My View on Solutions Journalism

Wiyot Tribe, CA

From in-class discussion, to each particular reading, I’ve gained a better understanding of Solutions Journalism and come to greatly appreciate this art form and those who choose to make a difference in the world. Most of the articles we were instructed to read provided not only good content, but emotional visuals as well. They tapped into the human psyche and engaged the reader, especially the stories of incarcerated mothers and those of the Wiyot people.

The article entitled “What this Photojournalist thinks about when creating Solutions Journalism stories,” focused on  incarcerated women who are allowed to pump breast milk. The Maternity Care Coalition is the organization that runs the MOMobile pumping program. Their job is to provide education on childcare and health. These topics are difficult in terms of how to tell the story accurately. Photographer, Kriston Jae Bethel does and excellent job of capturing these women a respectful manner. He wanted to “create portraits that dignified them.”

The very first imaged presented shows Theresa Reid feeding her five-month-old niece, Ummayyah. Ummayyah’s mother, Ciara Jackson, is serving time in a correctional facility in Philadelphia. With a strong opening image and a descriptive caption, this article makes the reader want to know more in-depth information. Another image Bethel chose to capture shows three women, Ciara Jackson, Tynette Opner, and Germane Opner, all part of the lactation program. With bright smiles it shows the reader that though incarcerated, they are stilll optimistic individuals, appreciative of life itself.

“Thinking Inclusion + Equity in Solutions Photojournalism” gives us a brief introduction into the life of 18-year-old Terineka Maxwell who is in search of affordable housing after a foot injury. Photojounalist, Tara Pixley captures Maxwell in her natural habitat, along with her specialist, Cindy Walker. Throughout this article, Pixley focuses on the logistics of solutions journalism. The mission is to “inspire deep empathy between audiences and lived experiences of those photographed. Ultimately, the goal is to empower further change making. She provides steps on how to address and respond to social, environmental, and political problems. By checking our biases and privileges, understanding the problem, and engaging people and communities, we as people can create drastic change.

Lisa Waananen Jones, professor at Washington State University’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, offered a solutions journalism course during the fall semester of 2019. Not only did students learn valuable information, but so did she. Jones explained elements to be included in a solutions story and her students used those elements to create compelling images inspired by the theme, “Look for the Helpers.”

The solutions story that interested me was a entitled “A Native American Tribe’s Quest: Give Us Back Our Island.” The story is about the Wiyot Tribe, located in Eureka, California, and their efforts to gain back their stolen land. In 1860, on the day of an important ceremony, Duluwat Island experience a brutal massacre, killing about 100-250 tribal members. In 2019, the city of Eureka returned stolen lands to the tribe. The Wiyot people worked vigorously, cleaning up the land which had said to be uninhabitable. Now that they owned their property again, the Wiyot people can begin the healing process.

This article by Sarah Holder is a great example of persistence and preparation. Though the Wiyot people faced many challenges, they did not give up. They lobbied for decades and finally were success in their attempts. Although America can not change history, it can make things right in today’s society by correcting wrong doings and supporting communities like the Wiyot people.

What I’ve learned is that solutions-oriented photos engage viewers more than problems-oriented photos. Photography explains much needed information and captions add even more information. It can be difficult to show impact visually, but I believe each article does a good job of doing just that. Solutions journalism is an important element and should be viewed as such. It answers problems to existing questions we may not even know we had.