Solutions journalism is a core approach for how The Journal covers civic issues and leadership. Today, we celebrate Solutions Journalism Day, which marks the 10th birthday.

For years, The Journal has dabbled in solutions journalism, which provides the same rigorous reporting, the kind most often devoted to problems, on solutions instead. The focus is on looking at “who’s doing it better and how.”

The anchor for solutions-centric coverage is the Solutions Journalism Network, based in New York City, which has worked with more than 500 news organizations and 20,000 journalists throughout the world on integrating the approach.

Our embrace of solutions journalism reached a new level when we joined the Wichita Journalism Collaborative in 2020, a coalition of media and community groups that received funding from SJN and the Wichita Foundation.

These days, almost every contributor who writes for The Journal has been trained in solutions journalism, which uses a four-pillar structure that asks reporters to investigate a response to a social problem, sort through the evidence of how that solution is working, identify and outline limitations and share insights that help make the story relevant to others.

The Solutions Journalism Network emerged from the “Fixes” column being written by David Bornstein and Tina Rosenberg in The New York Times, which started in 2010. The pair joined Courtney Martin to found SJN in February 2013. The network has helped solutions journalism reach a scale far beyond what public journalism was able to achieve. The organization’s story tracker database includes more than 15,000 stories. 

Since 2021, The Journal has placed at least a dozen stories in that database on topics ranging from mental health to vaccinations to civic engagement. Last year, I wrote about why The Journal has embraced solutions journalism and how I see it connected to important journalism reform movements that have emerged from Kansas.

Today, I want to share a handful of our most significant solutions stories so that you can be reminded of the range and impact of this type of coverage.

With help, Afghan refugees make a home in Manhattan, Kansas

Two women in traditional Afghan clothing smiling and embracing.
Credit: Jeff Tuttle

Published this past spring, the story by reporter AJ Dome looks at how Manhattan residents have worked across factions to welcome Afghans displaced by the Taliban’s takeover of their country.

Sparked by a collaboration between two veterans, the Manhattan Afghan Resettlement Team brought together civic, religious and nonprofit leaders around a common purpose – assisting refugees seeking resettlement by keeping a promise made through unique bonds forged in war. But addressing long-term challenges, including finding permanent housing for refugees, will require continued collaboration.

Inside the Kansas workplace that aims for everyone to lead

Greg Hennen and staff members of Four County Mental Health Center sit together at a conference table.
Credit: Jeff Tuttle

Nearly five years ago, a community mental health center in southeast Kansas explored offering employees leadership training as a way of preparing for an era of change. Little did they know, they’d soon be facing a triple whammy of daunting challenges.

All indications are that Four County Mental Health Center has come out stronger, even if the process of becoming a place where everyone leads remains a work in progress.

Can English and Spanish speakers thrive in the same city?

Man seated with children on his lap
Credit: Jeff Tuttle

With a profound shift in the demographic makeup of Kansas underway, more and more communities are wrestling with the challenge of bridging ethnic and linguistic differences.

This story, by reporter Joel Mathis, looks at Emporia, where a small group of residents is working to make the community more cohesive. Their approach is to welcome to Spanish-speakers and immigrants by practicing Spanish together, learning the language one phrase at a time, in some cases. But as some members of the community say “¡Si, como no!” – “Yes, of course!” – to a bilingual community, questions remain about what’s necessary to truly bring people together.

When police put use-of-force decisions under a microscope

Gordon McLaughlin, 8th District Attorney in front of the Larimer County Justice Center

This story was published this past April as part of our collaboration with the Wichita Journalism Collaborative. It was written by Angela K. Evans, a Denver-based freelance journalist.

The article looks at an effort in Northern Colorado to use a team of investigators from different agencies to investigate uses of force by police. The reporting shows that such teams can bring more transparency and objectivity to the process. But some question whether such investigations truly hold police accountable and increase trust.

The story also looks at the similarities and differences between how 8th Judicial District’s Critical Incident Response Team investigates and how Sedgwick County officials investigated the death of Cedric “C.J.” Lofton, who died in Sedgwick County’s juvenile detention center in 2021.

What Wichita can learn from a Michigan city’s path to seamless mental health care

Another story The Journal worked on in conjunction with the Wichita Journalism Collaborative earlier this year looks at how Grand Rapids, Michigan, similar in size and demographics to Wichita, is creating a “continuum of care” for behavioral health services.

Sedgwick County looks to San Antonio for mental health solutions

San Antonio mental health

Reported in partnership with KSN-TV for the Wichita Journalism Collaborative, this story investigates what Wichita and Sedgwick County can learn from the San Antonio model for reducing the homeless and jail populations. A key feature of the community’s approach is a one-stop shop for services, which is being considered in Wichita.

You can read more solutions coverage from The Journal here.

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