By Amogh Matthews, EIJ19 RTDNA Student Newsroom
Newsrooms can improve their approach to reporting social problems by comparing local issues to those in other communities.
At EIJ19, a group of panelists touted the benefits of a storytelling method called solutions journalism.
The session, More to the Story: How 15 Local TV Newsrooms Covered Solutions to Community Problems, described solutions journalism as a way to present their audience with a more accurate view of complex problems.
It aims to do that by examining how a response to social issue is or isn’t working. Journalists ask:
- How are other places do things differently?
- What does this place do better?
- What could have been done differently?
Journalist then use the answers to these questions to drive more effective coverage and provide solutions for the community
A group of media professionals–television journalist and Senior Director of the Solutions Journalism Network Carolyn Robinson; KXAN’s Director of Investigations & Innovation Josh Hinkle, and Vice President and News Director of CBS Chicago Jeff Harris, talked about their experiences with solutions journalism.
Here’s what they had to say.
CTA rate of train vs. person collisions
The Chicago Transit Authority had an alarmingly high rate of collisions between people and trains since 2016.
Lauren Victory at CBS Chicago consulted experts to examine potential solutions. She revealed measures such as thermal imaging, platform lighting, and platform doors, but those answers were cost prohibitive.
Solutions journalism has led the CTA to create an ad campaign to improve platform security awareness. While it is only a partial solution, it has led to the question of: How are other places doing things differently?
Helpline Delaware, Ohio
In a small historic part of Delaware County, Ohio, a suicide hotline helps people in crisis. The counties that had a call center also reduced suicide rates significantly compared to others in the state. The organization goes to at least 21 campuses per year and helps kids recognize suicidal tendencies in themselves and others.
This story was used to ask the question: What does this place do better?
Steve Saeger, a reporter from KUSA, compared policy ideas to help reduce chronic homelessness in Denver. Denver emulated policies from Utah, and learned from Utah’s failures as well.
Utah’s solution provided investment to chronically homeless individuals for a short period of time before investing stopped. Denver aims to extinguish the problem longer term by sustaining funding.
The story started the conversation of: What could have been done differently?
Instead of focusing only on the newsroom and local problems, journalists can utilize a story solution framework that could be implemented to create social change.
‘’If you’re investigating things that don’t have solutions to them, then what are you doing?’’ said Harris.