Putting solutions journalism to the test: a six-episode podcast

Image shows a microphone in studio. Photo: REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

Journalist fellow Laura Dulce Romero presents her findings in podcast form. Photo: REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

If you are a journalist who has been told all your life that "good news is not news" or "if it doesn't bleed, it doesn't lead", this podcast may be of interest to you.

As a journalist from Colombia, I’ve had no shortage of stories to fit this brief in my nine-year career. Colombians have had to deal with armed conflict for 50 years, which in addition to violence has brought us poverty, inequality, and corruption, among other problems. 

The constant doom, heavy workload, threat of closure and poor pay took a toll on my mental and physical health. I began to question whether I wanted to be a journalist at all. 

That’s how I wound up at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism with a proposal to investigate whether a Solutions Journalism lab could work in Colombia. Solutions Journalism (or, SoJo) is rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems. 

It seemed to me to be offering something different to the usual doom march. Could SoJo be a way out for journalists who, like me, are tired of the negative bias and see how audiences are drifting away? Like any good journalist, I was sceptical.

So I decided to put SoJo to its own test – the “WHOLE” test. Proponents of this style say a good SoJo investigation should ask: What response does the solution address? How does it work? Offer insights and observations about the solution. Discuss the limitations of the solution, and present any evidence for its impact. What, how, observational insights, limitations and evidence – the “whole” story. 

I called eight researchers and colleagues who have built spaces for solutions journalism in newsrooms in the Americas, Africa and Europe, to learn about their experiences and reviewed the sparse academic literature on this topic. 

Among my interviewees: Jaime Buerguer, managing editor at Fix; Tina Rosenberg, co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network; Caleb Okereke, African journalist and founder of Minority Africa; Chani Guyot, the editor of Argentinian news outlet Red/Acción; Karen McIntyre, professor of journalism at Virginia Commonwealth University; Benjamin Toff, Senior Research Fellow at the Reuters Institute; Tom Colls, from the BBC's People Fixing the World; and Katherine Long from the Seattle Times Education Lab. 

It's all been put together in a six-part podcast series: This whole story stopped me quitting journalism (available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, or below). The first episode is available now, and new episodes will be released on Mondays until October 24th. 

For the benefit of your journalists and your audiences, I encourage you to subscribe, review and share.