June 8, 2016

Solutions journalism offers rigorous and compelling coverage about responses to social problems. As part of your reporting, consider these approaches to interviewing a wide range of stakeholders, including the people enacting the solution, those directly affected, detractors, funders, academics and more.

Replace “Whodunnit?” with “Howdunnit?”

In solutions journalism, what matters most is the wisdom found in the actions of your main characters. How did a small organization revolutionize the way a city recycles? What are the slow, systematic steps they took? What are the teachable lessons? It’s only by understanding the nitty-gritty that you can explain what makes it work (or not work) and pass on that learning to your readers.

In addition to “What are the results?”, ask “Which measurements matter most and why?”

Organizations can throw metrics your way all day, but if they don’t represent the most critical measurements of change, they don’t matter. It is easy to get distracted by data. Don’t.

In addition to “What do the experts think?”, ask “What do the people directly affected by this model think?”

Whenever possible, have real conversations with folks on the ground in addition to some of the usual suspects (think-tank wonks, professors, thought leaders).

Replace “Is it working?” with “In what ways is it succeeding, and in what ways is it failing?”

Social change is complex. Your reporting should reflect that complexity.

Taken from Solutions Journalism in Every Newsroom, a self-directed course at Poynter NewsU.

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Vicki Krueger has worked with The Poynter Institute for more than 20 years in roles from editor to director of interactive learning and her current…
Vicki Krueger

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