Solutions Journalism: Looking on the Bright Side

By Shlomo Maital    

  I regularly sent my magazine columns to my late mother.   Often, she would tear a strip off me.  “Doom and gloom, doom and gloom!” she would say.

  She was right.  I had fallen prey to the endemic virus of modern journalism – looking for doom and gloom, as sensational as possible. 

   I mended my ways.  I tried hard to find stories of people who change the world with creativity and hard work.  Not every column is ‘happy talk’ – but certainly more than one in two. 

    And now, comes “Solutions journalism”,  which I just heard about thanks to CNN.  Solutions journalism is defined as “focuses on the response to social issues, as well as on the problems themselves”.  The idea?  Give people a more complete view of these issues, to “drive more effective citizenship”.

    Example?  Journalists David Bornsstein and Tina Rosenberg created the “Fixes” column for the New York times Opinionator section.  Weekly it reports on the response to an urgent social problem.  Bornstein cofounded the Solutions Journalism Network, seeking to make “solutions journalism a part of mainstream practice in news”.

    So what’s so hard about this?   Sure, report urgent social problems.  But out there, there are people of skill and will trying hard to find solutions.  Cover them too.  Don’t ignore the solutions part of the challenge.  There will be dividends.  You will have more readers.  And the word will spread – for instance,  “harm reduction” (measures that reduce the harm from drugs, for addicts) got strong publicity from a successful radical experiment in Vancouver, BC – and I now heard that word, harm reduction, all over the US, especially Public Radio.  

    Like many people, I’ve found that turning off Cable News is highly favorable for mental health. It need not be so.  An informed citizenry is crucial.  Journalists —  open your windows.  With a little effort, you can tell us about solutions – and not just deep-rooted intransigent problems.