It was a starry night when Stephanie Young heard a calf bawling, and discovered she had been rejected by her mother. She took her in and is raising the calf herself. Elsie, as she is now called, is deeply loved and cared for at Hillhouse Pastures. Young makes a formula for her and she is bottle-fed, trained daily, and can already follow commands.
“Elsie just makes every morning, it’s just my favorite part
of the day to walk out and feed that little calf and just to give life,” Young said.
This is not a typical situation, but Hillhouse Pastures is
not a typical farm. Young runs her farm with compassion and kindness towards
the animals. She feeds them a healthier grass-fed diet and incorporates
“I’m pretty determined to have really, really, kindly treated
animals, very well tended, loved, that are processed for beef but at least
handled kindly until their death,” she said.
She is looking forward to adding sheep to her farm soon.
Click the video above to hear reactions to the CROWN Act
The CROWN Act, which stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, is a bill that prohibits hair discrimination based upon race. It was passed on September 21, 2020. The CROWN Act is law in seven states. Mississippi did not pass the law. Statistics show that 80% of black women have to alter their hair texture to fit in at the office. Also, black women are almost 2 times more likely to be sent home from work because of their hair.
This short video explains how hair has played a role in the black community. It’s time to change the perception of black hair and rid our minds of the negative connotations associated with dreadlocks and braids. Hair is a form of expression. Shows and movies such as Black Panther and Insecure showcase black people and their natural hair. As India Arie once said, “I am not my hair. I am not my skin. I am the soul that lives within.”
I’ve given a lot of thought to solutions journalism over the last week. I’ve also thought a lot about me as a journalist and my ability to be objective. I think what makes people such strong writers is their passion behind the topics they write about. When you are passionate about something, it is often difficult to hide that passion in your writing, but if we as writers are not passionate about a story, why even cover a story at all? Can we truly do it justice if we are not passionate about it? This is where I battle with objectivity. Should I have been an author instead if this is my thinking?
What pushes me to be a journalist is my search for the truth and my drive for answers. I want to ask the uncomfortable questions. I want people to be properly informed. I believe that the press should be “for the people, by the people” and the overall objective of this body be to report the facts. Plain and simple. Who am I to report these issues and give the people solutions? How can I build a relationship based on trust with my readers? It is a beautiful notion, wanting to steer away from the gloom and doom that is journalism and give people hope for light. I’ve been on the fence about solutions journalism but is possible it may just be the solution to journalism as a whole?
I had a lesson in one of my Political Science classes in which we covered delegate versus trustee representation. My teacher quoted someone, I couldn’t tell you who, that once said “people are stupid” and that is why we have a delegate form of representation in the United States. This stuck with me because I hate that thought. I hate that we the people are considered stupid and incapable of making our own decisions in the eyes of politicians or anyone else for that matter. My mind moves to freedom, which sends me down a rabbit hole to how in the hell we got here? How did we get to the point that we the people are so misinformed and thought of as stupid? How did the relationship between the media and the people fall this far? I think solutions journalism can be the difference in this. It can be the change in people and how they are seen for their lack of knowledge. I also think it can change the way the press is perceived.
What is my point to all this rambling? Stay with me, and I’ll tell you where I am going.
My views on solutions journalism have gone back and forth. Before, I thought it may be nearly impossible to be a solutions journalist without being an advocate, however, my views on that have shifted. I look at my job as a journalist is to tell the whole truth. While, yes there are problems and it is my job to cover these issues, I also believe that it is my duty to dig deeper, past the problems, and provide more. Ask more questions and get more and more answers. Solutions journalism should be the rule, not the exception because where there are problems, there are always solutions if you work hard enough to find them. We shouldn’t bring forth problems without possible solutions. That would be like complaining about an issue and still doing nothing to fix it. To me, it is lazy not to.
I always hated going to the doctor growing up and my mom always said to me “then you must not be sick enough” when I did not want to go. If we as journalists cannot provide possible solutions to the problems we are reporting, then why report the problems in the first place? Do we want the answers bad enough? Are we really doing our job in full? Are we completing our task? The answers are out there if we are willing to go out and find them.
The media, as of late, has not been as trusted by the people. Everyone is skeptical of the press and no one knows what to believe, while others believe everything they read or see without question.
I believe we as journalists can change the “fake news” stereotype with solutions journalism. Doing further research and showing consumers that we have done the work, searched for the facts, and dug deeper to discover the truth, will help mend the bridge of trust that has been broken for far too long. We as people can also change the mindset of politicians that we are stupid with the help of the media by being provided with more information.
In my opinion, people reading the news are more likely to engage and take it in if solutions to problems are available. It also gives readers/viewers the opportunity to research further on their own as well and make a difference. Solutions journalism leads the reader to be more involved. In a way, we are putting our money where our mouth is. The relationship between the press and the people has a chance to change for the better.
What better time for solutions journalism to take off than in the middle of a global pandemic?
I recently read a story on swimming pools, violence, the pandemic, and how they all overlap with one another. I was drawn to the story because my family owns a business back home called Cochran Pools. My father is a swimming pool contractor so I am all too familiar with the topic.
