A new report from the Engaging News Project and the Solutions Journalism Network illustrates that solutions-based journalism is an effective journalistic tool that benefits both readers and news organizations.
Solutions journalism reports about responses to entrenched social problems. It focuses not just on what may be working, but how and why it appears to be working or, alternatively, why it may be stumbling.
To learn how citizens respond to solutions journalism, a sample of 771 U.S. adults was presented with one of six news articles. The articles reported on three different social issues: homelessness, child trauma and poverty. For each issue, highly similar articles were compared: one that focused exclusively on the problem, and one that included identical reporting on the problem, but added reporting about a potential response to mitigate that problem.
Study results showed that readers of solutions journalism finished their article feeling more informed and interested than non-solutions readers. Solutions readers had an increased desire to share what they read, to read more about the issue, and to seek out more articles by news organizations covering stories in a solutions-focused manner. They also felt more optimistic.
“Our results show that solutions journalism has significant ramifications for readers and news organizations alike, along with the potential to impact society at large,” said Alex Curry, co-author of the report and a research associate with the Engaging News Project. “Solutions journalism seems to be an attractive alternative to traditional problem-focused reporting.”
Other findings from the survey include:
- Solutions readers were more likely to report a desire to get involved in working toward a solution to the issue and wanting to donate money to an organization working on the issue than non-solutions readers.
- Solutions readers were more likely to want to share the article they read on social media and talk to friends or family about the issue.
- Solutions readers believed they could contribute to a solution to the issue more than non-solutions readers.
“This study reinforces what we’ve seen anecdotally in our work with dozens of newsrooms,” said Keith Hammonds, the study’s co-author and COO of the Solutions Journalism Network. “There appears to be a significant engagement gap between stories that only tell us what’s wrong and those that include evidence-based reporting on attempts to fix what’s wrong. Many readers respond in powerful ways to quality journalism about what’s working.”
Download the full report here.
Solutions Journalism Network’s mission is to legitimize and spread the practice of solutions journalism: rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems. Learn more at solutionsjournalism.org.