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Solutions journalism

Pronounced /səˈl(j)uːʃənz ˈdʒɜːnəlɪz(ə)m/Help with IPA

Journalists instinctively go for stories that have conflict and drama as well as newsworthiness. Almost inevitably that means reports that feature bad news rather than good, good news usually being deemed worthy or bland. Now a small trend seems to be developing in the US to use the same principles of tough-minded, appraising journalism to cover news that is broadly positive, without falling into the trap of generating saccharine stories, puff pieces or articles with no strong point. The journalist Susan Benesch has written about new newspaper sections and even new journals that take such an approach, which has been dubbed solutions journalism. It’s writing which she says “differs from other good journalism in one simple way: instead of pointing out what’s wrong in the hope that someone will fix it, solutions journalism points out what’s right, hoping that someone can imitate it”. Many experienced journalists are sceptical, because attempts at writing in this way are seen in the profession as “boosterism or cheerleading”.

Solutions journalism tries to document the most successful “points of light” so that other people can kindle them elsewhere around the country or around the world, or at the least, so that readers will feel inspired and comforted by evidence that solutions exist.

Civnet, Oct-Dec 1997

A solutions story about government is rare, raising the criticism that solutions journalism implies all problems can be solved by hard-working neighbors.

Columbia Journalism Review, March/April 1998

Page created 23 May 1998

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Last modified: 23 May 1998.