The story discussed public swimming pools and their impact on the increase and decrease of violence in New York. It is believed that not only do pools cool your body temperature in the summer, but they also cool your temper as well. These public swimming pools throughout the state provided a “safety net” and an “escape” according to Mayor John V. Lindsay and progressives like him. They were right. The more public swimming pools that were built, the violence in these areas decreased. It was a brilliant idea. With the pandemic we face today forcing many public swimming pools to close, people have had no oasis to retreat to and violence has soared. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/04/nyregion/coronavirus-nyc-crime-pools.html?utm_source=Solutions+Story+Tracker
I think the story in the New York Times is a good piece. It provides a problem and a solution, one that I believe readers can get behind. It makes sense and who wouldn’t want a decrease in violence in their cities? It provides links to separate stories with statistics. I as a reader like to see the research that backs up these claims. This is something this journalist did well with this story. Seeing the numbers right there in black and white makes this piece more credible. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/02/nyregion/nyc-shootings-murders.html
I also think that the use of history and photographs is done well. I like the shots. I like to know the difference swimming pools made on the decrease in violence in the past as well as how closings due to the pandemic have caused a rise in violence today. One thing I would have liked to see is some shots of the community at these swimming pools in the present. I also would have liked to know how many pools have reopened since the pandemic began and the effect that has had on violence once again. I want more up to date information. With the pandemic, I know it has been difficult with people being cooped up and the lack of engagement with one another. A confined community is not a happy community. Many are feeling like a bird in a cage but our health and safety must come first. This is where the problem and solution get complicated. We are living in a time where the solution to decrease violence is sitting on a shelf, waiting to be picked up, only we cannot use the solution right now. We cannot have a crowded swimming pool in the middle of a pandemic.
Overall, I am impressed by the article. It had its strengths and it had its weaknesses but it opened my mind to all the possibilities of solutions journalism. It gave me an idea as to what I could do differently in the future as a reporter. There may not be a way we can immediately make a difference at the moment other than continuing to social distance, wear masks, wash our hands, and so on to stop the spread of this virus. Then, and only then may we get back to a time when pools were packed, violence decreased, and life was normal. We can only solve so many problems at a time.
Let me start with this: since discovering what “solutions journalism” is, I’ve been intrigued.
Many of my friends are in fields or studying something that work for the “public good.” Doctors. Teachers. Engineers. Farmers. But for me, I’m a journalist, and even though I know the benefit my profession has on the public, others don’t. They see journalists as “stirrers of the pot” or spreaders of “fake news:” people who simply write to promote a political agenda.
Even I, who is a sports writer for two publications, get questions from friends and family members constantly. “You’re not one of those journalists, are you? You’re not going to push your political views on me, are you?”
The answer is no. That’s not what I went to school for, and that’s not what journalism is about. Sure, there are biases that creep into stories of all kinds. People are inherently biased, and I believe it is impossible to rid any profession of every form of bias, but I didn’t get into journalism to push an agenda. I got into it because I enjoy telling stories. I believe stories give us hope, entertainment and knowledge that is necessary to function in everyday life.
The slogan for the Washington Post is “Democracy dies in darkness.” Journalism–and solutions journalism, at that–should be about finding ways out of that darkness. Whether that darkness be poverty or illness or even something as trivial as how to fix the Ole Miss secondary, it’s our job to provide solutions, I believe. Sure, it’s important to talk about the problems, but if we’re not highlighting potential solutions to these problems in society, what are we really doing? People would simply be stumbling around in this proverbial darkness with us telling them “it’s dark in here.” We as journalists have the ability to find potential solutions to life’s problems. Why not use that ability?
Anyway, I know that’s a large bit of rambling, but I wanted to get that out of the way. I’m passionate about the field I’ve chosen, and I want people to know that we can and do make a difference.
On to the assignments we had. I found reading these stories really shed a light on how solutions journalism is multi-faceted and can tackle many issues in a multimedia sort of way. Photojournalism is powerful. It shows us the issues that the written word can’t. I really, really enjoy photography and photojournalism. I’m a writer “by trade,” I guess, but working for a small newspaper, I also work as a photojournalist. It’s honestly probably my favorite part of the job. A picture is worth 1,000 words, and I believe that applies to journalism as well.
The photos were really powerful in these pieces, especially the one about breast milk for babies whose parents are incarcerated. I’ve never really thought much about the prison system (outside of doing some historical research on Mississippi’s Parchman Farm), so this was really eye-opening. I think oftentimes we have a tendency to “throw away” those who are incarcerated–assume that they are beyond help and rehabilitation. That is not the case. This is a touching piece that shows that these people have lives and families and feelings outside of the prison walls, and this system needs reform to help them become members of society once their term is finished.
I chose this article about churches helping with internet service in rural areas for my individual focus. Being from a rural area with crappy internet service myself and being a practicing Southern Baptist, I was intrigued by this article. I found that even in small-town America, a place that hardly has internet access, solutions journalism is possible. Solutions are possible. For some, internet access during the pandemic literally meant life or death due to needing access for doctor visits and other counseling services. Having a reliable internet connection is obviously necessary for this to happen, and I was proud that a church stepped up and made a difference in its community. The solution itself was orchestrated by the church, but the story was told by journalists, and I found myself asking, “Could my local church do something similar to help internet access in my hometown? What are the steps needed to implement this form of solution?”
I feel like that’s the goal of solutions journalism: highlight the area of concern, highlight a solution and tell people how they can potentially do the same thing. That’s what it boils down to.
