When we’re not giving fantastic webinars, and creating news partnerships, and connecting journalists to positive deviant news stories on improved health outcomes, and helping newsrooms better connect with their audience, the SJN team spends a fair amount of time thinking about the nuances of what makes a good solutions journalism piece–and, likewise, what doesn’t. Last year, we created a list of seven solutions journalism “imposters,” types of stories that to some might appear to be solutions journalism, but in the end, aren’t what we’re talking about when we talk about SoJo.
One of these imposters is what we call “hero worship”: These are stories that celebrate or glorify an individual, often at the expense of explaining the idea the individual exemplifies. Instead of talking about the merits of an approach an individual is advancing, the piece will gush about the person’s decision to leave a high-paying job to save the world. For instance, CNN Heroes often focus more on an individual than on his/her ideas.
But many journalists we talk with seem to interpret this as stories without characters, that focusing on a person is in some way idealizing their work and that solutions stories should just focus on organizations and groups to avoid any semblance of hero worshipping. This is anything but the truth. Solutions stories certainly have characters and focus on how people’s actions are leading to positive changes; it’s just that solutions stories are centered more on the tangible work they do to advance solutions, and less on their (heroic) personal traits.
In an email exchange with SJN team members, award-winning journalist and SJN economic equity story fund recipient Jean Friedman-Rudovsky reflected on this difference. She also points out, in reference to the Somaly Mam affair, that the need for embellishment decreases when a journalist’s focus is on solving a problem, as opposed to just focusing on a “hero”. We have reposted the email here with Jean’s permission: [Read more...]