HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Ken Doctor: The New York Times’ financials show the transition to digital accelerating
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Dec. 20, 2012, 7:47 p.m.

A new, mainstream solutions journalism

“It’s reporting that seeks to build context and community around a politically and emotionally charged subject. It is journalism that engages in meaningful conversation.”

All last weekend, the tragedy of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting has played out on what feels like every news outlet. The faces of the dead, their stories, their lives seem to be everywhere. Also ubiquitous: the questions of what happens next. How do we heal? How do we prevent this from happening again? What can we do?

The depth of our sadness is equal to our need to prevent these tragedies. Whether our preferred solutions are gun control, accessible mental health treatment, improved school security, or something else, it’s clear that right now, across the United States, we are having these conversations with our friends, families, and communities.

It’s a positive sign that the media is paying attention and participating in these conversations, too. In less than a week, we’ve seen polling from The Washington Post, poll analysis from The Huffington Post, a mass shootings map and timeline from Mother Jones, a state-by-state breakdown of gun control from The Globe and Mail, facts on mass shootings from The Washington Post’s WonkBlog, and sensitive, deep reporting from the Christian Science Monitor including ways to helpand an attempt to find answers.

These are examples of what the birth of mainstream “solutions journalism” looks like from the ground floor of crisis. It’s reporting that seeks to build context and community around a politically and emotionally charged subject. It is journalism that engages in meaningful conversation.

My prediction for 2013: What we learn from our approach to the Sandy Hook shooting will inform our approach to many key social issues on the front burner in 2013: immigration, healthcare, and now gun control.

Solutions journalism typically refers to reporting that focuses on solutions to community problems, offering up ideas for change. When done right, it does more than turn a beat’s focus to the betterment of the future. It builds community by sharing the tools necessary to have a conversation and creating an open space for that conversation to happen, much as we’re beginning to see in coverage of Sandy Hook.

What could a solutions journalism response, grounded in context and community-based reporting, to major issues of 2013 look like? It would rely on four criteria:

  • Reporting: Conversations are most valuable when those participating in them are well informed. That means that solutions-based journalism models must make every effort to provide simple, straightforward, unbiased reporting. News organizations must make data and reporting processes open to the public.
  • Safety and respect: The audience takes part in conversations when they feel safe doing so. When the topic of conversation is particularly political or emotional, it’s doubly important to cultivate a sense of community safety. On Homicide Watch sites, this means adhering to a strict comments policy (no threats, no foul language) and pre-moderating comments. The audience feels as though their participation in the conversation is not only welcomed, but valued and honored. This comes from recognizing that solutions come from many different places and experiences, and that all voices contribute to conversation.
  • Commitment: Solutions journalism is a step away from the story-of-the-day. Communities need to understand the news organization’s commitment to the topic and what the news organization hopes to accomplish.

Reporting. Community building. Commitment. Smarter applications of these traditional reporting techniques have the ability to cement solutions journalism into the mainstream, and to transform the ways we cover some of the most serious issues in the coming year.

More importantly, this contextual, community-centric approach has the ability to raise the level of conversation and build understanding and consensus around volatile subjects. It’s important for the community of Sandy Hook Elementary. And it’s important for building an engaged democracy.

Laura Amico is founder and editor of Homicide Watch D.C. and CEO of Glass Eye Media. She is a 2012-13 Nieman-Berkman Fellow in Journalism Innovation.
POSTED     Dec. 20, 2012, 7:47 p.m.
PART OF A SERIES     Predictions for Journalism 2013
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Ken Doctor: The New York Times’ financials show the transition to digital accelerating
The numbers may look flat, but they contain a continuing set of ups and downs. Up next: executing on a year’s worth of launches.
Before the “teaching hospital model” of journalism education: 5 questions to ask
It’ll take a new generation of academic leadership — willing to incur the wrath of faculty, the greater university, alumni, industry, and analysts — to break through the old ways we train journalists.
Controlled chaos: As journalism and documentary film converge in digital, what lessons can they share?
Old and new media types from journalism, documentary, and technology backgrounds gathered at MIT to share practices and discuss mutual concerns.
What to read next
1020
tweets
The newsonomics of the millennial moment
The new wave of news startups is aiming at a younger audience. But do legacy media companies have a chance at earning their attention?
803A mixed bag on apps: What The New York Times learned with NYT Opinion and NYT Now
The two apps were part of the paper’s plan to increase digital subscribers through smaller, targeted offerings. Now, with staff cutbacks on the way, one app is being shuttered and the other is being adjusted.
413The new Vox daily email, explained
The company’s newsletter, Vox Sentences, enters an increasingly crowded inbox. Can concise writing and smart aggregation on the day’s news help expand their audience?
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
The Weekly Standard
NBC News
Journal Register Co.
American Public Media
Hearst
New Haven Independent
New England Center for Investigative Reporting
Associated Press
New West
Knight Foundation
Hacks/Hackers
The Daily Show