I really enjoyed this assignment. I learned a lot from it, and I hope to implement some form of “solutions journalism” in my work in the future.
Separated by two time zones and almost 3,000 miles, it might seem trivial to think a housing solution in Portland, Ore. would work in Philadelphia, Pa. — despite the two cities both being in the same country. It is easy in a place as big as the United States to sometimes think of ourselves as less united and more in tune with our niche communities, state or even regions. Portland, a city defined by its hipster culture and expansive gentrification is a far cry from Philadelphia, where industry reigns and gentrification is little compared to other large east coast cities such as New York City, Washington, D.C. or Boston.
But the two might have more in common than meets the eye — one of which being both cities are ranked fairly low among large U.S. cities in homelessness, but it is still an issue both are committed to tackling head on, as well as just addressing housing affordability in general. And while there is commitment to doing so, there are hurdles that both cities are having to overcome in order to do so. Portland, however, has made strides with its Residential Infill Project (RIP), and this project has become a model that changemakers in Philadelphia are considering for their own revamp of affordable housing options for lower-income individuals.
In Portland, to combat what is being called a “cascade of displacement,” the passage of landmark zoning reform allows for there to be more than just single-family homes — meaning triplexes, fourplexes and even sixplexes can come into play. Tenants organized and were able to elect progressive city council members and that catalyzed the movement. In response, the city of Portland authorized a series of economic analyses to see just how beneficial multi-family homes would be. While there was pushback from groups across the board — with many of the concerns rooted in validity — ultimately the Portland RIP plan was pushed through, and there was even buy-in from privatized and affordable housing developers who realized the financial feasibility of the plan.
In class, we discussed how solution-based journalism is a fine line journalist have to walk. The goal is not to tell viewers how to think about an idea — it is to provide the what to think about. As a journalist, you also have the unique opportunity to report on additional ideas that could have potential to serve as catalysts for spurring meaningful change. But you have to be weary to not try and shape your reader’s view — leading the figurative horse to water but allowing the horse to decide to drink on its own. You can place a solution there, but it is up to the reader to engage with it without your persuasion.
This piece, I personally felt, delivered on the promise to remain objective while also delivering a story about a housing solution in Portland that could be implemented in Philadelphia — as well as other cities across the country. The writing never insisted this to be the finalized solution, but instead used suggestive phrasing such as “could be transformative” or“could allow more families to stay in neighborhoods.” The author of the piece, Jessica Blatt Press of The Philadelphia Citizen, ensured her objectivity through these statements and by also not endorsing Portland RIP in the piece. Instead, Press choose to interview individuals like Diana Lind, the executive director at the Arts and Business Council for Greater Philadelphia, who is in favor of creating more affordable housing options, to create a narrative that would fit like a puzzle piece in with the Portland component. The goal being the reader is given the opportunity to see this as a viable solution for Philadelphia’s own affordable housing issues, but without clearly stating this is either what the city will do or should do.
So, while The Philadelphia Citizen piece did a great job of reporting on an issue and objectively presenting one solution to address said issue, what I felt was missing was the opportunity to incorporate a multimedia aspect. The piece about thinking inclusion and equity in solutions photojournalism, made the point that all too often we see simplistic images designed to at a basic level portray an issue — but these types of images do not make an impact on the reader (such as an expressionless face used to illustrate human rights issues, an example photojournalist Tara Pixley used in her writing). I feel this piece could have been strengthened with images of the gentrification of Portland versus Philadelphia, middle class housing and even renderings of proposed structures. Ultimately, it felt like a missed opportunity. As a reader, I appreciate the additional value visual components can add, as well as the impact they can make.
“Photojournalism can be used for social change and to motivate public action. It can also be used to reiterate one-sided understandings of whole communities, nations and continents.”
It is important to remain objective as a journalist — especially when navigating the realm of solutions journalism. However, I agree with Aditi Mayer in her notion of “moving away from the politics of ‘objectivity’” and “rather embrace the politics of transparency.” A strong photograph — or video or another visual aid — spurring emotion can be impactful. The Philadelphia Citizen piece, but transformed with a multimedia component, would make for an even more compelling presentation of a solution to an issue many American cities are far too familiar with.
For a long time, journalism has been seen as a negative job. It often times includes journalists covering depressing or negative stories. Occasionally, heart warming stories are reported but they are drowned out by the stories talking about social issues, crimes, and other problems that the world is dealing with. There is a question is asked: Can journalist provide solutions to the problems that they report on? Solutions journalism is new type of journalism emerging that wants to change the way of reporting. It is not a way for journalist to give their own opinions but instead a way to encourage and bring light to solutions for the problems being discussed. Solutions journalism starts with the story or issue being addressed and then explains how the problem is being addressed. Since it is a new type of journalism, it is still in the stage of discussion of what the format of solutions journalism can be.
The first thing I wanted to talk about from my findings when I read the articles provided is something that I agreed the most with. After reading Kriston Jae Bethel’s experience with solutions journalism, I believe that solutions journalism requires a new of going about reporting. You have to plan out how you want to tell the story. Bethel had to do a “story on incarcerated women who are allowed to pump breast milk and have it delivered to their infants outside of prison” and was allowed access to Philadelphia’s Riverside Correctional Facility (Bethel). One challenge he had was making sure that the story focused on the connection between a mother and child versus the life of someone in prison. His photos told the story of the women, not their life in prison. Bethel told the whole story and photographed the mothers in prison, the people who deliver the breast milk, and the families taking care of the children. He made sure that his article told the whole story and not just one side of it. I believe that is what makes solutions journalism different from regular journalism. It is not just the problem of women in prison having to be separated from their babies but instead, a look in to motherhood from a different perspective. He addresses the problem but shows the solutions that some correctional facilities are using.
