How do I know it’s NOT solutions journalism?

To understand what solutions journalism is, look at what it isn’t

Here are seven types of stories often mistaken for solutions journalism — call them “solutions journalism impostors” — we’ve all seen in the media before. All of these types of journalism have a place in society, and some can yield good journalism. But they’re not what we mean when we say “solutions journalism.”

Hero worship

These are stories that celebrate or glorify an individual, often at the expense of explaining the idea the individual exemplifies. Instead of talking about the merits of an approach an individual is advancing, the piece might gush about the person’s decision to leave a high-paying job to save the world.

Solutions journalism uses characters to show the work, and looks for evidence of success — good intentions aren’t enough.

Silver bullet

These stories are often seen in the tech and innovation sections. They describe new gadgets in glowing terms – referring to them, for example, as “lifesavers.” Also, a note: Money is sometimes considered a silver bullet.

Solutions journalism is careful not to over-claim, sticking to what the evidence says is happening

Favour for a friend

You can sometimes distinguish this impostor because the sole or predominant voice is that of the organisation being profiled. Like the silver bullet story, it doesn’t have much in the way of limitations, and appears as thinly veiled PR.

Solutions journalism doesn’t celebrate a response.  It covers it — limitations and all. 

Think tank

This happens when the writer says: “Here’s how I think a problem should be solved.” Or when a writer asks experts or other people what they think should happen. It’s future-oriented and theoretical.  

Solutions journalism covers existing efforts to solve a problem. 

Instant activist

A frequent mistake: People think “solutions journalism” means telling readers how they can become part of the solution.  

Solutions journalism is plain old reporting the news. The news just happens to be a response to a problem.

The afterthought

Another common imposter: This is a paragraph or sound bite at the end of a problem story that gives lip service to efforts at solving it. The solutions aren’t considered with real seriousness, but rather thrown in as an afterthought.

Solutions journalism can include coverage of the problem, but must look at solutions in depth.

The heart-warmer

The boy raising money for a pal with cancer with a lemonade stand. The celebrity sending pizza to health care workers.  Good news stories about human kindness.  You get it. 

Solution journalism covers replicable responses to a problem, and includes insights that can help others adapt that solution.

How do I know it is NOT solutions journalism? – Webinar by Newsquest, UK