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Reporting Beyond the Problem

From Civic Journalism to Solutions Journalism

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Edited By Karen McIntyre Hopkinson and Nicole Smith Dahmen

Americans say that reading, watching, or listening to the news is a leading cause of stress. Of course journalists, as watchdogs and public informants, must disseminate information that is inherently negative, but experts argue that the news media’s emphasis on the problem has had a negative effect on the public, the press itself, and democracy. At the same time, the past sixty years have seen a rise of journalistic practices that purport to cover the news beyond the typical problem-based narrative. These genres of journalistic reporting are not positive news or fluff reporting: They are rigorous reporting philosophies and practices that share a common goal—reporting beyond the problem-based narrative, thereby exemplifying a commitment to the social responsibility theory of the press, which asserts that journalists have a duty to consider society’s best interests. However, there is little academic or professional understanding of these journalistic approaches. As such, this book provides an in-depth examination of socially-responsible news reporting practices, such as constructive journalism, solutions journalism, and peace journalism. Each chapter focuses on one reporting form, defining it and detailing its evolution and status among scholars and practitioners, as well as discussing its known effects and future direction. This edited volume is the first academic book published on these forms of reporting in the United States. It provides a comprehensive resource that explores the theoretical underpinnings of these journalistic genres that grounds these approaches and allows for a coherent line of research to follow as these approaches evolve.

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4. Solutions Journalism: Reporting on the Response Is Just as Newsworthy as Reporting on the Problem

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CHAPTER FOUR

Solutions Journalism

Reporting on the Response Is Just as Newsworthy as Reporting on the Problem

KATHRYN THIER

Solutions journalism maintains that reporting on evidence-based responses to social problems is just as newsworthy as reporting on the problem itself. And, in fact, it is journalism’s responsibility to bring to audiences the complete story—which includes reporting on how people are working to combat known problems—to contribute to a functioning democracy. Solutions journalism is rigorous reporting, emphasizing evidence, insights, and limitations about the problem response. The practice does not include hypothetical problem responses or spotlights of good people doing good things; rather, it reports on responses to problems that have evidence-based results of success.

In 2016, Richland Source reporter Brittany Schock learned that the infant mortality rate in the Ohio county she covered was one of the highest in the state. So, she asked herself a question: Why are so many babies dying in Richland County?

In the resulting series, “Healing Hope,” Schock went beyond describing the causes of the problem to include the community’s response and a possible solution employed by a hospital in Pennsylvania: distributing infant-sized cardboard boxes to parents to promote safe sleep. Placing babies to sleep on their backs in a so-called baby box reduces unsafe sleeping, one of the three main causes of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Six months after her series ran, the California company behind baby boxes kicked off an...

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