How J-Schools Are Innovating by Reporting on Solutions

    by Holly Wise
    January 29, 2018
    Keith Hammonds, president and chief operating officer of the Solutions Journalism Network, shares during a session at the Solutions Journalism Summit in November 2017. (Photo: Samantha McCann/SJN)

    In journalism school, I had one career goal: to be an international humanitarian reporter and report on stories that left a tangible impact on my subjects and integrated community trust and engagement with my audience.

    It wasn’t until my second job as the bureau chief of the Silver City Sun-News in Silver City, New Mexico, that I learned I didn’t need an international platform to achieve these goals. I needed the basic journalism skills I’d acquired in college, plus a little extra – the practice of solutions journalism.

    "Over the past three years, several universities in the United States and Canada have integrated solutions journalism into their core journalism curriculum and pedagogy."

    Fast forward several years and journalism schools are recognizing the need (and student demand) for solutions journalism, defined by the Solutions Journalism Network as rigorous reporting on how communities respond to social problems.


    In my current role as the director of journalism school engagement at SJN, I evangelize the practice of solutions journalism in classrooms across the United States, reaching students who are pursuing this noble work in an effort to impact, engage and build trust with audiences.

    The Solutions Journalism Network is partnering with #EdShift to host a Twitter chat exploring how the theory and practice of Solutions Journalism can be implemented into the J-School classroom, as well as its further application within the field as a whole.

    The chat will take place on Wednesday, Jan. 31 at 1 p.m. Eastern / 12 noon Central / 10 a.m. Pacific Time using the #EdShift hashtag on Twitter.

    Over the past three years, several universities in the United States and Canada have integrated solutions journalism into their core journalism curriculum and pedagogy. Some universities have built modules into existing curriculum, while other professors have chosen to offer semester-long elective courses that focus on one communal issue.


    A few examples include Arizona State University, where since 2015, journalism students in every intermediate reporting class in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism complete a solutions journalism news story assignment which is integrated into their semester-long coursework.

    Jillian Bauer-Reese at Temple University developed a course last fall called Covering Addiction Through Solutions Journalism and led a team of students to report the intricacies of addiction through a solutions journalism lens. She continues the reporting project this spring semester.

    The University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs Fellowship in Global Journalism will partner with the Solutions Journalism Network for the second consecutive year. We will provide a month-long intensive solutions journalism training to its fellows, building on their education and work in investigative reporting.

    Kathryn Thier, an instructor at the University of Oregon, takes part in a breakout session at the Solutions Journalism Summit in November 2017. (Photo: Samantha McCann/SJN)

    Professors and lecturers attest to the power of introducing their students to solutions journalism, as they deeply believe it enhances student’s reporting, while also fulfilling their own philosophy of producing impactful journalism.

    In her 2016 Journalism and Mass Communication Education article titled, “Opportunities and Challenges for Initial Implementation of Solutions Journalism Coursework,” Kathryn Thier writes that the five professors she interviewed believed themselves “to be part of a burgeoning movement.”

    “Teaching solutions journalism differed from participants’ other experiences teaching journalism; they felt solutions offered more import or impact,” she wrote. “Rather than seeing their nascent forays into teaching solutions journalism as a response to a changing profession, participants viewed themselves as contributing to the change.”

    The Solutions Journalism Network offers valuable resources for both journalism educators and media practitioners. Join the Hub and gain access to the Network’s Story Tracker (currently housing 2,500 solutions journalism stories), reporting toolkits, monthly webinars and a lively network of people devoted to telling stories that impact and engage audiences.

    Holly Wise is the director of journalism school engagement at the Solutions Journalism Network. She is also a journalism lecturer at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas, where she teaches advanced news writing and multimedia courses, and introduced a solutions journalism course. In 2015, she launched the Texas State Global News Team, which provides mass communication students with international service learning study abroad programs. 

    Tagged: innovative reporting journalism education rigorous reporting solutions journalism

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