Solutions journalism – what’s that? A leading advocate for this approach to news reporting told an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” audience in Eckstein Hall on Wednesday that it was, at the same time, a simple concept and an important change from the historic practices of most news organizations.
“The reigning myth of journalism is that we cover problems, and that’s all we do,” said Tina Rosenberg, co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network. ”The solution to the problem is not our business, someone else will come and take care of that.”
But, she said, “That model has failed. It’s not a good model for helping society learn what it needs to improve itself, which is what the purpose of journalism should be. Our view is that it is a perfectly legitimate part of journalism to cover, in addition to problems, what is going on to respond to those problem.”
Rosenberg has been a leading practitioner of solutions journalism, including influential pieces she was written for the New York Times on issues such as how effectively Brazil has handled treatment of people with AIDS. The Brazilian approach is now used across the world, a development fueled in part by Rosenberg’s reporting.
A Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Rosenberg is working now to extend the practice and impact of solutions journalism and to give more constructive attention to solutions to society’s ills in general. That includes her work as co-author of the “Fixes” column in the New York Times’ online “Opinionator” section and her efforts to get news organizations to put resources into reporting on solutions.
It also includes her participation in a Marquette University-New York Times partnership to create FixesU, a program that includes creation of an online curriculum around solutions journalism that could be used to train students anywhere. Rosenberg praised the work Marquette leaders are doing to develop the idea and said Marquette had been chosen over other universities as a partner because of how good a fit it is with those promoting solutions journalism.
Rosenberg emphasized that solutions journalism is just that – reporting and writing that includes a focus on improving things. Rosenberg said such reporting does not make a reporter an advocate and is not just putting a happy face on problems. “It’s just reporting that covers the impact and results of work on solutions,” she said. “Here’s what’s going on and here’s what the evidence shows is happening because of it. That’s not advocacy. That’s covering the news . . . it’s giving people the whole story. ”
Rosenberg said that if you want to see a good example of solutions journalism, look to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and its recent “Chronic Crisis” series on Milwaukee County’s failings in helping people with mental illness. Rosenberg said the extensive reporting by Journal Sentinel staff writer Meg Kissinger included stories from Houston and a city in Belgium where the mental illness treatment picture is more positive than here. Those places offer models that Milwaukee could consider.
Problems tend to shout, solutions tend to whisper, Rosenberg said. Her overall message: Listen for the whispers and give them the attention they disserve.
The “On the Issues” session may be viewed by clicking here.
The “Fixes” column on the New York Times Web site can be viewed by clicking here.
And click here for the Solutions Journalism Network Web site.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.