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Frequently Asked Questions

HOW DO YOU FIND THESE STORIES?

We get stories through three routes: (1) stories that SJN knows about because they're being produced by our newsroom partners, (2) stories that individuals, particularly members of our Hub, submit to the Story Tracker for our review, and (3) stories that staff & others stumble upon. (We're currently thinking through the last route, trying to develop a system for searching for and harvesting solutions journalism from the news at large.)

HOW DO YOU VET STORY SUBMISSIONS?

First of all, it has to be solutions journalism. Stories are only selected for inclusion in the Story Tracker if they meet all the requirements for solutions journalism. Does the story:

HOW DO YOU TAG STORIES?

We add stories one-by-one, taking time to critically read/watch/listen to the narrative in order to tag the story not only for the basic info like the author, date, news outlet, but also to (1) craft a short searchable description of the story, (2) geocode each story based on the location of the reported-on response, (3) tag relevant issue areas/subjects for each story, using the Foundation Center's taxonomy, and (4) tag each story by Success Factors, our own unique taxonomy that off ers a nuanced look at the ingredients of success for a particular solution.

WHERE DID YOUR ISSUE AREAS TAXONOMY COME FROM?

Our issue area taxonomy was adapted from the PCS Taxonomy with definitions by the Foundation Center, which is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 4.0 International License.

WHAT ARE SUCCESS FACTORS?

Success Factors are the tactics that are critical to a response's success or failure. What social change strategy did this solution use that made it work (or not work)?

WHERE DID YOUR SUCCESS FACTORS COME FROM?

We developed this in-house. It was a long process, headed by Tina Rosenberg, Taylor Nelson, and Matthew Zipf, which involved reading hundreds of stories to see what tactics were critical to making a response work. Much solutions journalism tells the story of a response that succeeded where others had failed, and seeks to identify how — what did this response do diff erently? We tried to identify, name and classify all these different tactics.

WHY ARE SUCCESS FACTORS IMPORTANT?

The same Success Factor can power all kinds of social initiatives. For example, "addressing underlying issues" or "building trust" can lead to successful responses in education, health, criminal justice and many other fields. People working in all these fields can benefit by learning how successful programs use these tactics. And using the focus of Success Factors to make these connections helps people to understand the systems that create social change.

What can cause a story to miss the mark for inclusion in the Solutions Story Tracker?

Stories are only added to the Solutions Story Tracker® if they meet our requirements for solutions journalism.

Solutions journalism has “the basics.” If a story misses this mark, we may not add it to the Solutions Story Tracker for the following reasons:

Not Connected With A Media Organization

The Solutions Story Tracker is not a publishing or broadcast platform, so journalists and producers must find a media outlet to produce their material and submit the link to the Solutions Story Tracker through the 'Submit A Story' online form. The primary emphasis of the media organization should be to offer strong, critical, and independent reporting. Examples of stories that may be not added for this reason are YouTube links that are not connected to a media organization or journalist.

No Byline

The Solutions Story Tracker catalogs stories that identify the journalists and producers, so it’s clear who created the stories.

No Date

The Solutions Story Tracker is used for research. It is important that stories have dates for citations.

Solutions journalism focuses primarily on a response or responses to a problem. If a story misses this mark, we may not add it to the Solutions Story Tracker for the following reasons:

Problem Only

This story has little or no information about a response. It is primarily focused on a problem.

Afterthought

This problem-focused story includes a paragraph or sound bite hinting at initiatives working to combat the problem, but responses are not the main focus of this piece.

Not About Solving A Social Problem

This story is about interesting or positive things that are happening, but it’s not clear from the story whether they result from a response to a social issue or problem. So, the story is not presenting a detailed response to a problem.

Solutions journalism conveys insight, so that lessons of a response are relevant and accessible to others. If a story misses this mark, we may not add it to the Solutions Story Tracker for the following reasons:

No Howdunnit

This story mentions a response, but it doesn’t describe how the response worked in detail so that others might learn from it.

Feel Good

This story tells the news consumers that the world has good people doing nice things, but it does not offer insight that addresses a systemic or social problem. The story highlights individual acts of kindness, aiming to make the reader feel good instead of providing a teachable lesson about the response to replicate at scale.

Lacks Cohesion Or Clarity

This story lacks a coherent focus on a response, or has too many grammatical errors or other issues, for inclusion in the Solutions Story Tracker.

Solutions journalism provides evidence of a response’s success or failure or indications of progress linked to a response. If a story misses this mark, we may not add it to the Solutions Story Tracker for the following reasons:

Just A Plan / It's Too Early

This story is about a plan with little or no progress happening yet. At this stage, the response has been announced or launched, but there is no information yet about its impact or effectiveness.

Think Tank

This story is about an idea or theory that has not been tested. These stories often propose potential solutions and discuss theoretical challenges and opportunities, but real-world insights are limited because the response has not been tried yet.

Research Study-heavy

This story primarily summarizes the findings of a research study. The story lacks practical applications or additional context and reporting by the journalist, but it does offer value in the world of solutions. While these research study stories are not solutions journalism, they are automatically flagged for potential future projects with us and are great supplemental materials for our staff to read.

Raising Awareness Only

This story covers only how a response aims to raise awareness of a social issue. The reporting doesn't describe how the response is going beyond raising awareness to improve or resolve the social issue. As a result, insight and evidence are limited in the story. While raising awareness is important, the Solutions Story Tracker prioritizes coverage of responses that go beyond raising awareness, and we value evidence to show how responses are working or not working in that effort.

