Transitioning to solutions journalism: One newsroom’s shift to solutions-focused reporting.

Abstract: In 2018, Alabama’s largest daily newspaper, the Gannett-owned Montgomery Advertiser, set out to transform its newsroom to focus on enterprise and solutions journalism—rigorous news reporting on how people are responding to social problems, a practice that has gained attention as newsrooms have looked for innovative ways to increase audience engagement. To examine its impact, we conducted a multiple-wave survey of the newspaper’s audience before and after the transition, collected community conversations via social media data from Twitter and Facebook, and reviewed the newspaper’s website analytics. The results were mixed. Audience perceptions from the survey data revealed less engagement over time. However, newspaper analytics revealed an increased number of page views and longer engagement times on their solution-oriented news stories compared to their traditional stories. Sentiment analysis of the social media data showed a significant increase in positive sentiment and significant decrease in negative sentiment. The newspaper’s editor discusses factors that might have contributed to the results and highlights that, although the paper met obstacles, the transition to solutions journalism increased the newspaper’s connection to the community. These findings reinforce that measuring the impact of solutions journalism in a real-world environment is complex and more studies are needed.

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