1. SoJo Example: National Geographic on the CA Water Crisis

    September 30, 2014

    Photo Credit: Ana Zacapa

    Photo Credit: Ana Zacapa

    Author: Peyton Fleming

    Published In: National Geographic, August 6 & 12, 2014

    Summary: This series looks at how California businesses are innovating to mitigate the effects of the state’s devastating drought. 

    Why We’re Highlighting These Articles: This story are part of a series exploring how California’s companies are innovating to protect depleting groundwater supplies. They are solid solutions journalism pieces because they both focus on programs that are attempting to solve a serious societal problem, both rely heavily on data, and in each, the author, Peyton Fleming, refuses to paint the “solution” as a silver bullet, instead including important caveats to the programs’ effectiveness—most importantly that at their current scale, they’re too small to make any meaningful difference.

    The first article explores how Driscoll berry producer is encouraging its farmers to reduce water usage in their fields.

    Fleming puts the problem in context, noting the severity of the drought and the implications it could have on farming in the future. He then explains how the changes have reduced water usage, helped farmers save money, and produced the same quality of berries as before the changes were implemented. Farmers around the valley are implementing technology like drip irrigation, water moisture probes, and more efficient water pumps, and saving on their electric bills for the water that they don’t have to pump anymore. Fleming is careful, however, not to paint the efforts by the farmers as something that is solving the water crisis. These changes aren’t negating the effects of the state’s drought:

    “Water-saving actions by all of the region’s farmers are no match for getting only a few inches of rain in all of 2013 and below-average rainfall so far this year.”

    Still, the behavior change is having a significant effect. Fleming cites data showing that pumping in 2013 was the same as what was pumped in 2008, “despite there being significantly less rainfall.” He also notes the importance of the lessons learned by these initiatives—namely that collaborative efforts and locally oriented solutions will have to play a larger role in statewide efforts to reduce water use. It’s not just about what’s working in the Central Valley, but what can work throughout the state to have the most meaningful impact. [Read more...]

  2. Solutions Stories Up for Awards!

    September 29, 2014

    Amy Yee India

    Amy Yee

    Last week, SJN climate change story fund recipient Amy Yee was nominated for two South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA) awards. SAJA received over 160 entries in 11 different story categories. 28 stories were named as finalists, Amy’s being two of them.

    Her piece “Defying the odds: Bangladesh makes strides in child health” is up for outstanding enterprise reporting about South Asia or the worldwide South Asian diaspora (all media). The story looks at how Bangladesh, despite its continued status as a solidly impoverished nation, has dramatically decreased overall child mortality in recent decades.

    The low-lying country where drowning is the no. 1 killer of kids,” published in The Atlantic, was nominated for outstanding feature story about South Asia, or the worldwide South Asian diaspora (all media). 18,000 Bangladeshi children died by drowning in 2003, the leading killer among kids. Amy investigated what one Bangladeshi organization, the Center for Injury Prevention and Research Bangladesh (CIPRB), was doing to reduce child deaths caused by drowning. She looks at preventive measures the organization is taking, like covering buckets and building thatched fences around bodies of water, along with free swimming lessons. (If a child 5 years+ learns how to swim, it reduces his chances of drowning by 96%.)

    We’re so excited to see meaty and rigorously reported solutions journalism pieces like these receiving accolades. The winners from each category will be announced on October 11 at the SAJA convention at NYU. Stay tuned!

  3. SoJo Example: “‘A National Admissions Office’ for Low-Income Strivers”

    September 29, 2014

    Photo Credit: Michael Kirby Smith/New York Times

    Photo Credit: Michael Kirby Smith/New York Times

    Author: David Leonhardt

    Published In: New York Times, September 16, 2014

    Summary:  QuestBridge helps low-income, college-ready teenagers around the country apply for college. If they get in, QuestBridge will help them figure out how to pay.

    Why We’re Highlighting This Article: This is a great solutions journalism piece, with problem-solving at its core. The story follows QuestBridge, an organization that helps low-income students get into college by encouraging them to apply, “a national admissions office” of sorts, says Catharine Bond Hill, the president of Vassar. 11% of Amherst’s student body came through QuestBridge’s efforts, along with 9% of Pomona’s, and 4% of Stanford’s.

    The piece defines the problem—the growing achievement gap between rich and poor students: “That gap is one of the biggest reasons that moving up the economic ladder is so hard in the United States today.”

    But the bulk of it focuses on how QuestBridge is overcoming this problem and is finding so much success in placement, matching, and the winning of scholarships for these low-income students:

    “College admissions officers attribute the organization’s success to the simplicity of its approach to students. It avoids mind-numbingly complex talk of financial-aid forms and formulas that scare away so many low-income families (and frustrate so many middle-income families, like my own when I was applying to college). QuestBridge instead gives students a simple message: If you get in, you can go.”

    Leonhardt deep dives into the organization’s smart and effective problem-solving approach. Besides connecting students to scholarship money and notifying under-informed teenagers and their families that financial assistance is available to them, QuestBridge is also working with organizations and foundations that offer annually $3 billion in scholarships to move the process earlier in the school year. The organization sees these scholarships as a wasted opportunity: “it comes too late to affect whether and where students go to college,” Leonhardt writes. “Any private scholarship given at the end of senior year is intrinsically disconnected from the college application process,” Dr. McCullough said, “and it doesn’t have to be.”

    [Read more...]