Solutions Journalism’s “Four Qualities”
Solutions Journalism: Structure
SoJo Story Structure
Objectives: Understand how to structure SoJo stories; understand how reporting and structure are intertwined
Delivery method: Student exploration followed by facilitated discussion and take-home assignment
Materials: Display facility, flip charts, markers, tape (if needed)
Room setup: Course leader by display, Student work areas
Time: One to one and one-half hours (depends on numbers)
Activity 1: Creating graphic organizers of SoJo stories
- Instructor displays copy of the inverted pyramid and asks students to explain what it really is (i.e. a graphic representation journalists visualize in their minds to guide story structure)
- Using a SoJo story students have already read/listen to/viewed and analyzed for the Four Qualities, ask students to tease out turning points in the story and places where the qualities appear and shift from one to the other. In small groups, students then create their own graphic representation of the categories on flip charts they find to illuminate their understanding of the structure. Activity Note: It helps for students to make notes on one sheet of paper and then determine the graphic representation on another sheet of paper.
- When the graphic organizers are finishes, instructor facilitates share out at each station and discussion about differences and similarities between the groups’ ideas. Most groups’ designs will include evidence of the narrative shifting between the “big picture” of the solution and problem and the “small picture” of the localized response.
- Instructor should challenge students to see how the structure reflects the reporting. Also, prompt them to consider how their reporting to date might play out structurally and what else is needed to ensure a full narrative. Tip: Solutions stories also can employ different story models. While that type of reporting isn’t typically possible in a university setting, it can be helpful to include discussion of this in the classroom.
Activity 2: Take-home assignment
This activity may be followed by a take-home annotation assignment, exploring the “howdunit” narrative style employed in the most rigorous solutions stories. Here is an example of an annotated story. The specific “howdunit” style is often not possible for students to achieve given their reporting experience and the time available in an academic term. But it is helpful to emphasize that solutions stories focus on the “how” more than the “what” and to have students consider what questions to ask to include “how” moments, even in shorter pieces.