J-School Curriculum Builder
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.
“Think of a pizza: that is your big idea. But to find a story, look for a small slice of the pie. Narrow your idea.”