David: That you find what you’re looking for. If journalists go out looking for harmful actors, we’ll find them. On the other hand, if we go out looking for helpful actors — people who are, in good faith, trying to solve problems — we’ll find them, too. A lot of them. At one point I had a spreadsheet with 800 story ideas.
It made me think: As journalists, what should we be looking for? What information does society most need to do better against big problems?
Tina: We journalists have been conditioned to believe that “news” actually means “bad news,” and that you can’t talk about solutions without falling into public relations. Back in 2015, I wrote about the Ebola vaccine’s startlingly rapid development. Everyone knew about the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014. But I was shocked by the number of readers who had no idea there was a successful vaccine. There’s a successful treatment for Ebola now, too — how many people know about that? Here’s a lesson: if we report on the epidemic, we should report on the cure.
David: I do think that, today in particular, people need journalism — not feel-good news, but rigorous reporting — that helps them see pathways to a better future. The news can be so overwhelming. More and more people are avoiding it. We need to balance news about problems and possibilities so that people can engage with reality with some sense of agency. Otherwise, they tune out, or deny it, or fall prey to misinformation.
Tina: Right. We should make clear that this brand of solutions journalism has grown immensely since we began in 2010. There are now many, many places to read, watch and listen to stories about solutions like the ones we covered. There’s the Solutions Story Tracker, a searchable database with more than 12,000 published articles, from the Times and more than 1,500 other newsrooms. It’s from the Solutions Journalism Network, which we co-founded along with Courtney Martin, another Fixes contributor.
And Times readers who appreciate Fixes’ solutions approach should keep an eye out for the launch of Headway in the next few weeks. A new initiative from the Times newsroom, Headway will investigate the planet’s most significant challenges through the lens of progress — or the obstacles to progress. Headway is intended to start a public conversation about what humankind is doing to address the types of issues we’ve been covering in this column. We’ll be part of the conversation there. Come join us.
David Bornstein (@dnbornstein) and Tina Rosenberg (@tirosenberg) are co-creators of Fixes and co-founders of the Solutions Journalism Network. Mr. Bornstein is the author of “How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas.” Ms. Rosenberg is a former member of The Times’s editorial board and a writer for The Times Magazine. She is the author of “Join the Club: How Peer Pressure Can Transform the World.”