecture and in-class exercise. The students’ final assignment for the class, a 1,500-word story, had to be a solutions story. Once the students were introduced to the solutions journalism approach in week four, it was woven into the discussion as students learned other principles of good journalism. During the rest of the course, they wrote a series of three-source 500- to 800-word news or news feature stories that were not required to be solutions journalism. In week seven, right before midterm, students wrote a story based on the problem that would be addressed in their solutions journalism final story, followed by a story pitch, with proposed sources, on their solutions journalism story. Class discussion explored one or two of their ideas, and how they might structure their stories. A draft of their final solutions journalism story was due in week 8; the final story was due on the last day of the semester, in week 15. For many students, this was the first time they had written a complicated story.

  • Elements of a solutions journalism story
  • The difference between problem stories and solutions stories
  • How to structure a solutions journalism story
  • A closer look: describe the response, show evidence of results, insights, and limitations
  • Students read a series of short pieces in class and explain how they do or don’t complete this sentence: It’s solutions journalism if it…
  • Students read and analyze solutions journalism stories by previous students in this program, and in other programs.
  • Write a story based on the problem you’ll be addressing in your solutions journalism story.
  • Write a story pitch with proposed sources for your solutions journalism story.
  • Write a draft of the final solutions journalism story.
  • Write a final 1,200 - 1,500-word solutions journalism story.
Organizing and Writing Solutions Stories

Text Course: Maureen West, ASU