New Report — Engaging Communities Through Solutions Journalism

On April 14, the Tow Center launched “Engaging Communities Through Solutions Journalism” – a research project led by Tow Fellows Andrea Wenzel, Daniela Gerson, and Evelyn Moreno in collaboration with the Metamorphosis research group.

The report is available to download and read at the Tow Center’s GitBook repository.

Executive Summary

Substantive local news is a rare commodity in many communities across the United States. For areas with high levels of violence, crime, and poverty, this absence can be compounded by a history of stigmatization. Often the only local news available is negative.

This report explores potential impacts of local solutions journalism, particularly for underrepresented and stigmatized communities. Solutions journalism explores responses to systemic social problems—critically examining problem-solving efforts that have the potential to be scaled.

Proponents of this genre suggest these stories offer a pathway to engaging audiences. Preliminary research suggests readers of solutions-oriented stories may be more likely to share articles and seek related information.

However, little research has explored solutions journalism at the local level or in stigmatized communities. This study attempts to address this gap. Following a community-based media project in South Los Angeles, six focus groups were held with 48 African American and Latino residents examining how participants responded to the solutions journalism format.

Study findings illustrate how residents navigate and critically interpret mainstream local coverage—often using alternative digital sources to cross-check stories and seek information. The study also suggests that these residents will respond positively to solutions journalism —though participants’ enthusiasm may be tempered by larger concerns regarding structural inequalities. Participants suggested they would be more likely to seek out news and share stories if solutions journalism was more common, and many suggested these stories helped them envision a way to become personally involved in community problem-solving.