Solutions journalism is reporting about responses to entrenched social problems. It examines instances where people, institutions, and communities are working toward solutions. Solutions-based stories focus not just on what may be working, but how and why it appears to be working, or, alternatively, why it may be stumbling.
In engagements with more than 30 newsrooms and hundreds of reporters, producers, and editors across the U.S., the Solutions Journalism Network has identified growing interest in the practice of solutions journalism. But what happens when we put this form of reporting to the test: How do citizens respond?
This report outlines the results of a quasi-experiment conducted by the Solutions Journalism Network and the Engaging News Project. The findings demonstrate that solutions-based reporting may be an effective journalistic tool that serves the needs of both audiences and news organizations, and that it has the potential to increase reader engagement.
In the study, a sample of 755 U.S. adults was presented with one of six news articles. The articles reported on three different issues: the effects of traumatic experiences on children in American schools; homelessness in urban America; and a lack of clothing among poor people in India. For each issue, highly similar articles were compared: one that focused exclusively on the problem (non-solution version), and one that included identical reporting on the problem, but added reporting about a potential response to mitigate that problem (solution version). The addition of solutions content was the only difference between the two articles.
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.