SJN launched the LEDE Fellowship in 2019 to support journalism entrepreneurs — in the United States and abroad —to create and lead projects that spread solutions journalism in their communities. Collectively, the 21 inaugural fellows from 2020, along with the 25 fellows from 2021 and 16 fellows from 2022 (selected at the end of 2021), have catalyzed over 500 solutions stories, trained over 1000 journalists and students in the solutions approach, and generated tens of thousands of dollars of revenue. In 2021, these included new historic achievements within the network, including several solutions journalism stories reported by high school students, and several several solutions journalism stories reported by incarcerated journalists.The most valuable part of LEDE is the ‘all-teach, all-learn’ structure it models, and the self-directed, decentralized solutions journalism fever it catalyzes. LEDE fellows tend to continue to practice, teach, and talk about solutions journalism long after their fellowship ends.
Originally launched in October 2018, the Solutions Journalism Network Mentorship Program is a cohort initiative through which journalists just starting out in the solutions approach attempt to publish at least one solutions story. Paired with a mentor of their choice (a journalist vetted in the Solutions Story Tracker), the mentees are grouped by beat and medium in thematically-linked cohorts, meeting once a month to brainstorm ideas and discuss challenges. Last year saw the graduation of the 47 mentees from 2020 - who collectively published 82 stories - and the launch of a shorter, six-month intensive program in June 2021, which featured 49 competitively selected journalists (photo above) from around the globe and 51 stories.
Beyond the solutions stories produced, the greatest successes of the mentorship program are the bonds and collaboration the community found.
In what was an otherwise overwhelming year, one with a lot of change and the rude awakening of post-college life, I really cherished the opportunity to speak with and listen to the amazing journalists in my cohort, who are all doing work I hope to also do. They inspired me and humbled me, and made me extremely grateful for the community created by SJN.
This mentorship program was the turnaround my career needed and got. It helped me clearly understand the idea behind SoJo and what it entails. It propelled me for a solutions reporting grant and another grant to carry out reporting projects on health solutions in Nigeria. All in all, it was a wonderful experience joining the SJN fold and making more impact with my journalism career. The interactions I had with fellows, my mentor and SJN reps were top-notch, which made the year a blessing. I say thank you to you all for this opportunity.
In the freelance world, journalists are often competing with one another, and I've found myself getting jealous or bitter when someone else gets a big assignment. But in being part of this cohort, I have genuinely felt pride and joy when I see you all getting solutions story assignments and publishing stories and achieving success in this industry, because it feels like we're now all achieving something together. We're all working towards the same goal.
After a solutions journalism presentation given to its senior executives, Graham TV contracted with SJN to provide its entire station ownership group with a six-week series of workshops last fall; about 50 of its journalists were enthusiastic participants. The Graham TV group of stations was one of four corporate owned TV ownership groups trained last year, reaching nearly 300 journalists in more than 50 metro markets across the U.S. Graham TV is developing a series called "Solutionaries," a deep look at issues like police reform and affordable housing, that has already generated several hundred thousand views on its YouTube channel, far more than corporate leaders had expected.
Solutions stories have been shown to spark strong audience engagement and trust - which can provide the basis for new revenue streams. The 2021 Revenue Playbook surfaces insights, case studies, ideas for impact measurement "how to" strategies for using solutions journalism to secure new revenue in the form of memberships, sponsorships and grants. Other research SJN commissioned highlighted how solutions journalism attracted loyal audiences, with the potential for generating reader revenue.
As a journalism organization, we acknowledge that excessively negative, reductive and denigrating coverage of communities of color has caused immense harm to those communities and society as a whole - and we commit to take concerted action to help bring an end to reporting practices that perpetuate bias and stigma. We teach, support and promulgate reporting methods that help all journalists cover communities of color in ways that accurately and respectfully reflect their community members' agency and aspirations.
Internally, The SJN Story Tracker team piloted ways of measuring equity and narrative shifts in stories with a new story equity ingredient system, and tagged 1,000 stories in the process. This system will now impact how we understand equity in our solutions stories.
SJN recognizes that how journalists present the people and their communities in their stories has an impact on whether the audience will see the problems they highlight as worthy of their time and effort it will take to solve them. In 2021, we worked with Trabian Shorters, founder of the BMe Community, to develop a training on Asset-Framing® for solutions journalism. Shorters defines Asset-Framing as "defining people by their aspirations and contributions before noting their challenges." Our team has also developed additional training on equity in visuals and framing in coverage of poverty and economic mobility. We will continue to develop additional training materials that equip journalists to address equity and framing in their solutions reporting.