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. SoJo Example: Criminal Courts Tailored to Veterans Multiply as Wars Wind Down

    July 3, 2014

    Photo Credit: Doug Benz
    Liz Goodwin

    Published In: Yahoo News, June 30, 2014

    Summary: Special vets-only justice system gives second chances to those who served.

    Why We’re Highlighting This Story: This piece from Yahoo News is one of the best solutions stories we’ve seen yet. Goodwin hits on every important element that a solutions story should have, and at the same time uses a powerful narrative and moving characters to drive the well-written story forward.

    The problem is laid out powerfully in the first section of the piece. Veterans go to war, endure unspeakable horrors, and come back with related physical and mental impairments. When they run into problems with the law, a lot of them don’t know what resources are available to veterans, or feel uncomfortable mentioning that they might need additional assistance. They cycle through the legal system, prison, and rehab programs, often never letting anyone know, and never being asked, of their military history.

    The response to the social problem: veteran-focused treatment courts, now in every state. Goodwin takes us through a detailed description of why and how the court was started: (1) judges noticed an increase of veterans appearing before them in court for drug or mental-health related issues stemming from their years in service, and (2) the VA’s newfound goal of ending veteran homelessness by 2015, something predicted by incarceration. She then explores how they address these veteran-specific issues within the legal system: [Read more...]

  2. SoJo Example: “In Florida Tomato Fields, A Penny Buys Progress”

    July 3, 2014

    Photo Credit: Richard Perry

    Author: Steven Greenhouse

    Published In: New York Times, April 24, 2014

    Summary: The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has gotten growers that produce 90% of Florida’s winter tomatoes to increase wages and improve working conditions.

    Why We’re Highlighting This Article: When up against huge corporations, the large supply of farm day laborers in the United States usually don’t have a lot of leverage in negotiating better working conditions or higher salaries. But one Florida coalition of farmworkers banded together to demand improvements in workers’ rights–and has found success in the tomato fields.

    Greenhouse starts the piece by explaining the problem through the narrative of one of the pickers, a woman who used to have to wait in tomato fields for four hours every morning, unpaid, until she was told it was time to clock in and start picking. Other workers dealt with screaming crew leaders, no rest breaks during long shifts, and scorching heat.

    The social response involved the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a group of tomato workers, that fought successfully for the “Fair Food Program”–policies that include increased wages for their 30,000 workers and adherence to standards involving mandated rest breaks, and banning of sexual harassment and verbal abuse.

    Greenhouse’s solutions piece looks at why this is an improvement, who benefits, and whether these policies could be expanded to other areas. (Currently, the Fair Food Program only applies to Florida’s tomato fields–but it’s still a meaningful policy change because 90% of the country’s winter tomatoes are grown in the state.) Connecting with Walmart–which sells 20% of the nation’s fresh tomatoes throughout the year–proved very valuable in that the corporation plans to extend the program’s standards and monitoring to suppliers in other states. It also looks at implementation: it’s not just that these policies were approved, but they have actually been enforced: [Read more...]

  3. SoJo Example: “For some, prenatal care is a community affair”

    June 20, 2014

    Photo Credit: Deborah Svoboda

    Author: Shuka Kalantari

    Published In: PRI’s The World, June 18, 2014

    Summary: A San Francisco program called Centering Pregnancy is taking a group-centered approach to prenatal care – getting better birth outcomes in the meantime.

    Why We’re Highlighting This Story: Researched and written as part of our Positive-Deviant Health Data Journalism series, and published with SJN newsroom partner PRI, this piece explores how one program in California is taking a different approach to prenatal care. Kalantari hits on all the major facets of solutions journalism in this thorough, but still manageable, piece, with accompanying (and compelling) video and audio.

    So why does prenatal care matter?

    Women who participate in Centering Pregnancy are more likely to breastfeed and attend prenatal care appointments, and they’re less likely to have postpartum depression and preterm births.

    There’s another benefit: Centering Pregnancy is linked to fewer Cesarean sections, which saves money. For California births without complications, C-sections cost nearly twice as much as vaginal births.

    The problem, Kalantari notes, is that many women weren’t getting the prenatal care they needed. She interviews Margy Hutchison, who started Centering Pregnancy at SF General Hospital 15 year ago about the impetus to start the program. [Read more...]