“Solutions journalism” is just good journalism—with a focus on what works.
Sara Rubin here, reflecting at the end of a week about the reader feedback we get. As journalists, we are in dialogue with our community all the time, receiving story ideas (got a tip you think we should investigate? Hit us up any time) and fan mail and hate mail.
In any given issue of the Weekly, we strive to represent a broad swath of what’s happening in our community: There’s good news and there’s bad news, there’s a cross-section of what’s happening in different geographic areas. There’s often news that might get readers outraged, feeling like they want their leaders to do something. Part of the idea behind exposing wrongdoing is accountability, and part is that by giving the public information, they’ll be spurred to action.
But it doesn’t always work. We find that the same challenges tend to resurface year after year, decade after decade, often unsolved. As staff writer Pam Marino recently reflected, one area in which this happens in Monterey County is housing.
There’s a journalistic framework for trying to take our reporting to the next level, and it’s called solutions journalism. The Solutions Journalism Network did not come up with the idea, but they’ve made it into something of a science, developing what they call the four pillars of solutions journalism. It’s still rigorous reporting and based on an examination of evidence and data—it’s not puff pieces—but the premise is to explore solutions to problems, how effective they are and what their limitations are and how they might be applied more effectively. It’s not all about the problem (cue reader outrage) but about tangible efforts to solve those problems (cue readers solving problems).
I’m proud to announce that the Weekly has received a grant from the Solutions Journalism Network to support reporting on economic mobility—an exploration of solutions related to poverty, not just the ongoing problem of poverty. We’re in a cohort with fellow alternative weeklies in Boulder and New Orleans, and we’ll all be exploring solutions to the housing crisis in the coming months.
We’re looking for stories that go into strategies—whether it’s how to build more housing, or something like pairing up seniors who need a place to live with those who need a roommate to help pay the mortgage. The focus is on strategies, not just one person’s idea—something that is broader.
Pam Marino, who covers housing and homelessness for the Weekly, will be our point person for this project. If you know about examples—either here in Monterey County, or anywhere else that you think could be applied here—let us know. We hope to give the public something of a blueprint for strategies that might really take off and make meaningful progress.
-Sara Rubin, editor, email@example.com