What is Solutions Journalism?

These four ingredients are all it takes.

Solutions Journalism
2 min readMar 6, 2017

Solutions journalism is rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems.

It investigates and explains, in a critical and clear-eyed way, examples of people working toward solutions. 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. Using the best available evidence, it delves deep into the how-to’s of problem solving, often structuring stories as puzzles or mysteries that investigate questions like: What models are having success reducing the dropout rate in public schools? How do they actually work? What are they doing differently than others that’s resulting in a better outcome?

Another way to remember it is to “tell the WHOLE story”:

  • WWhat response does it address?
  • H — How it works, the “howdunnit
  • O Offers insight
  • L — Includes limitations
  • E — Most important, provides evidence of impact

Solutions journalism can include reporting on responses that are working, partially working, or not working at all but producing useful insights. We can learn just as much from a failure as a success. The key is to look at the whole picture — the problem and the response. Journalism often stops short of the latter.

When done well, the stories provide valuable insights about how communities may more effectively tackle serious problems. We know from experience that solutions stories engage people differently. They can change the tone of public discourse, making it less divisive and more constructive. By revealing what has worked, they can also lead to meaningful change.

That’s the essence of what we’re trying to do. It’s not about making people feel good or advocating for a certain policy or balancing out the “doom-and-gloom” (check out our list of Solutions Journalism Impostors for more on what SoJo isn’t). Instead, solutions journalism is about what journalism has always been about: informing and empowering people. We’re just asking journalists to do that in a more complete way, by investigating what has worked just as rigorously and relentlessly as what hasn’t.

Are you a journalist who wants to learn how to do solutions journalism? All the tools you need can be found in the SJN Learning Lab.

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Solutions Journalism

Our mission is to spread the practice of solutions journalism: rigorous reporting about how people are responding to social problems.