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Solutions journalism in student publications

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by Kristin Taylor

Title

Solutions journalism in student publications

Description

Critics accuse the news media of only reporting bad news, but journalists must investigate and report on problems. One alternative to reporting solely on the problem is to report on how people and communities are seeking to solve those problems. This form of investigative journalism is called “solutions journalism.” This lesson provides an introduction to solutions journalism and encourages student reporters to generate ideas about how they could use this approach in their own reporting.

Objectives

  • Students will be able to define solutions-based journalism and analyze how it differs from traditional news coverage.
  • Students will read examples of solution journalism and analyze how a solutions approach changed the article.
  • Students will apply solutions-based thinking to a current topic they could report and create a reporting plan.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.2 Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper).
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective, analyzing how style and content contribute to the power, persuasiveness or beauty of the text.

Length

60 minutes

Materials

Whiteboard and markers

Teacher computer and digital projector

Student computers, if available

solutionsjournalism.org video

Bad news isn’t the whole story” episode of On The Media podcast

Lesson step-by-step

Step 1 — Warm up (5 minutes)

Ask, “What is the difference between journalism and advocacy? Given fears about being perceived as advocates rather than objective journalists, how can a reporter write a story about solutions to problems?” Students offer thoughts; teacher records ideas on the board. Say, “Today we are going to explore the concept of Solutions Journalism and think about how you might use this approach for one of your own stories.”

Step 2 — Video and think-pair-share (10 minutes)

Teacher plays two-minute video from solutionsjournalism.org introducing the concept of solutions journalism. In pairs, students summarize what they learned about the concept and come up with a definition for “solutions journalism.” Partners share their definitions with the class.

Step 3 — Class discussion (10 minutes)

As a follow-up, the teacher asks questions to make sure they understand these key ideas:

  • The video does not suggest that ALL journalism should focus on solutions, but rather suggests there should be a mix. Why is that so important?
  • Why would it be important to look at solutions that aren’t working alongside those that are?
  • How is this kind of journalism different from straight advocacy?

Step 4 — Partner activity (25 minutes)

Students meet back up with their partners and go to solutionsjournalism.org. Together, they select two stories to read from “The Best Solutions Journalism of 2016.” (If students do not have access to computers, the teacher can pick out two stories ahead of time and print them out for the class.) Partners should discuss these stories and why the Solutions Journalism Network selected them. They should consider how each story would have been different if it didn’t have a solutions focus.

Step 5 — Assessment (10 minutes)

Groups will share final thoughts and takeaways from these articles and then brainstorm at least three potential problems at school or in our local community. As a class, look at each problem and discuss how students could investigate that problem from a solutions journalism mindset.

Extension

Students can listen to the 11-minute podcast episode of On the Media called “Bad News Isn’t the Whole Story,” an interview with one of the cofounders of the SJN. The class would discuss how Rosenberg responds to journalists who fear being labeled advocates if they practice solutions journalism.

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