Fifteen local journalists gathered at Noozhawk’s office Wednesday for a training on solutions reporting, which investigates responses to problems, and their effectiveness, rather than focusing on the problems themselves.
Noozhawk has been a member of the Solutions Journalism Network for a while, and I went to Sundance, Utah, for last year’s summit to learn more.
To bring it back to the newsroom, and to help us make solutions journalism a regular part of our reporting, I invited Michelle Faust Raghavan of SJN to Santa Barbara to lead a training.
Most of our newsroom was able to attend, and representatives also came from the Ventura County Star, the Independent, KEYT and KCOY, the Santa Ynez Valley Star, KCSB-FM, the San Luis Obispo Tribune and Dos Pueblos High School, which has the longtime DPNews program and wants to restart its journalism program next year.
Solutions journalism is rigorous, evidence-based reporting on responses to social problems, as Raghavan explains it.
“That’s how you get started, with problems that are really well known,” she said.
The stories should dig into specifics — the “howdunnit” — the evidence of the effectiveness, the limitations of the response and insight from which others can learn. Can other communities replicate the success?
It’s not advocacy, or hero worship, or tooting the horn of an organization that has good intentions but hasn’t accomplished anything yet.
Solutions stories can highlight positive work on systemic problems — instead of reiterating what isn’t working — and have real impact, such as the Cleveland Plain-Dealer’s series on lead poisoning in the city’s aging housing stock that prompted legislation.
It is more complete, thorough reporting that presents a nuanced understanding of a problem.
At the training, we looked at examples from some California news organizations, including one from Berkeleyside about mobile showers for the homeless; a Fresno Bee story about neighborhood-level activism; and a KQED article about a mentorship program for male teachers of color.
A lot more stories, from journalists all over the world, are catalogued on SJN’s Storytracker.
These kinds of stories are everywhere. Noozhawk’s reporters and editors are dedicated to looking for them, and we want your tips and suggestions to help find them.
We think solutions journalism is a good fit for local news organizations since we know and care about our communities, and we have a stake in improving social problems. That’s also why we decided to invite journalists from other news outlets in Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties.
From here, Noozhawk plans to use solutions reporting in daily coverage of ongoing issues — such as affordable housing, education, health, and criminal justice — and special projects.
Not only will we investigate the work already being done locally, we will investigate other places that are doing something better, or faster, or more efficiently, and how it could be implemented in our community of Santa Barbara County.
A solutions story we already published post-summit is one about the Public Defender’s Office using a texting system to notify clients about court dates.
We plan to publish many more in the future.