Engaging Communities Through Solutions Journalism

Updated 2 years ago

Authors: Andrea Wenzel, Daniela Gerson and Evelyn Moreno

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.


Many thanks to the Tow Center for Digital Journalism—and, in particular, Claire Wardle and Pete Brown—for the support and thoughtful feedback. The project would not have been possible without the collaboration of Dr. Sandra Ball-Rokeach and the researchers of the Metamorphosis Project at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, who devoted considerable time and resources to conducting focus groups. Thanks also to our South Los Angeles community partners, including the Coalition for Responsible Community Development, Community Services Unlimited, Esperanza Community Housing, All Peoples Community Center, Community Health Councils, Community Coalition, and Trust South LA. Thanks to our media partners, including KPCC, Hoy, La Opinión, the Los Angeles Sentinel, Southwest Wave, and Intersections South LA. Finally, thanks to the Solutions Journalism Network for sharing input on its research to date and our project design.

April 2016