Solutions journalism is a growing movement in news media which encourages journalists to investigate and report on the solutions to social issues as vigorously as they do the issues themselves.
Sometimes termed as ‘constructive journalism’ the movement is not meant to produce only positive stories, but rather to provide a balanced view of a problem. By reporting on the issue as well as what might (or might not) be working to solve it, readers have a broader understanding of the problem and more actionable information about what solutions are working should they want to get involved.
Co-founded in 2013 by Canadian David Bornstein, the Solutions Journalism Network is a non-profit organization based in New York City which provides education about solutions journalism. As the main authority on solutions journalism they train individual journalists, news organizations, and students on how to effectively write articles from a solutions perspective as well as highlight organizations that incorporate solutions journalism into their publications. In Toronto, the Ryerson University School of Journalism incorporates the curricula of the Network into their classes.
Lily Santon is a grade 11 student at R. H. King Academy and a managing editor of the school’s Kingsley Voice newspaper “Solutions based journalism is a good way to provide a positive outlook on an otherwise bleak issue. Too often do news outlets use their platforms to stir up controversy and fear amongst their audience. I think despite being a small, student-based publication, we, in the Kingsley Voice Council, should commit ourselves to provide a balanced and optimistic account of the stories we cover.” says Santon.
The influence of solutions journalism can be seen across many major publications. Arianna Huffington, former president and editor in chief of the Huffington Post, started the company’s ‘What’s Working?’ segment. The New York Times publishes a ‘Fixes’ column co-authored by Tina Rosenburg, the other co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network. Solutions-oriented article topics range from addressing homelessness and drug epidemics to combating climate change and improving voter turnout. The possibilities are endless!
Beyond providing a more comprehensive and accurate story, this style of writing has been found to improve engagement and attract new audiences to the material. People are more likely to have faith in the institutions being reported on and the reporters themselves if they are provided with a balanced view of the failures and attempted resolutions. A survey conducted by BBC found that young people especially are more likely to share and engage with positive content as 64% of responders under 35 indicated they preferred solutions-oriented news, over news that simply explained an issue.
Overall, the concept is one that is still growing in popularity and influence and the news is still dominated by the many issues facing the world. However, advocates insist that it is an elevated form of journalism which is the future of the industry.