Lisa Waananen Jones wrote about her experienceusing solutions journalism in her class. She made her college class do a photo essay. She chose to do photos because according to research by Nicole Dahmen at the University of Oregon, “solutions-oriented photos engage viewers more than problems-oriented photos” (Jones). After looking at her student’s submissions, Jones found that the photos explained more of the “how” than words could. Photos showed how people were working to fix the problems. In an article titled “The Research behind Visuals and Solutions Journalism”,Kyser Lough writes about the research findings of using visuals in solutions journalism. He explains that “the researchers suggest that the comprehensive nature of solutions journalism visual means the images should show both the problem and the response to the problem” (Lough). Not only are the photos important but so are the captions. The captions do a lot of story telling because they explain what is happening in the photo. With the correct photos and the appropriate captions, an entire story is told with the problem addressed and the solutions answered. I think that photos are also a great way of keeping the interest of a reader because not everyone likes to read a bunch of words on a page. Photos being used with solutions journalism allow the reader to visually understand the problems and see real people providing solutions. This connects the reader in a way that words cannot and shows that anyone can be a part of the solution.
The article that I chose from Storytracker.com, “Why More Homeless Shelters Are Welcoming Their Clients’ Pets”,deals with homeless shelters allowing their clients to bring their pets with them to the shelter. Travis Williams is the chief development officer at Springs Rescue Mission. His goal is to get as many people off of the streets as possible. He found that a lot of people get turned away because the shelters do not accept pets. Any pet owner, homeless or not, would agree that pets are a part of the family. People coming to shelters were choosing their pets over a safe place to sleep at night. Harmony Rhoades is a research associate professor at the University of Southern California and explains that she has “seen some homeless youth choose to stay in precarious living situations, in which they were subjected to abuse or violence, just so they could stay with their pets” (Nextcity.org). The solution of allowing pets would change their decision and possible save their life. There are many benefits to allowing pets to go with their owners in to the shelter. Firstly, “animals provide companionship and a sense of security for people on the streets” (Nextcity.org). Pets have been proven to have a positive impact on mental health and someone living on the streets needs that positivity. I personally feel that a homeless shelter may have more a somber feel to it and a dog playing with a toy or a cat purring would lighten the overall environment. Secondly, a shelter does not have turn someone away because they have pets and thus, you are lowering the number of people on the streets. Finally, you are providing a better environment not only for the people but for the animals as well.
I chose this article because I do believe that homelessness is a major problem in the United States. Most people who are homeless are not choosing to be homeless and just need a safe place to sleep. The sad thing is that many people are turned away because they would rather freeze on the streets than have to give away their animals. This article discusses the problem of homelessness and provides examples of rescues that have allowed pets into their facilities. Heading Home and Springs Rescue Mission are both places that want to take down barriers that are causing more people to be on the streets rather than in a safe place. Both of the shelters talk about the benefits of taking in pets and their success with their decision. This is solutions journalism. It is providing a problem, homelessness, and showing solutions to that problem. There is no bias in the article but it answers all the questions that one may ask about allowing pets in to the shelter. The one concern I do have about this article is that I feel like it may be aimed at a small group of people. There is no nationwide statistics about the percentage of people with pets on the streets but according to Pets of the Homeless, “between 5-10 percent of people living in homelessness are believed to have a pet” (Nextcity.org). 10% is not a very large number in the overall picture of things. Despite my concern, I believe that no issue is too small to be discussed. Another concern I have is that the article does tell how the shelters are getting the extra funding for what is needed to house a pet but I feel that could have been talked about more. Money is a major issue when it comes to making decisions on what could be most beneficial to the shelter and the people staying in it. I feel that it did provide answers but some shelters cannot raise $15 million as Springs Rescue Mission did. Lastly, I feel that this article could have benefited a lot more through photos. There is one photo provided but it only shows a homeless man with his dog on the streets. Jillian Kestler-D’amours discusses in her article how they provide cages and in some cases, allow the dogs to sleep by the bed of their owner. A photo showing the readers what this looks like could have taking the article more in depth. I also believe that a photo of the people in the shelter playing with the pets would have provided a better understanding to the positive impact that allowing pets in shelters may have.
Overall, I believe that solutions journalism is a good idea and should become a more widely used type of journalism. You are not just reporting on the issues but giving a way to fix them. It makes people think and if people are reading the article, they may be encouraged to take action on the problem. Instead of bringing light just to the issue, journalist should include the solutions as well. I believe that the most important component of solutions journalism is providing examples of organizations or businesses that have found the answers and are using them successfully. Whether it be autistic people working at Microsoft or Springs Rescue Mission bringing in more homeless people with their pets, the answers are out there to the problems being reported. Solutions journalism takes away the negative connotations that arise when thinking about journalism. The world is filled with so much negativity and when all you see in papers or online is crime or depressing social issues, it can be disheartening. Solutions journalism encourages a different way of thinking and could be very beneficial to everyone.