Solutions journalism discusses the limitations or shortcomings of the response or places the response in meaningful context. If a story misses this mark, we may not add it to the Solutions Story Tracker for the following reasons:

Silver Bullet

This story overpromises new innovations or technology as “lifesaving” or an otherwise perfect response to a complex social problem. These stories often lack context, especially information about the shortcomings and limitations of a response.

Lacks Journalistic Rigor

This story relies too much on the journalist's personal experience to describe a response or otherwise lacks journalistic rigor. Rigorous solutions journalism should include the skeptic and critic’s voice and not rely primarily on the journalist's personal experience. Examples of stories that are rejected for this reason include personal essays and reader comments.

Solutions journalism avoids advocacy, PR, and hero worship—instead focusing on credible, objective reporting. If a story misses this mark, we may not add it to the Solutions Story Tracker for the following reasons:

Instant Activist

This story asks news consumers to support the response to a social issue (e.g. buttons embedded within the story encourage readers to 'Get involved,' 'Donate here,' 'Support this campaign here,' etc.). Solutions journalism is about providing information to news consumers, not telling them which responses they should support.

Self-Promotion Or Favor To A Friend

The journalist seems to be connected with the response profiled or offers the perspective of the organizers only. These stories often lack voices other than that of the journalist and the organizers of a response. They often read like thinly veiled PR. Actual PR and other promotional content also falls into this category.

Hero Worship

This story is primarily about profiling, celebrating, or honoring an individual, rather than focusing on the response that the individual is leading or advancing.

Finally, there are a few other reasons why we may not add a story to the Solutions Story Tracker:

Broken Link

Oops! Please submit this story again with a working link.

It's A Blog

We generally do not accept blog posts because they often do not go through an established editorial infrastructure for fact-checking and rigorous reporting. When such a system is present, the story may be included in the Solutions Story Tracker.

Paywall

We were not able to review this story submission because it is behind a paywall. While stories in the Solutions Story Tracker can be behind paywalls, our team needs access to be able to review and tag the story. Please reach out to SJN's Data Architect Marie (marie@solutionsjournalism.org) to discuss possible workarounds.

Series Description / Landing Page

This is a link to a series description or landing page. The Solutions Story Tracker does not include these links. Please submit the individual solutions stories that are part of this series or project.

Spam / Not A Story

This is not a link to a story. The Solutions Story Tracker does not include links to company/nonprofit websites or other links that are not works of journalism.

Other

Our story reviewing team occasionally writes in custom comments for unusual issues, such as when they are reviewing a story that is a repost of a story already in the Solutions Story Tracker.

SJN'S CRITERIA FOR GOOD SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM:
  • Comes from a news outlet; has a date and a byline.
  • Focuses primarily on a response to a problem.
  • Conveys insight, so that its lessons are relevant and teachable to others.
  • Provides evidence of an approach's success or failure.
  • Addresses an approach's shortcomings or limitations.
  • Avoids advocacy, PR, and hero worship—instead focusing on credible, objective reporting.
SUBMIT A NON-ENGLISH STORY

Great suggestion! So great, that we already have that story listed in the Solutions Story Tracker®. View it here.

It may take a few weeks to see your piece in the Solutions Story Tracker®, as we have a backlog of submissions longer than Ben Hur that we’re diligently working to eliminate. We appreciate your patience.

I WORK IN, TEACH, OR STUDY JOURNALISM Not a journalist, but I want to learn about solutions.
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Your information will be used to complete your application, and to subscribe you to occasional updates. We will only send you relevant information, which may be sent to you through any channel for which you provide contact information to us. We may use this information to target content we send you, but we will never sell or transfer your information to 3rd parties for commercial or advertising purposes. We may use your information to connect you to 3rd parties for the purpose of improving your membership and enriching your professional network. You can unsubscribe at any time from any content delivery channel, or from all of them, though unsubscribing may prevent you from participating in the opportunities provided by this program. View our full privacy policy here.

Our issue area taxonomy was adapted from the PCS Taxonomy with definitions by the Foundation Center, which is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 4.0 International License.

Photos are licensed under Attribution Non Commercial 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license / Desaturated from original, and are credited to the following photographers:

Fondriest Environmental, David De Wit / Community Eye Health, Linda Steil / Herald Post, John Amis / UGA College of Ag & Environmental Sciences – OCCS, Andy B, Peter Garnhum, Thomas Hawk, 7ty9, Isriya Paireepairit, David Berger, UnLtd The Foundation For Social Entrepreneurs, Michael Dunne, Burak Kebapci, and Forrest Berkshire / U.S. Army Cadet Command public affairs

Photos are licensed under Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license, and are credited to the following photographers:

Ra'ed Qutena, 段 文慶, Fabio Campo, City Clock Magazine, Justin Norman, scarlatti2004, Gary Simmons, Kathryn McCallum, and Nearsoft Inc

Photos are licensed under CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication Creative Commons license / Desaturated from original, and are credited to the following photographers:

Burak Kebapci and SCY.

Photos are licensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) and are credited to the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Conference attendee listening to speaker, Jenifer Daniels / Colorstock getcolorstock.com.

Photo Credit: Kevork Djansezian via Getty Images

Photo Credit: Sonia Narang