In any beginning journalism class, young journalism students learn a basic list of newsworthy elements. The list I learned included proximity, timeliness, prominence, conflict, impact, human interest and at least one other category that I can’t seem to remember. Every high school and college journalism student across the country is likely to learn the same list. I loved this list, was married to this list, in fact, until I took a Principles of Journalism class for the second time as a college freshman (I took a similar class in high school). Memorizing the list for a second time made me realize how many gaps there are in the journalism education schools are providing to students. What about fixing problems? What about community building? What about education? What about solution journalism?
At first I didn’t fully understand solution journalism because many media organizations also don’t quite understand solution journalism. Dowser, a news organization at the forefront of solutions journalism, addresses its concerns about the lack of solution journalism in media in an article called “Defining Solution Journalism: It’s About Real News, Not Feel-Good Stories.” The site points out that CNN has a segment called “Heroes” and ABC News likewise has a “Person of the Week” feature. This is not solution journalism. Pointing out something that seems good with little thoughtfulness and critical thinking only further drives the problem in mainstream media today. For every five stories of conflict, war and generally discouraging stories, it is difficult to find five news pieces that offer answers or forward perspective, the site points out in its about page. The goals of Dowser are highlighted in this short mission statement video:
Sites like Dowser are effectively bringing solutions to journalism, but the world also needs solutions and journalism to merge in areas of non-traditional communication. Take the non-profit sector, for instance. Last winter break, I volunteered at a non-profit in my hometown. I used my communication and journalism skills to design flyers and postcards, and devise and implement a ramped up social media strategy. The organizers I worked with at the non-profit were incredible people. They were at the organization for the right reasons and had invaluable planning and business skills. The non-profit was well known in the area, but I recognized that the non-profit’s outdated website and promotion strategies were holding it back.
This week I came across an organization called The Girl Effect, that is using multimedia strategies to promote education, health, safety, economic security and citizenship for girls around the world. The organization has an enormous network of supporters including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Nike Foundation. Not every non-profit has the resources or communication talent to use multimedia for effective social good, as the organization does, but using organizations such as The Girl Effect as a model is a good start for melding solutions and journalism. Below is a video promoting the organization’s The Girl Declaration:
When people ask me what I am majoring in at Mizzou, they say I have an interesting combination of passions. This mostly just means they have never heard of any viable careers that combine all of my pursuits. I am currently a journalism and international studies major with a minor in entrepreneurship. My interest area in journalism is called Entrepreneurial Journalism, which means I am taking primarily convergence and multimedia courses and will eventually take classes on app development and 21st century news models. My focus in international studies is peace studies, which is the most interdisciplinary focus area. I am taking Spanish courses for the degree and hope to take a variety of classes exploring world cultures, religion and gender issues. The entrepreneurship minor requires me to take business and entrepreneurship classes.
To many, these three areas seem to pull my life in three vastly different directions, however, I finally feel like I’ve found this incredible trio of interests that capture everything I want to do with my life. For instance, I see myself working in communications for an international charity, looking for solutions to problems that give those in poverty long term financial, career and education solutions that will be self-sustaining after I leave. Journalism alone wouldn’t be enough because I would be recognizing problems without offering solution. International Studies alone would leave me without the tangible communication and convergence skills necessary to tell a compelling story about an organization I am passionate about. Entrepreneurship alone would leave me too focused on business solutions alone, without a larger perspective on the world that journalism and international studies could offer me.
My goals may change. I may focus on one over another. I may find 10 more passions I didn’t know I had. No matter where my life leads me though, I hope I am part of a solution.