Before the chaos of 2020 unfolded, I was on track to graduate in May with a few job opportunities on the table with my marketing and communications degree. Then, COVID-19 came and changed my future plans altogether. I turned back to graduate school to take an opening in the master’s program for professional journalism. The decision has led me to new connections, and it is exciting to dive into the journalism field with so much change appearing now.
Change has been constant around everyone in the last few months as the world came to a standstill with a pandemic, changes in the environment occurred, and people took a stand against social injustice. 2020 has been a year of problems with not many solutions being found. Journalists have had their fair share of stories to write as people complain about the difficulties many are facing together. Solutions journalism comes into play here as many individuals are complaining, but few are offering real solutions.
Defining Solutions Journalism
The solutions way dives farther into problems than usual. Journalists look into what is working, what is somewhat working, and what is not. Evidence is then presented to the public usually with research and new insights to back up claims. A solution’s complexity level depends on the problem, but the context of the situation also has to be reviewed. If someone is getting too many speeding tickets, then the fix is slowing down. Social injustice is an intricate problem rooted in America for years, and the solution is complex as the answer would have to be universal. Solutions journalism is rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems.
“Solutions journalism offers comprehensive coverage of an issue by proposing solutions rather than just focusing on the problem.”
– Caroline Murray from the Center for Media Engagement at UT
The video from UT researches more into how solutions can be positively covered to make readers feel more involved. The goal is to inform the public on topics and lead them to believe they can address the solutions to issues through their actions. More information is better for the reader, so make sure there are facts given in a story to better understand a situation. For journalists, they are the source of news for various citizens and giving them unbiased knowledge on stories is a major part of the daily job.
Readings and Opinions
Now that I have a solid foundation on what solutions journalism is, I can discuss the readings and videos assigned. From the first article, photojournalism played a fundamental role in solutions journalism as the photographs captured a problem with incarcerated mothers. The unique challenge was spending time with the prisoners and learning more about them as mothers and highlighting the unique program located in Philadelphia. As photojournalists, photos are the lifeline of this story as the images show the mothers still care for their children. These women need to have their perspective shown in the story to understand what the issues are and how can they are overcoming obstacles. Kriston Bethel understands he has a job to cover a story like this. He did a great job of informing readers, gathering emotions, and providing a story based on facts rather than biased opinions. The article gives an example of how other prisons can incorporate a program for mothers and their children. By showing empathy and understanding, Bethel’s writing was powerful and conscious of the mothers who struggle with raising kids one way or another.
With the next article, I agree with the statements given. There is a connection given by photojournalists between certain people or communities they capture and the individuals on the outside who are exposed to the story. I believe it is important to understand the privilege journalists have with a platform to share their voice on, and it is their job to highlight issues that may not be mainstream. The stories and visuals are meant to test what others believe, but journalists need to make sure they are giving the whole story without bias. By understanding the context, readers can see what offered solution is and possibly take action or share the idea with their peers.
“Solutions journalism is maybe not just for journalism?”
– Lisa Waananen Jones
I can relate to the lessons from one semester of solutions journalism. Coming from communications, there is storytelling in many parts of the job, and I am learning in journalism that storytelling is fundamental in keeping the public informed. Solutions journalism is maybe not just for journalism? I agree with the question as others can use the writing style to gain access to unique stories. I did not get an undergrad degree in journalism, but my marketing and communications degree had traces of journalism. The communications part is relatable as marketing is getting a company’s voice out to the public in a way to create action. I learned how to reach out to specific market groups just as journalists reach out to readers with information. With journalists, there is a higher standard of writing, and the stories usually reach more individuals.
The video format of solutions journalism helped me understand what Barcelona wants to do with its architecture. I understand what Spain is trying to do with superblocks, and many cities can take notes. I am looking at you New York. The problem was highlighted with traffic being a problem to go along with Barcelona’s limited space. The video and article were informing to me even though I can’t relate to living in an urban city. Coming from the coast of Mississippi, the most traffic I see is at the railroad tracks. The Barcelona article highlights the problem and thoroughly gives a solution that has been in the works since the 1980s.
I found this video story on the difficulties sports institutions face with rebranding. With the new Washington Football Team, many fans made fun of the decision, but not many know of the process that goes into changing a whole brand image. CBS follows up on the company that helped with the rebranding. The story breaks down the naming and trademarking side of previous teams such as Miami of Ohio and North Dakota. Ed O’Hara discusses the decision process from new logos, team colors, and even crowd chants. The Redskins decision was tedious as the naming and trademarks are the most difficult part. CBS gives great insight on the issues with naming, so couch GMs can actually see what it takes to change a logo that will stand the test of time.
From last week’s class, David Borstein makes a case for solutions journalism to be a standard in telling the news. His Ted talk was informative as it was the first time I have heard of solutions journalism. By discussing the past with muckraking and how journalism has evolved, he leads a strong discussion on why solutions journalism needs to be a fundamental part of newsrooms around the world. I agree a journalist’s job is to highlight the bad and good news. With Borstein’s journalism experience, I trust his opinion on solutions journalism, and there are more opportunities today to share answers to difficult problems. From the readings, I learned it is important to stay involved in current events. Problems are being covered far more than solutions, and people are tired of just seeing the bad news. Journalists can build up public trust again with this writing style, and the information journalists share today can help pave the way for change in the future.
