Heroes not Hero Worship

Solutions Journalism

University of Miami

Miami, FL, United States


This collection highlights stories that have strong, central characters, or heroes, but do not fall into hero worship.

The titles of all these stories might give the impression that they are about the heroes, but the stories themselves do not focus at length on an individual. For example in "Meet a New Breed of Prosecutor" the author begins the story with Texas prosecutor Mark Gonzalez, but then segues into the history of prosecutors in the U.S., speaks about current and past trends, and provides examples of other young, liberal prosecutors like Gonzalez and the impact they are making. This story begins with the focus on an individual but it serves the broader need to illustrate a response.

In "The Man Who Can Map Chemicals All Over your Body" the author describes Pieter Dorrestein's life, hobbies, and even his personality: "Pieter has that unusual combination of creativity and drive, along with an incredible ability to finish projects." However, all of these traits and descriptions help the reader understand Dorrestein's motivations in relation to the solution. They are, in some way, connected with the response.

This is also the case in "He Survived Ebola. Now He's Fighting to Keep it From Spreading." The author of this article also provides a lengthy description of the hero, his backstory, and his experience contracting Ebola: "The worst of the symptoms followed several days later. For five days, he could barely move, even to turn his own body in his cot. He could talk on his cellphone, but if it fell on the floor, he was helpless to retrieve it.” If this story solely focused on the doctor, it could fall into a hero worship story, instead the author also spends time describing the social conditions of Guinea, the challenges doctors face, and the details of how this particular doctor is training other medical professionals how to safely combat the spread of Ebola. By doing so, the hero's story does not overshadow the core “howdunnit” narrative. Instead, it becomes central in understanding the issue - and how it's being addressed.

"Taking Guns off the Streets" and "The Salvadoran Ex-Guerrilla Who Learned to Read to Stop Corporate Mining" are much shorter articles, and the heroes in these stories have a bigger role than in the previous ones. Yet, these stories still center on the work, rather than on glorifying the individual. Furthermore, a reader looking to implement a similar solution gains some sort of insight or knowledge by reading both of these stories. Both of these stories move beyond the hero by elaborating on the effects, or shortcomings of the solution.

All of these stories have a common thread: Heroes, but they share something even more important: solutions.