March 9, 2016

We’ve just launched a new Poynter News University course in partnership with the Solutions Journalism Network. Today’s Coffee Break Course is courtesy of that training.

Solutions journalism offers rigorous and compelling coverage about responses to social problems — not simply reporting about a problem. One way to start with this approach is knowing where to look for solutions.

Peer-reviewed academic papers: Randomized controlled trials, case studies and literature reviews can help you uncover what is working in different spheres. Try Google Scholar or the PLoS One library.

Academic experts: Once you’ve identified key studies of the issues, contact the authors of  relevant academic papers. Find out what events define their fields, what cutting-edge research papers to explore and which academic stars to follow.

Large data sets: Data sets (for example, the Global Burden of Disease report) can help pinpoint the places and institutions that are having the most success with common problems. Is something happening there that could be replicated elsewhere?

People involved in implementation: One distinction between solutions journalism and traditional journalism is the emphasis on the how. Talk to the people who know not only what is happening but the nitty-gritty details of how it’s done. Keep in mind that your sources have an interest in claiming success, so tune your skepticism radar.

Your own expertise: If you have a beat or are drawn to a specific topic, build a network of contacts. They can tell you about innovative responses under way and introduce you to the people behind them.

Your own life: If you are having trouble vetting after-school options in your town, it’s likely that others are struggling as well. Are there cities that have responded to this issue? Solutions journalism isn’t just about responses to problems that other people face. Some of the most successful solutions-oriented stories are grounded in personal experiences.

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

Take the full course

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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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