It’s no coincidence that the New Media Age and the War on Truth would happen at the same time. For most people, information is readily available to be consumed, published and shared directly to globally linked platforms. Great! The downside is that sometimes that information is disinformation, misinformation, or all out falsehood and entertainment. If we’re going to compete for consumer attention, we have some reconfiguring to do. How can journalists rewire our approach to maximize our utility — How do we make ‘stories’ relevant in real life?
Solutions Journalism presents a path to overcoming this frenzy by restoring the legitimacy of news, acknowledging the urgency of solutions and taking real news that much further on the quest for universal truths and pathways to progress.
Quite frankly, if it openly presents a viable and morally sound fix for an issue, it’s solutions journalism. The issue then for both well meaning journalists and consumers is: How does this not give new freedom to bias and deception under the guise of ‘journalism’?
It’s important to mention that I did not always believe that this ‘fixer’ was the role of journalism. In my old construct of what a journalist does, they don’t advocate for one side or the other. Objectivity and impartiality have been practices that have subjected journalism and new media to the ‘most profitable’ practices. Not until my junior of college did I discover, not only is this limiting, but it’s for the most part not true about impactful journalism. Such an approach neglects the typical consumer who may feel jaded with the press, the fact that bias still exists in the field, and a critical component to consumer climate– the mistrust that has been sown in the field in the last decades.
As a journalist, what I appreciate most about this style of reporting is that it:
Encourages journalists to be well informed, innovative and investigative in their approach.
Connects the public to relevant and professional voices of solutions.
Solutions journalism is good for democracy.
As a consumer, I appreciate solutions journalism because:
(1) It increases the utility of stories.
(2) Is open about motives and biases.
(3) Sets a foundation for progressive dialogue and action.
(4) The power of reimagining the current narrative makes journalists willful architects of a better society.
In the era of alternative facts, fake news and media manipulation, now is a crucial time for the resurgence of meaningful journalism that cuts through the chaos, focuses on the facts and is straightforward in its call to action and purpose.
Of gravest importance is that Solutions Journalism is a way to make the field viable again as a gatekeeper to democracy. The legitimacy of the institution of media has taken some hard hits in the last decades as the result of political influence, disinformation campaigns, delocalization of news and wealthy private ownership/ influence of a crucial public good: information and truth. A well informed cognizant citizenry has been an important component of the formula for the health of American democracy and sustainable communities.
Farmers Markets Bring Together Communities in Mississippi Delta highlights The Good Food Revolution of Mound Bayou, Mississippi which encourages a more sustainable local food system for the Mississippi Delta, an area stricken by food insecurity. Nutrition and health are serious topics and it is not often that this discussion in a regional context would be encouraging an outsider to support the solution in a way that is non vindictive to a Delta citizen. One thing that this article makes crystal clear is that not only are Solutions journalism an all around good, but it is extremely necessary for sustained progress and positive narration.
The author of this article, Alexander Watts takes a simple but effective structure of writing using a solutions angle.
Opening with a brief contextualization of the issue and area of focus.
Majority of the discussion evokes a positive outlook.
Waits til the end to reiterate the ‘negatives’ or the need for the solution.
Acknowledges that there are alternative solutions.
Even if all these reasons do not satisfy the case for solutions journalism, a an indisputable fact is that solutions are a good change from the negativity that wins coverage over positivity, according to traditional journalism standards which tend to favor drama and conflict.
Solutions Journalism also may be a healthier alternative to this. According to this survey published by the American Psychological Association, news is a frequent stress factor for most American adults. Imagine, at breakfast, instead of reading the above mentioned article, you read this article about child hunger in Mound Bayou. The article is well intentioned but it uses negative frames and emotion to discuss only the importance of the problem. As a consumer, the utility of this piece is one-dimensional (to inform) even thought the journalist put lots of effort into creating it? There are thousands of others just like it. Taking the piece to the next level would mean offering the average citizen an outlet to help fix the problem.
You’d leave the table with a more positive perspective and in a conversation about that topic that day, you’d be more likely to have a positive countenance of the discussion and applicable knowledge about how to fix it. Perhaps you might even pass the message along in the break room or share it on social media. You have caused a ripple effect of better thinking on the subject, equipping another to do the same thing. Overall bettering society.
Solutions journalism is the answer to producer and consumer problems in journalism and emergent media industry.
The first rule of journalism is telling the truth and doing so, you are expected to tell that story from an objective, impartial position. This has been preached since the beginning of the profession. But is all journalism treated the same?
When considering the different categories of journalism my mind quickly thinks of broadcast, digital, and print. Although they are presented on very different platforms, each category delivers similar stories and reports on the events around the world. Solutions journalism doesn’t fit this mold.
Solutions journalism is, in a sense, an approach to responses in social issues and problems that, through credible sources, explain what responses are working and why. It looks at the bigger picture, not just the problem. Solutions journalism is successful because it follows the golden rule of journalism, telling the truth. Objectivity, though, could be questioned.
When discussing solutions journalism last week in class an interesting question was asked.
“At what point does solutions journalism become advocacy?”
Through effective interviewing, communication, and videography, the CBS reporter in this piece told a great story and did so well. He told the truth and remained impartial. This story inflicted emotion, exhibited the benefits of employees with a spectrum disorder to both the employee and the companies, and presented how and why this solution works. It is successful solutions journalism.
