Thinking about submitting an application for one of the first LION Awards? You should get on it, as the deadline is fast approaching on August 1! One award we’d like to highlight is the Solutions Journalism Project of the Year, presented by the Solutions Journalism Network. Why? This award is unique in that it highlights work done by local publishers to not just uncover what’s wrong in a community but also includes evidence-based solutions as well. Many people complain that local journalism is a collection of crime and horror stories, but solutions journalism gives people more reason for hope.
Another reason to apply for this Award? You’ll get a $2,000 grant to produce another solutions journalism story or series in the coming year.
To learn more about solutions journalism, we asked Tina Rosenberg, co-founder and VP of innovation at Solutions Journalism Network, to answer a few questions via email.
Briefly describe how solutions journalism differs from the average local news story?
Tina Rosenberg: Solutions journalism expands coverage of problems by reporting — with rigor — on efforts to solve them, and how they’re doing. It works for any problem that’s widely shared, because that means lots of people are trying to solve it, and some of those responses will be worth reporting on.
Reporters often cover the poor standardized test results scored by schools in low-income communities. But here’s a story on one such school which doubled its scores in one year, and how that happened.
We cover summertime hunger when school meals end. But how about a city that’s turned old school buses into mobile diners, serving free food?
We report on rising rates of suicides. So we should report on a suicide-prevention coffeeshop.
We cover horror stories of preventable deaths from hospital-acquired infections. But what about how a hospital dramatically lowered its infection rate?
What’s the opportunity for LION members to make a difference with solutions journalism in their communities?
Rosenberg: Solutions stories take away excuses. Officials can’t simply say ‘we’re doing the best we can on a tough problem’ if you can show that someone else is doing better with the same resources. These stories also bring successful new ideas into the community discussion: ‘Hey, our city lost its mental health clinic. Look at how citizens of another city organized to get theirs back.’
Reporting on solutions is also a great way to win back readers driven away by the negativity of news — by far the biggest reason people tune out.
Also, it can strengthen your newsroom’s relationship with your community. Research tells us that many people believe news coverage focuses on their worst stereotype. (Knock on a door in a community of color in Chicago, and the residents know you’re there to talk about gun violence.) They hate that. They welcome coverage about what they’re doing to try to solve their problems. Taking a solutions approach — even though a solutions story also covers the problem — is a way to win trust.
What kinds of ideas are you looking for with grants?
Rosenberg: Most important is a clear understand of the solutions approach. We also look for stories that can make a difference on important community problems.
What’s the most offbeat idea you’ve seen for a solutions journalism project?
Rosenberg: Where to start? Here are nine:
We hope you will consider applying for the Solutions Journalism Project of the Year award, and make solutions journalism a regular part of your publication’s reporting.
– Mark Glaser