Here are some audio pieces we believe adhere to the principles of solutions journalism especially well. These stories use a combination of narrative and data to flesh out pressing social problems, focus on answering the “how,” and explain the limitations and teachable lessons of a response.
Back to School
By IRA GLASS
This American Life, broadcast on September 14, 2012
Topic: Education, United States
Summary: “As kids and teachers head back to school, we wanted to turn away from questions about politics and unions and money and all the regular school stuff people argue about, and turn to something more optimistic — an emerging theory about what to teach kids, from Paul Tough’s new book How Children Succeed.”
What makes this a good solutions story? This piece is dedicated to what works in teaching. Glass frames the episode by saying that, instead of scandals or politics, he will discuss something that’s more optimistic and seems to be working. Specifically, writer Paul Tough says how “non-cognitive” skills like tenacity and resilience are vital to educational success. Glass then interviews education experts and students who struggle with developing some of the non-cognitive skills – thus providing external validity for the idea.
Evolving a City
By KRISTA TIPPETT
On Being, broadcast on June 21, 2012
Topic: Evolution, cities, Binghamton
Summary: “David Sloan Wilson believes that evolution is not just a description of how we got here. He says it can also be a tool kit for improving how we live together. He’s taken what he’s learned in studying evolution in animals and is now applying it to the behavior of groups in his hometown of Binghamton, New York. His goal is to help people behave pro-socially — at their best, and for the good of the whole.”
What makes this a good solutions story? David Sloan Wilson demonstrates how one’s environment can alter people’s behaviors. The experiments he presents, which take place in schools and neighborhoods in a town in upstate New York, can be replicated with implications across many cities in the United States. See here for a list of tips Wilson believes will help transform the look and feel of a neighborhood.
For H.I.V. Patients, a Team Effort
By WHITNEY DANGERFIELD
Published in the New York Times on March 4, 2011
Topic: Health, HIV, New York City
Summary: “The Comprehensive Care Center at St. Luke’s hospital uses a holistic approach to treat patients with H.I.V. and other illnesses. The group sends care coordinators to the patients’ homes to encourage them to stick to their medication schedules and to assist with the challenges of their daily lives. Peers, who are also patients at the clinic, offer advice informed by their own experiences as patients. Listen as a doctor, health worker and peers explain how and why a comprehensive approach to health care works.”
What makes this a good solutions story? This piece is technically an interactive feature, with three B&W photos for each audio clip. The audio is from a range of actors in the system, including an associate medical doctor, a care coordinator, and three patients/peer educators. Together, they give us a thorough look at St. Luke’s approach. By choosing the audio format the author did, the listener gets to hear the more personal side of medicine, which allows the reader to understand why the holistic approach is both important and necessary.