Engaging Communities Through Solutions Journalism
Substantive local news is a rare commodity in many communities across the United States. In areas with high levels of violence, crime, and poverty, a history of stigmatization can further compound this absence. 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 scale.
Proponents of this genre of journalism believe these types of stories offer a pathway to engaging audiences. Preliminary research suggests readers of solutions-oriented stories are 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 that gap. In follow-up to a community-based media project in South Los Angeles, six focus groups with forty-eight African-American and Latino residents examined how participants responded to the solutions journalism format.
The study’s findings illustrate how residents navigate and critically interpret mainstream local coverage, often using alternative digital sources to cross-check stories and seek other information. Its results also suggest that these residents would respond positively to solutions journalism—though participants’ enthusiasm may be tempered by larger concerns regarding structural inequalities. Focus group participants said they would be more likely to seek out news and share stories if solutions journalism were more common, and many noted that our sample stories helped them envision a way to become personally involved in community problem solving.