Maybe it isn’t advocacy that we are seeing through solutions journalism, maybe it is transparency we are seeing through solutions journalism that is presented in a way that moves the audience to want to be an advocate for a beneficial solution.
Wouldn’t it then be the audience’s choice?
In any story reported to any audience, what the audience does with the information following exposure is their choice. Will the story impact their political views? social views? opinions on a person, company, or organization? The impact of the story is left to the reader or viewer.
Telling a story through truth and objectivity that ultimately moves an audience to take action or think deeper is not advocacy. It is good storytelling.
In the case of the CBS piece, the subjects, mentors, and companies tell their stories, and the reporter is simply facilitating it.
We see this occur in many other cases as well. One to highlight is in this clip from People Fixing The World, an organization dedicated to providing brilliant solutions to the world’s problems.
The director, team members, and participants in the most deprived communities in Cape Town tell their story of the benefits of surf therapy camp. The children are given coaches that act as role models and avenues of communication. This mentorship combined with the meditation and therapy of the ocean has lead to downshifts in violent behavior.
“I learn to respect people. I learn how to communicate with other people,” a participant said.
This story is transparent. It presents a solution for the children affected by dangerous and poor communities and tells why the solution of surfing works. Because of the positive outcomes following surf camp, it leads the audience to support this solution. Here again, the subjects tell their story, and People Fixing The World facilitates it.
“Solutions Journalism offers a new way to report on key issues of our time and to imagine a better future,” Tara Pixley, professor and award-winning photojournalist, said.
The stories covered in this report approach storytelling in a new way. They are consistent in telling the truth and remaining impartial, but they report in an important fashion. Each piece looks at their individual subject, not as victims, but as people. They are more than subjects, they are humans and communities that are understood. In doing this, we aren’t focusing on the problem anymore.
The transparency of these stories is the motivating factor. We hear the voices of these people and we don’t have to question where the reporter’s opinion lies. Stories like these that move their audiences to take action are examples of successful solutions journalism. So maybe it’s time to not move away from objectivity, but to accept transparency as objectivity.
started from the belief that today’s news sphere is filled with
overly negative news and reports on problems rather than solutions.
Reading or watching the news is becoming more and more depressing,
for it depicts an overly negative view of the world. The balance
between positive and negative news is flawed and journalists report
almost exclusively on negative stories, forgetting a potential focus
So what is solutions journalism? The basis is to give as much importance and reporting on a solution than on the initial problem. Solutions journalism is investigating with depth a potential response to an issue, and backing up that response with data, with interviews, with analysis. It is trying to understand why a particular solution works as an efficient response to a particular problem, and whether it could work elsewhere or on different types of issues.
“It is deep reporting on the response that is showing signs of effectiveness, reporting that shows how that response came about and shows evidence that that response is having some impact. That can be data that show the response is actually working […]. And, of course, great storytelling, great anecdotes from people about experiences that shows the response is effective. So, good, solid evidence of qualitative and quantitative.”
Sara Catania, from the Solutions Journalism Network, on an interview for Newslab
Solutions journalism can be applied to every type of format or medium. I really liked the stories on how visuals can switch their perspectives in order to fit into a solutions journalism angle. As mentioned in one of the articles, pictures are as important as the written content of an article, for this is what catches the reader’s attention and determines whether he will stay or not. Therefore, approaching an article with an illustration freed from stereotypes, showing a different perspective on things is refreshing and attractive. A picture can convey as much impact as words and gives the tone for the rest of the article. I also like how it demonstrates the fact that solutions journalism is not only limited to written text, because it is a philosophy more than a way of telling stories.
Solutions photojournalim aspire to be more inclusive, more equitable but also more positive. These are standards that place the use of images on an equal footing with the written content and gives the visuals a bigger role in the story. Images stay in mind longer than text, therefore a compelling illustration exposing solutions will likely impact a reader more than visuals showing problems exclusively.
An example in practice
I decided to work as an example on a story about students renaming a park in Chicago. In the article published on Block Club Chicago – a non-profit news organization that is “dedicated to delivering reliable, nonpartisan and essential coverage of Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods” (according to their website) – we learned that a group of students renamed their local Douglas Park into Douglass Park after learning the place was not named about Frederick Douglass, famous abolitionist, but after Stephen A. Douglas, an advocate for the expansion of slavery. Located in a predominantly Black neighborhood, the students considered the name offensive to the community.
I picked this
article because it reminded me of the removal of a confederate statue
on the University of Mississippi campus just a few months ago. I
decided to look at this event and the way it has been covered, in
order to compare it with how a solutions journalist covered the park
Block Club Chicago’s
article focused highly on the students’ initiative: why did they
want to rename the park, what was the issue with the previous name,
why was it named that way, what was the context at the time the name
was given, what would it take to change the name, how did they
organize, what steps did the students went through, why was it
important to them to join the fight, what obstacles they encountered,
how did they feel, and finally how did they manage to change the name
– no other park in Chicago has ever been renamed, this is a first
in the city’s history.
“Even though the odds were stacked against them, the students went out on a limb and raised their voices to call on the people in power to fix a historical wrong. Even when it seems impossible to make a difference, it is always worth taking the chance, said Jazzmin Johnson, 13.”
