Transitioning to solutions journalism: One newsroom’s shift to solutions-focused reporting.
Presented at the Future of Journalism 2019 conference, Cardiff, UK, September 12-13
Abstract: Solutions journalism — rigorous news reporting on how people are responding to social problems — has gained much attention in the past five years as newsrooms have looked for innovative ways to increase audience engagement. Several news outlets have launched solutions journalism initiatives. However, oftentimes news outlets separate their solution-focused news coverage from their traditional coverage. In 2018, in a move that was the first of its kind, Alabama’s largest daily newspaper, the Gannett-owned Montgomery Advertiser, executed a complete transformation of its newsroom to focus on enterprise and solutions journalism. To examine its impact, we conducted a multiple-wave survey of the newspaper’s audience before and after the transition and collected community conversations via social media data from Twitter and Facebook. The results were mixed and thus show support for future real-world research in this area. Audience perceptions from the survey data revealed less engagement over time. However, the newspaper saw 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. Other factors, like big news items in the state and a smaller number of solution-oriented stories being published than expected, are discussed.