Solutions journalism consists of rigorous, compelling, evidence-based stories about responses to pressing social problems. Solutions journalism goes beyond the traditional five Ws of journalism—who, what, when, where, why—to the missing H, the how. Model stories will contextualize a problem, analyze a response, and use compelling narratives to bring it to life. If possible, it will also discuss an idea’s limitations and draw out teachable lessons.

We encourage you to browse these examples of solutions journalism stories, separated across different types of media and different topics. The examples we list vary in how completely and how well they hit these marks, but all have at least a few of the core elements of solutions journalism.

  1. ‘Delta Blues': Bringing the Mekong to New Orleans

    January 23, 2015

    Photo: Jesse Hardman

    Photo: Jesse Hardman

    Louisiana faces the highest predicted levels of sea level rise on the planet. Already, residents have endured more frequent flooding – most famously, the calamitous 2005 deluge from Hurricane Katrina – and a changing balance of fresh and salt water has altered what people grow and catch.

    WWNO, New Orleans’ public radio station is confronting that challenge – by reporting on another massive river delta half a world away. Its three-part series, “Delta Blues,” which launched January 22, is set in Vietnam, which faces very similar challenges. The Mekong Delta is sinking, and salt water is eating away at the coastline. It’s likely that many people living along the Mekong River’s crowded banks will have to be relocated.

    WWNO news director Eve Troeh and coastal reporter Jesse Hardman traveled to Vietnam in November with support from the Solutions Journalism Network, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. Why? Because Vietnam presents a very similar geography to Louisiana’s: an enormous river with a below-sea-level city at its mouth. And Vietnamese leaders and residents are responding to rising waters in ways that promise useful intelligence back in the Big Easy. As Troeh has written: “Officials in Louisiana’s marshy parishes have said their challenges and needs are better understood in the Mekong Delta than 60 miles north in the Louisiana state capitol.”

    It’s a powerful solutions approach: Change the context. Take the audience to a place that looks and feels like theirs in important ways — but where the responses to a problem have been very different.

    In the series’ first segment, Hardman tours Ho Chi Minh City, where higher rainfall and lower absorption capacity – a function of the city’s relentless construction boom – have produced ever-worse flooding, especially in low-lying, working-class communities. The city has responded by raising streets, sending more run-off into neighborhoods – so some residents are raising their floors or even entire houses, an unsustainable solution.

    [Update: Part 2 of the series, “When Life Gives You Saltwater, Make Shrimp Ponds,” is here. And Part 3, “Better Together,” is here.]

    [Read more…]

  2. The Best Solutions Journalism of 2014

    December 19, 2014

    Drew Selby

    Throughout the year, we’ve featured examples of quality solutions journalism here on our website, illustrating critical, evidence-rich, and compelling reporting on responses to social problems. The pieces varied in their ability to successfully integrate the most important elements of SoJo, but all had teachable lessons. With 2014 drawing to a close, we bring you a compilation of our favorite solutions-oriented stories. Enjoy, and join us in 2015 as we continue to showcase journalists around the world who are highlighting important responses to some of society’s most pressing problems. [Read more…]

  3. 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…]