1. Health system ABC(E)s: Start with physical infrastructure

    January 29, 2015

    If you’re a health worker in Uganda, what do you need in order to provide the best possible care for your patients – people who could be suffering from anything from HIV to broken limbs? You need a range of medicines and other medical supplies, like stethoscopes or blood pressure cuffs. And of course enough medical personnel.

    Uganda_DCPN_ABCE_ART_Health_FacilityBut perhaps most fundamentally, you also need the basic infrastructure to provide patient services. This means regular electricity, running water, and access to transportation. The physical infrastructure of health facilities can have an enormous and basic impact on how services are delivered – but we often don’t think about infrastructure’s important role until health systems start to fall apart.

    In the case of the Ebola crisis in West Africa, the role of physical infrastructure was clear. Facilities were overwhelmed. Without functioning water, electricity, or waste disposal systems, many facilities could not practice good infection control – a potential driver of continued disease transmission. Patients resorted to using cabs or public transportation, increasing risk of exposure to Ebola, when facilities couldn’t provide transportation. Together, these deficiencies made it extraordinarily difficult to not only contain the disease, but also to successfully respond to Ebola’s rampage of West Africa.

    When news coverage primarily focuses on health system failures, it often overlooks the places where health care infrastructure improvements are occurring, such as Uganda. Through an ongoing study focused on assessing health system performance, researchers at the Infectious Diseases Research Collaboration (IDRC) and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) found that Uganda greatly improved its health facility infrastructure across the board. [Read more…]


  2. How do I conduct interviews for a solutions-oriented story?

    January 28, 2015

    For the next few weeks, we will be sharing nuggets of the Solutions Journalism Toolkit on our blog (you can download the full toolkit here). We hope these will be of service to you as you explore the practice of solutions journalism. To kick us off, we’ll dive into the section that explores how to write instructively about failure. 


    The traditional news journalist is taught to report on the five Ws: who, what, when, where, why. Obviously these are critical building blocks for any investigation, whether you’re covering a PTA meeting or an airstrike.

    But when exploring the impact and potential of responses to social problems, it’s critical that journalists move beyond basic reporting and look at some of the nuances of making change.

    Assuming you’ve already done some vetting on the story in order to pitch it (see sections on vetting (page 18) and pitching (page 22)), it’s time to interview a wide range of stakeholders, including the people enacting the solution, those directly affected, detractors, funders, academics, and more. As you prep for those interviews, consider some new questions to ask your diverse experts:

    • Replace, “Whodunnit?” with “Howdunnit?”

    In solutions journalism, what matters most is not the quirks and qualities of the main character, but the transferable wisdom found in his or her actions. How did a small organization revolutionize the way a city recycles? What are the slow, systematic steps they took? What are the teachable lessons?

    Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 3.08.36 PM

    Check out the full toolkit here.

    It’s imperative that you drill down into the fine-grain details of the processes people use when turning great ideas into real, measurable successes. Sometimes, this will throw your subjects off — they may not be used to it. Keep drilling! You have to be very deliberate about drawing out the most important information about process or your subject might gloss over truly illuminating details. It’s only by understanding the real nitty gritty of a response that you can explain what makes it work (or doesn’t), and pass on that learning to your readers. [Read more…]


  3. We’re revamping our newsletter

    January 27, 2015

    We’re heading into an eventful year. January’s almost over and we’ve already launched the Solutions Journalism Toolkit to much fanfare. In the first week of it’s release, more than 1100 people downloaded the kit, from all 50 states, as well as 96 countries (yes, including Bhutan). We’ll be releasing other user- and topic-specific toolkits this year, and have several exciting projects coming up.

    But first things first: we’ve revamping the SJN newsletter. We’ll be making it a priority this year to celebrate individual pieces of solutions journalism. We’re going to scour the news for you and bring to your inbox the 3 solutions journalism stories you simply can’t miss each week from news outlets spanning the globe. This weekly newsletter will be short, very sweet, and highly informative.

    Also, separately, once a month, we’ll send you an update on what we’re doing: our latest partners, new funding opportunities, and the you’d-be-seriously-crazy-to-miss solutions stories of the month. Sign up to the right of this post and specify if you would like to receive the weekly, the monthly, or both. If you’re already subscribed, click here to update your preferences.

    We’d love to hear from you in these upcoming months, regardless. Tell us your reactions to the toolkit. Let us know about examples of great solutions journalism. Request a solutions journalism workshop in your newsroom. Or even just drop us a line to say “Hello, Jerry!”

    It’s going to be a big new(s) year here at the Solutions Journalism Network. We’re so excited to celebrate the journalists going the extra mile to report, produce, and edit rigorous solutions journalism stories.