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Creating engagement with solutions visuals: Testing the effects of problem-oriented versus solution-oriented photojournalism

by Nicole Dahmen, Kathryn Thier, and Brent Walth

An increasing number of news organizations are reporting stories about responses to persistent societal problems, a reporting form known as solutions journalism. While this type of reporting practice is typically text-based, visual reporting can also be solutions journalism. Photojournalism theory and practice pose particular insights for advancing academic understanding of solutions journalism. This study uses an experiment to examine effects of exposure to problem-oriented versus solution-oriented photojournalism for three different story topics. The study examines important variables such as narrative engagement, interest, self-efficacy, and behavioral intentions. Study data suggest that narrative engagement can play an important role in involving audiences in visual solutions reporting, with data showing that solutions visual reporting is more engaging on average. Further, when audiences are more engaged in the visual solutions reporting, participants report more positive outcomes for interest, self-efficacy, and behavior intentions. Study findings have implications for both journalism theory and for the practice of visual solutions journalism.

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