Citizens Solutions and Engaged Elections
In our second webinar, Solutions Journalism Network’s Linda Shaw and Jaisal Noor presented key takeaways on how to use Solutions Journalism to engage with audiences:
- Together, Solutions Journalism and Engagement Journalism can effectively be used to cover only who gets elected but hold them accountable. If you can show that others are doing it better, social problems considered unavoidable are seen as unacceptable.
“Communities experiencing social problems want to know what to do about it” – Linda Shaw (18:54).
- Solutions Journalism is rigorous, evidence-based reporting on responses to social problems; by only covering problems and ignoring how people are responding, you are not telling the whole story (8:45).
- The four pillars of solutions journalism are: 1. The response to a social problem, 2. Evidence about the efficacy of the response 3. Insight: How others use the reporting, 4. Limitations: Where does the solution fall short, and what can’t the solution do? (9:15).
- Studies have found that 1-in-4 Americans trust the news while 40% avoid the news, but using a Solutions frame has been found to leave readers feeling “enthusiastic about voting– and less anxious, sad or angry – than stories that simply described the threat (11:53).”
- A quick visual guide to reporting solutions stories from Linda Shaw (14:56).
- Key questions for Solutions stories:
Who’s doing it better? How does the response work? Who is the response NOT working for? What does the research say? What do critics say? Is it being replicated elsewhere? What are the barriers to replication (19:36)?
- How to avoid advocacy in solutions stories:
Don’t overclaim or predict the future. Briefly paint the full landscape and the part the solution you are covering plays. Make your story about the idea behind the response — the program, nonprofit, or local leader is just the illustration. Tell the audience about limitations (21:30).
- Citizen Solutions: How to learn from your audience to report powerful stories (32:09)
- Identify one slice of the problem to focus your reporting on, one solution will not solve the problem (33:30).
- Using your audience’s questions coming from your audience helps avoid accusations of partisanship (27:00).
- Questions to ask candidates to ‘flip the elections script’: Who has tried this policy before? Could it work here? What would cost? What challenges will it face? (36:45)
- Example: Santa Cruz Local surveyed hundreds of residents to determine what election stories to cover, focusing on issues such as law enforcement and violence, and looking at how other cities are tackling these issues (38:00).
- Example: Washington City Paper’s piece “What would ranked choice voting mean for crowded DC races?” explored how the potential impacts of one solution to elections that are effectively determined by primaries, leaving the general election meaningless.