Our Story

Letter from the Founders

The 2016 presidential election revealed a deep sense of powerlessness among Americans. Many voters expressed deep feelings of alienation, telling pollsters that people like them “don’t have any say.”

Journalism bears considerable responsibility for this belief. Even high-quality news frequently leaves audiences feeling helpless, disheartened, overlooked, polarized, and wishing to tune out.

One of today’s hidden realities is that at the local, regional and national level, Americans of all backgrounds are building and reforming institutions, organizing in new configurations, pioneering approaches and strengthening citizen capacity to attack problems more effectively. It’s an extraordinarily important story—full of activity and knowledge vital to democracy—but it is vastly under-reported.

What if journalists brought the same attention and rigor to stories about responses to problems as we do to the problems themselves? Could it balance a news narrative that often feeds apathy? Could it spur citizen agency and engagement? Could it strengthen democracy?

It’s been four years since we launched the Solutions Journalism Network in response to these questions, and we’re now working with many of the top news organizations in the United States. Thousands of journalists have joined our online community, barely a year old. And newsrooms in Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America have sought out our services—among them, the BBC, which has produced its own solutions reporting toolkit.

We know we still have a long way to go. But in 2016, we made significant headway. We now better understand the ways that solutions journalism can impact newsrooms, citizens and society. In addition to completing two studies around headlines and audience engagement, we commissioned two studies examining solutions journalism’s effect on public discourse. We summarized the state of knowledge around the impact of solutions journalism in this blog post

And importantly, answers to the questions we confronted four years ago are emerging. When solutions journalism is integrated into the news, it has potential to elevate public discourse, reduce polarization, and energize citizen agency. It appears that the inclusion of possibilities, or options, can improve public conversations. Among the 25 newsroom projects published in 2016, nearly half reported one or more instances of “community-level” impact. These impacts include reports of increased civic participation, the raising of new funds, and stronger audience engagement. One important finding is that solutions journalism facilitates the exchange of knowledge between groups and organizations; it plays a “connecting” role within the community.

We are excited to move forward on many new opportunities. We believe a more fully-rounded approach to journalism will strengthen participatory democracy, helping people to see credible pathways and possibilities for reform. That is very much needed today.

We feel privileged to work with extraordinary partners and supporters towards this goal.

With appreciation,

David BornsteinCourtney MartinTina Rosenberg