A New Breed of “Solutions Journalism”


Esha Chhabra

Sunday, November 13, 2011

I can’t watch the news at night before going to bed — too much violence and sadness. I don’t read the newspapers; it’s all disasters — of the physical, political or social kind. The news is like a rainy cloud dragging around over your head.

That’s what I’ve heard over and over about the coverage of the media. And as a writer, I have to say, I can sympathize. With all the gadgetry these days, it’s difficult to get away from it. But ironically, that’s what we need to do to find solutions. Identify the problem. And then step back. Try digesting it (if you can). Finally, start looking for solutions. If you can find solutions, the glass looks half full all of a sudden.

Sounds great. Easy to say. But hard to implement. Right? Not so.

After having worked as an intern and production assistant in 24/7 newsrooms, I found the constant barrage of bad news to be, well, depressing and frustrating. It seemed as if there was so much wrong in the world and little that was right. Wrong.

There are those who are doing more “right” than “wrong.” The problem is that we don’t hear those stories enough. So, I decided that I’d focus my writing on those who are seeking solutions and see if I could get them profiled in the news. Then, this past spring, I stumbled across a site named Dowser. Its focus was on “solutions journalism.” I hadn’t heard of that variety — food, health, crime, international, national — those were all beats I knew. But, solutions was a new one.

David Bornstein, a writer who’s previously focused on social innovation and social enterprises, created Dowser, named after a divining rod that uncovers water, much like uncovering stories of change. It’s become a platform to share stories about innovators, change makers and pioneers — not as a means to applaud them but to share their triumphs and pitfalls as lessons, those that can be transplanted from one broken society to another.

Since I began writing for Dowser, I’ve been able to unearth countless stories that complement the despair covered in traditional media. For instance, this month, I learned about a Detroit-based social entrepreneur, who happens to be over 71, and his mission to help bring back jobs to a city that’s been smacked hard by recession. And if you look at his work at Tech Town, a business incubator, he’s been relatively successful.

Previously, I’ve learned about entrepreneurs who are building a solar marketplace in the rural outskirts of Kampala, Uganda. I’ve encountered innovators who are trying to refashion health care for the poor so that they, too, can be treated — at a price that suits them. I’ve spoken with enterprising grad students identifying clean sources of water for those caught in the slums of the developing world. I’ve spoken with local companies that are returning to a simpler way of life, one that’s people- and planet-friendly.

And, most of all, I’ve gotten to write about them, helping others envision a world full of possibilities and solutions. Dowser, as well as David, has tried to connect the current failings in the world with possible solutions. But just because I’ve written about and profiled some of these innovators doesn’t mean that I’ve stamped my approval or declared them as quick fixes for systemic problems. Rather, the intent in solutions journalism is to lay out an array of possibilities — some stronger, some weaker. But, all are solutions of some degree.

While traditional media will not disappear, and certainly should not do so because they offer invaluable information, a new parallel form of journalism is surfacing, one that links today’s disasters to tomorrow’s enterprises. That makes bad news a bit easier to stomach. At the core, though, the aim is to be a powerhouse of ideas, of all kinds of ideas, which can perhaps spark something in a reader — perhaps, a better solution?

Amit Gupta, a professor in India, created the Honeybee Network many years back — a network of farmers, rural engineers, teachers and everyday folks — who simply shared ideas with each other. It was the criss-crossing of those “could be” solutions, much like honeybees cross pollinating, that led to innovations, which Gupta then helped bring to life.

Solutions journalism is a new, budding crop of that variety, hoping to connect the dots — between the problem and the solution.

We don’t live in a world full of problems. We live in a world full of solutions. The game is to match the leaky faucet with the right washer.

Read more: http://www.vcstar.com/news/2011/nov/12/esha-chhabra-finding-solutions-in-the-news/#ixzz1dY7SLc6p
– vcstar.com


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