“Engaging Communities Through Solutions Journalism”
Reporting that focuses on rigorously analyzed responses to social problems, or ‘solutions journalism’, has been gaining adherents in newsrooms around the United States. A new study suggests that residents in underreported and stigmatized communities will respond positively to solutions journalism, and this type of story may help them envision a way to become personally involved in improving their neighborhoods.
The report from the Tow Center for Digital Journalism examines how solutions-oriented journalism1 can be applied at the local level, building upon preliminary research2 showing audiences respond favorably to this type of reporting. The report provides a model for community-based solutions journalism projects and offers a rare glimpse into how residents from stigmatized areas feel about how their community is covered.
Tow Fellows Andrea Wenzel, a doctoral candidate at USC Annenberg; Daniela Gerson, community engagement editor at the Los Angeles Times; and Evelyn Moreno, program manager of the Metamorphosis project, worked in collaboration with the Metamorphosis research group to conduct six focus groups with 48 African American and Latino residents of South Los Angeles. These followed a solutions journalism project which connected community organizations and local and ethnic media to produce a series of stories leading up to the 50th anniversary of the Watts Riots. Focus group discussions examined how residents responded to stories about their community that used the solutions journalism format.
From these conversations, the following recommendations for media outlets and organizations working with media emerged:
The authors pointed out that one of the most encouraging experiences in the study was that at the end of each discussion session, participants asked how they could learn more about the issues raised in the solutions journalism stories. They concluded the report suggesting: “Solutions-oriented journalism does not offer a magic bullet to engaging audiences either as media
The full report is now available here.
Solutions-Oriented Journalism - highlights responses to social problems. These stories are not just bad news, nor are they just good news. The strongest stories look at social problems and explore the underlying reasons for the problems, and critically examine efforts to address them.