I have often told my son there’s a solution to every problem. This usually inspires him to conjure up scenarios to stump this proposition. (“What about sharks eating fish?” “That’s not really a problem.” “It’s a problem for the fish, and you can’t solve it!”) Absurdities aside, I persist in trying to foster the notion that most real-world issues can be resolved. Maybe not easily or without cost, but where there’s a will, as they say.
Around this time last year, Ziya Jones invited Broadview’s editorial staff to participate in a workshop on solutions journalism. Jones was a program trainer at Journalists for Human Rights, and the workshop was developed in partnership with the Solutions Journalism Network.
Solutions journalism is about encouraging journalists not only to investigate the problems of the world, but also to report on the individuals and organizations tackling these issues. I was skeptical at first. Would this approach result in puff pieces that gloss over the hard facts? At our workshop, Jones set my mind at ease.
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We learned that solutions journalism is about reporting both the difficult truths and the solutions. Not every story has to be solutions-oriented — some problems don’t have individuals or groups working on them yet. And solutions journalism isn’t about advocating for any particular solution; it simply covers what’s being done in response.
More than that, Jones says that rigorously reporting on solutions can “improve reader engagement, bolster trust with sources, lead to more compelling and nuanced coverage, and empower communities to demand positive social change.” This fits snuggly with Broadview’s mission. I was won over.
After the workshop, Journalists for Human Rights gave Broadview a $2,500 grant to help fund our work in this area. When I look back on 2021, one of the things I’m most proud of is that Broadview now has five articles posted in the Solutions Story Tracker, a database of pieces that meet the solutions journalism criteria. I’ve also noticed that Jones’s workshop has shifted our editorial psyche. At meetings where we develop story ideas, we often ask: “Who is trying to solve this? What are the solutions?”
While not every Broadview story will be told entirely through a solutions lens, we are working hard to include solutions elements in more of our articles. For example, two pieces in this issue — “Curbing Our Consumerism” and “I Didn’t Get to Make a Choice” — offer ways to empower social change while presenting issues facing our society.
Because ultimately, there probably is at least one solution to every problem. Or — given the wild imaginings of a nine-year-old boy — almost every problem.
Jocelyn Bell is the editor and publisher of Broadview. This editorial first appeared in Broadview’s December 2021 issue with the title “Finding a solution.”
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