What is solutions journalism: the four criteria

Solutions journalism is rigorous reporting about responses to problems. It investigates and explains, in a critical and clear-eyed way, examples of people working toward solutions.

These four criteria are the foundation of solutions journalism. They’re how the Solutions Journalism Network defines solutions journalism in practice and uses it to vet the content of its Solutions Story Tracker, a collection of solutions journalism on a wide range of topics from around the world. Each solutions story should contain all four pillars — to some degree.

A solutions story focuses on a response to a social problem – and how that response has worked or why it hasn’t

If the story doesn’t describe a response, it’s not solutions journalism. That response should be explained in the context of the problem it’s trying to address, and the story should delve into how it works.

Solutions journalism includes evidence – data or qualitative results that show effectiveness (or lack thereof)

Solutions stories are up front with audiences about that evidence — what it tells us and what it doesn’t.  A particularly innovative response can be a good story even without much evidence — but the reporter has to be transparent about the lack, and about why the response is newsworthy anyway.

Solutions reporting distils the lessons that make the response relevant and accessible to others. It offers insight.

Inspiration is not enough — that’s why feel-good stories about individual acts of kindness are not solutions journalism.  A solutions story must report on a response to a problem that others could use. 

Reporting on limitations is essential

Solutions stories reveal a response’s shortcomings. No response is perfect, and some work well for one community but may fail in others. A responsible reporter covers what doesn’t work about it, and places the response in context.

For more see:

QUIZ YOURSELF! How Do I Know If It’s Solutions Journalism?

Solutions Journalism is Biased! (And Other Myths) (The Whole Story)