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A free summer seminar for experienced high school journalism advisers

From the 23 teachers who attended this workshop in July 2019, we have included Solutions Journalism Story Ideas, other Story Ideas for a whole range of topics and Tech Examples of something they learned, many of these for data visualization, plus some resources anyone can use in the future for these topics.

How solutions based journalism can create change in the classroom

A small slice of the big picture

Break it down into four things, right? When I first heard about Solutions Based Journalism— I was a bit overwhelmed. It seemed too big. Too expansive.

However after listening to director of Kent’s media law center, Jan Leach and Cleveland based journalist Rachel Dissell talk about breaking the solution down to a smaller slice it seemed more palatable (like the pizza at Panini’s… kidding). Today’s student body wants to make a difference and they want to create a change. This is where solutions based journalism makes so much sense. 

“You can have a small slice solution for a big problem,” Dissell said.  Here is a student example shared by Rachel during the presentation.

When talking on solutions based journalism it’s important to remember the four qualities:

  • Response- the how
  • Evidence- whose? How legit?
  • Insights- often lacking
  • Limitations- what works? What doesn’t?

I don’t want to make it seem like a walk in the park. Journalists need to incorporate multiple sources, cause and effect and lots of data into their reporting. Solutions based stories are based off of complex social problems. But, they can look for slices instead of the whole chunk. 

Some examples of slides for solutions based journalism are:

  • Not solving world hunger but repurposing extra from the cafeteria
  • Vaping stories: what types of smoking cessation programs work best for young people?
  • Attendance: policies, criticisms, solutions
  • Drug testing: what’s required at your school? Is it different for athletes/others?
  • Environment: How can schools reduce their carbon footprints? How can students do this? 

Students want to create change but in reality as journalists they can work together to make “part of this better”. This meaning one small part. 

IN discussing how to approach solutions based journalism with others it’s important to remeber to not take on too much. 

It’s important to remember these few things:

  • SOJO takes time
  • Students will need lots of feedback
  • May want to give them topic options
  • Teach alternative story forms, especially audio, visual
  • Debrief: “How do I know this worked?”

To envision this working in the classroom one can look to break it down and coach individual writers in smaller groups. Start and expand with each story, with each solution.

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