media update’s Emma Beavon explores this new type of journalism and why it is needed.

More often than not, the news cycle can be pretty negative and tends to affect our mood. Because people often feel the news is depressing and disappointing, they tend to avoid it as a whole. 

The Reuters Digital News Report says that a third of people avoid news altogether. Young people, in particular, seem fed up with the negative stance that the news media tends to take. 

In 2017, 57% of people said they avoided the news because it would have a negative effect on their mood. 

This is where solutions journalism comes in. 

What is solutions journalism?

It is a type of journalism that is characterised by its focus on offering in-depth responses to problems and explaining how the response works in meaningful detail.

This type of journalism focuses on effectiveness rather than good intentions and presents available evidence of results. It discusses the limitations of the suggested approaches as a solution and seeks to provide insight that the audience can actually use. 

It gives readers a more comprehensive view of reality because it focuses not only on the problem but how communities and people come together to work on resolving the issue. 

Research by the University of Texas analysed how solutions journalism can have a positive effect on the consumption of news. 

They found a successful article formula of solutions journalism, which goes as follows:
  1. The problem — The causes and symptoms of the issue
  2. The solution — Replicable ideas tied to solving the issue
  3. Implementation — The details of how to put the solution into action
  4. Results — The progress that has been made in working toward a solution
  5. Insights — The lessons that can be learned beyond one particular solution or situation 
The study found that when an article contains all five of these components, people felt that the article was of higher quality compared to articles that only focussed on the problem. It also gets the audience more interested in finding a solution. 

Why solutions journalism is needed?

The need for this type of journalism is growing because:
  • It provides a more complete view of society. When our news only covers problems, and not solutions or responses, big areas of how the community reacts and deals with the issue are left out, which perpetuates misleading beliefs about the reality of society. 
  • It provides information that is essential to solving problems. Simply knowing that the problem exists doesn’t mean you will know how to fix it.
  • It reveals opportunities for social change that may have been hidden. Because of the media’s tendency to report largely on negative news, much of the world’s problem-solving activity goes unreported and therefore possibilities go unrealised.
  • It improves journalists’ understanding of society. Regular exposure to the solutions journalism model will improve journalists’ ability to explain which solutions do work and critique those that do not. 
  • It will improve the coverage of stories. Covering activities that revolve around problem-solving will help reporters add depth and contrast to their work as well as allow for more variety in content. 
  • It refines investigative journalism. Many investigative pieces could be successfully addressed with a discussion on how a similar problem was solved or improved. 
  • It will attract a new audience. People, especially the youth, are interested in finding solutions to issues and therefore many will engage with news that helps them do that. 

The implications of solutions journalism for newsrooms

This emerging branch of journalism will demand a shift in writing styles. Articles will have to be explained in more detail, and far more research will be required.

This means that newsrooms will need to make a collective move towards balancing good news and bad news, as well as offering more information and clarity in order to keep people engaged. 

The BBC, Washington Post, The News and Observer and The Guardian are examples of international newsrooms that have already started to utilise solutions journalism within their organisations. 

News organisations who don’t make this move towards solutions journalism may lose their readers’ trust, and therefore, they could lose a large portion of their audience.

What do you think about this new style of journalism? Let us know in the comments section below. 

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The journalism industry is starting to see some big changes, including a shift towards citizen journalism. Learn more in our Infographic: Traditional journalism versus citizen journalism.