The study “Solutions Journalism: How Its Evolving Definition, Practice and Perceived Impact Affects Underrepresented Communities” by Anna Grace Usery from the University of Alabama looked at how medía practitioners from the southeastern United States defined and practiced solutions journalism.
Solutions journalism seeks to solve social problems on local, national and international levels through rigorous news coverage. It has been used to facilitate positive community dialogue by a storytelling method – it shows how things might be solved. It is particularly fruitful when dealing with underrepresented communities, as these are often stereotyped in news.
The study by Usery seeks to understand how media professionals define and practice solutions journalism, and how it impacts communities. What lies at the intersection of the symbiotic relationship between the media and the community members in the use of solutions journalism?
Previous studies have shown that solutions journalism can have positive effects on audiences. They have also revealed a gap between the definitions of solutions journalism between advocates and practitioners. There is also indications that solutions journalism is viewed differently by journalists than traditional journalism.
Grounded theory was the theoretical framework chosen for the study. The data was semi-structured interviews of participants chosen via purposive sampling and snowball sampling. There were four research questions, of which the answers I will cover in the following chapters.
The findings were first that solutions journalism in practice and definition is evolving, some participants noted that their understanding of it has changed throughout the years. Media organizations also adopted solutions journalism to their own needs, sometimes differing from the Solutions Journalism Network.
The role of advocacy and community groups was essential in connecting with members of the community. The participants established connections for stories with advocacy and community groups. The sourcing differed from traditional news, that typically relied on government and police to get the story, particularly with recent racial movements in the Southeast United States.
Solutions journalism has helped the media to gain access to previously closed communities. It helped to establish trust and then gain access – by giving a voice they managed to build rapport. In those underrepresented communities, traditional news has written about them to people who fear them – solutions journalism writes for them. It cultivates agency for the community members.
Solutions journalism was viewed as a tool for liberation. Traditional hard news stories often lack a community voice – the voice is that of government official or police. Liberation was a common theme in the answers of the participants, particularly about social justice issues.
In conclusion, solutions journalism gave agency to underrepresented communities. Media organizations that practiced it were re-evaluating how they told stories and solutions journalism is in the center of that change – empathetic and community-oriented storytelling.
The article “Solutions Journalism: How Its Evolving Definition, Practice and Perceived Impact Affects Underrepresented Communities” by Anna Grace Usery is in Journalism Practice. (free abstract).
Picture: Untitled by Shane Rounce.