Extract fom the Block Club Chicago article
The Washington Post article on the other hand, rather than focusing on the students’ initiative, focused primarily on the issue the confederate statue was and the bigger picture: why does it matter to have it removed, how long did the process take and what did it cost, and what other symbols in other universities have been replaced too. This article has definitely a broader and more pragmatic view on the subject.
Finally, the MSNBC article focuses primarily on the disagreements between the student board and the school officials regarding the relocating of the statue. The students’ side argues the relocation to the cemetery was not agreed and the school is displacing the problem instead of dealing with it, while the school’s side argues that the statue is a legacy and part of the university’s history.
So where is solutions journalism in all that? Well, we can differentiate the Block Club Chicago article as a solutions journalism story because (1) it focuses on an issue – the park bearing a name offensive to its community – and (2) explains the solution that has been adopted to this particular issue, with (3) depth in the reporting of the solution including testimonies, obstacles encountered, opinions, facts and resolution, all of that while (4) encouraging other initiatives of this type in explaining the process and proving it works. This story contains all elements of a solutions journalism story.
The two mainstream articles, on their hand, are primarily focused on the issue, but do not offer any solution. MSNBC is reporting on one side, one angle of the story being the reaction of students to the relocation of the statue, that they were not primarily informed about. The Washington Post article comes closer to a solutions journalism story in mentioning other initiatives by other schools, showing that each issue has found a proper solution (buildings being renamed, mascots being replaced, etc). However, it fails to explain the process of the solution, how did we reach such a solution and how can it be applied somewhere else.
While the three articles I chose did not refer to the same story, we can still distinguish a solutions journalism story by the way the story is approached and the importance given to the resolution. The Washington Post article reflects what we often find today in the media, an opening about positive initiatives and actions that are being taken in a good direction; but it fails to give it an essential role in the story.
A sustainable model? Critics and limits
Solutions Journalism v. Advocacy Journalism
A common critique of solutions journalism is that it can be perceived as advocacy. I do not necessarily agree with that. I believe it is called “journalism” because it must follow the same guidelines and rigor as outlined by the profession, meaning giving a fair and balanced coverage. Advocacy journalism explains why you should do something. Solutions journalism explains why doing this would help solve a problem.
The report we watched in class about the increasing employment of people with autism and its benefits is a great example of that; let’s analyze and compare the two approaches.
Advocacy journalism would report on the fact that companies should hire people with disabilities like autism because we should aspire to inclusion in the workplace and it is the ethically right thing to do. Advocacy would show what benefits people with autism could bring to a company in order to support its argument and convince.
Solutions journalism reported on the fact that companies hiring people with autism benefits both the employees and employers. There was a problem: people with disabilities like autism suffered from unemployment, because of their disabilities. A solution has been found among big companies in technology for instance that need skills autistic people possess. Special programs have been developed, going from a different hiring process to continuous support throughout people’s careers. There was an issue, some companies found a solution, and the report showed that response is efficient. This is solutions journalism.
Solutions Journalism as the future of the news
While reporting on an interview with Sara Catania, I learned that studies show people are more likely to engage with the news when dealing with solutions journalism. The audience is very responsive to the news that shows how improvement can be made, how the reader himself can get involved, and participate in fixing an issue. Having a focus on the negative without offering a solution gives the impression that everything is doomed and nothing can change; while solutions journalism proves this is not true. Giving the audience the keys to be active is making the news more attractive. This is basic logic, if you tell people there is a problem and there is nothing they can do about it, what is the point in reading the news besides getting informed. Tell the audience there is a problem and here is how you can help, or here is what has been done and the people will feel like they have the power to make things happen, they are not passive readers but can be active.
In the TedX video we watched during class, David Borstein mentions how the new generations are shifting perspectives regarding the news but also the world in general. They are way more willing to be active: regarding politics, climate change, or social issues. This type of journalism will directly find its audience in this generation. Being part of it, I can say solutions journalism is basically helping us getting the tools to make a change. While social media already have a role of both sharing what is being done elsewhere and helping people organize, journalists add to that deep reporting, accurate facts, and data.
In the interview I worked on for Newslab, Sara Catania explains how she personally thinks solutions journalism should be part of regular journalism, and how it should be taught in school. Looking back at it, this makes so much sense. In my personal life, I am the type of person that needs to be around positive people, this is very important to me. So why not do the same with the news? Why would I not let negative people around me, but let negative news affect me while keeping consuming it?
The shift from regular journalism to solutions journalism might take time but I am hopeful that we will get there one day, especially with the new generations coming, who might give it more importance. However, I can understand in what ways it could be hard to democratize among the media sphere: while classic journalism requires reporting on a story, solutions journalism requires reporting on a story plus on a response, which is twice as much reporting. Giving the time pressure in the newsrooms, that might be hard to implement drastically, but I remain hopeful, for studies show the audience is in demand for this type of content.
We can nonetheless raise some concerns about whether solutions journalism is applicable to any type of news. We saw it is applicable to any type of format and media, but the content in itself might not always present a solution. Hopefully, the more our generation will make changes, the more journalists will have to report on these solutions, the more new solutions will be implemented and we will enter a beneficial circle. But I am afraid some type of news might have to stay regular news, for they have not found their solution yet, yet journalists still have to inform their audience. Let’s stay hopeful and try, for every story, to find a bright side, a way to engage, a room for change: that is a beginning until a proper solution can be found and applied.