Dr. Pradeep Mahapatra
Amidst various trends in alternative journalism, practice of Solutions Journalism in the United States of America claimed a place during the second decade of twenty-first century. Solutions Journalism aims to contribute towards mitigating social problems. Deep analysis of social problems from various angles and reporting on initiatives undertaken by different stakeholders to solve such problems constitute the main fabric in Solutions Journalism. It may suggest methodologies and showcase examples of success stories in solving similar issues elsewhere is also a part of Solutions Journalism.
Newswriters deal with success or failure of a development with praise or criticism. Solutions Journalism report significant factors in both the areas. In the course of criticism on failure of an initiative different negative approaches employed to solve the issue are highlighted. At the same time a detailed description of possible solution initiatives for success may also be presented. It has been proved that such reporting has positive impact upon people.
Journalism in the contemporary times choose to report on shortcomings in the society. The practice of digging deep into negativity through Investigative Journalism spread in different geographies between the period of Second World War and Globalization. The trend continued throughout the first two decades of twenty-first century. However, certain studies conducted during the pre-pandemic and post-pandemic periods stated that popularity of Investigative Journalism is fast diminishing.
In general consumers are interested to follow news that affect their daily lives rather than ‘big news’ concerning national and international issues. They express that consumption of negative news results in depressive psychology and promotes arguments among friends in general conversation. To avoid such unwanted situations, they prefer to avoid news altogether.
Solutions Journalism do not confine itself with just pointing out the shortcomings of an issue, but try to gather facts on the reasons behind the ongoing problem and the possible ways to sortout. Fundamental characteristics of Solutions Journalism include firstly to report the details on the steps taken to mitigate the problem, secondly locate out the reasons responsible to fuel the issue, thirdly present successful examples in solving such issues elsewhere and fourthly collection of data on success or failure of different initiatives employed.
While traditionally journalism highlights social problems and failures to address such shortcomings, Solutions Journalism lay importance on the reasons behind the failures and suggest replicable models to fix the issues. Tina Rosenbeng and David Bornstern wrote a weekly column in The Newyork Times entitled ‘Fixes’ which delt with reportage on solving social problems. It could achieve popularity among the readers. Tina and David co-founded ‘Solutions Journalism Network’ to make their experience in reporting shared among the journalists community. The New York based network was established in 2013.
‘Solution Journalism Network’ emphasises upon research and training to enhance quality of journalism. During the first decade of operation it could train 30,000 journalists worldwide. ‘Solutions Story Tracker’, a database in its website contains about 15,000 solutions stories from more than 190 countries. The resources encourage interested journalists to practice Solutions Journalism worldwide.
Tina Rosenberg mentioned in an interview to ‘Voice of America’ during 2022, “It is not new; a lot of people have been doing solutions journalism without putting a name on it for a long time. What we have done is create a system for doing it and marshalled research around it in case studies and learning tools and help to spread it.” Traditional outlook in journalism usually do not entertain experimentation. But disruptions due to emergence of digital platforms during first two decades of twenty-first century in the developed nations and spread of the trend of news-avoidance worldwide in the post-pandemic New Normal news platforms are compelled to search for news models in form and content. The situation offered a conducive environment for spread of Solutions Journalism.
David Bornstein in an interview with ‘Nieman Lab’ in 2015 explained that news consumers find trouble with fake news spread through proliferation of digital platforms. The changed social structure promote institutional protest initiatives towards social ills in various spheres. Moreover, a section of journalists are committed to review social problems and discover solutions. In addition to the function of ‘watchdog’ journalism is proceeding to play a catalyst for ‘solutions’.
Media tend to support ruling political parties in order to win government support to sustain its business operations in different geographies. The approach opposes the fundamental objectives of journalism to reveal the shortcomings in governance. On the otherhand, it appears difficult enough to bring a change on such practices. If reporting positive news under compultions is to prevail, news outlets can try Solutions Journalism by not criticising issues, but finding out ways to overcome problems. It will appear to be a positive reporting, but at the same time work for social benefits.
Solutions Journalism defines it as the opposite of negative news, but is not about positive stories highlighting praises ! It is response to problems. Development Journalism manifests in controlled project environment, but solutions journalism chooses the vast canvas of the entire society as its field of operation.
(English translation of the original Odia newsletter by the author circulated on October 6, 2023. https://tinyletter.com/pradeepmahapatra/letters/message-322. It is an open-access content, free for translation and reproduction)
Dr. Pradeep Mahapatra is a retired faculty of Journalism, Berhampur University, Odisha.https://about.me/pradeepmahapatra
What is Solutions Journalism ? Medium. May 7, 2017
What is Solutions Journalism and why should you care ? International Journalists Network. June 14, 2022
Solutions Journalism : Instead of Focusing on Problems. Focus on Fixes. VOA. March 24, 2023
Dyer, John. Is Solutions Journalism the Solution ? Nieman Reports. June 11, 2015