Q: What is the Solutions Journalism Summit?
A: The Solutions Journalism Summit is the Solutions Journalism Network’s annual gathering of unbelievably smart and fun journalists from around the world focused on (or interested in) reporting on how people are responding to social problems (aka “solutions journalism”). Together over 2.5 days, we’ll explore best practices, new ideas, and potential collaborations between the roughly 70 attendees and SJN team members.
The Solutions Journalism Summit is the only gathering (in the world) that digs into the nitty-gritty details of how you do this type of journalism–how to create revenue opportunities around solutions journalism, how to interview differently for solutions stories, how to incorporate engagement activities into SJ stories and series, how to improve solutions pitches to editors, how to hire for reporters doing solutions journalism, etc. While it’s high-minded and inspiring and fun, it is also unmistakably focused on the tactical—collaboratively tackling challenges and sharing best practices in reporting, editing, and engagement as it relates to solutions journalism. People come with challenges, and through the hyper-engaging format of the gathering, they get it addressed–or at the very least connect with a community of journalists facing the same problem.
Read a recap of the 2019 summit here.
“So positive, open-minded, spirited, optimistic and energetic. I’d like to bottle it up, put it in my pocket and sprinkle on my newsroom when we are hitting a low point. I’d call it my happy sauce.” -Bro Krift, former editor, Montgomery Advertiser
Q: Who am I going to meet?
A. We convene a diverse group of journalists – editors and reporters and j-school educators and engagement specialists alike – committed to a new journalistic frame, a new way of telling stories, a new way of making impact in a community. There are executive editors and media entrepreneurs of all types, people who have launched podcasts and regional collaborations, and built organizations focused on audience engagement, better and more diverse stories, and a more civil dialogue. There are publishers, senior editors, and producers from top print and digital publications, public radio and broadcast television. There are professors and educators teaching solutions journalism courses in universities across the country. There are Pulitzer Prize winners, Emmy Award nominees, and JSK & Nieman Fellows. There are the former official photographer to the Bolivian President, and musical accompanists to Pete Seeger. We expect a lot more of the same journalistic heartthrobs this year.
“I appreciated the wide range of people working on or around Solutions Journalism—from reporters and editors, to newsroom executives and academic researchers. This allowed me to engage with folks outside of my daily sphere to gain more insight and stoke more ideas to bring back to work.” -Julia Chan, former director of audience, Mother Jones
Q: What’s the format of this event? Can I expect panels and keynotes?
A: We think that traditional event formats can be…limiting, which is why this summit operates under the “all teach, all learn” mindset and follows the “unconference” model. We think everyone has just as much to offer as they do to learn. There is a wealth of knowledge in those brilliant heads of yours and we want to create a space for it to be shared. We want to understand how you’re practicing solutions journalism, what obstacles you face, what questions you still have, how you’ve been a leader of the practice, and how it’s changed your approach to your work. The unconference model allows for this by allowing participants to propose conversations (not presentations) based on what they’re interested in in the moment. This will be the most participatory event you’ve ever been to.
It sounds like total chaos, we know. But trust us; it works, especially when you’re in the skilled hands of a truly excellent facilitator like Collaborations for Change’s Chris Michael. “I admit that I was initially a tad skeptical about the un-conference approach,” said one 2017 summit attendee, “But it was really effective, largely because the format allowed for organic follow-up on themes and topics that needed it.” 81% of 2019 attendees said the event exceeded their expectations. Whether one-on-one, a small group discussion, or a conversation among the room, the goal is to do just as much sharing as listening, as much talking as tweeting.
“The small group conversations resulted in lists of things to try, conversations to have back at home, ideas for collaborations. Also loved meeting and being surrounded by people who look at journalism differently than a traditional newsroom. It made me feel inspired and less alone.” -Anne Hillman, former Solutions Desk Reporter, Alaska Public Media
Q: What am I going to learn?
A: We aim to shape an agenda that best serves your needs and recognizes the diverse talent in the room. To get an idea of the kinds of sessions that arise, here’s the agenda from 2019 and some of the small-group conversations we had:
- “Getting past gloom and doom: Finding and reporting climate stories with a solutions lens”;
- “Breaking down solutions stories on poverty into manageable bites/stories”;
- “Why it’s time for visual solutions journalism to include a solutions focus”;
- “How can you do SoJo on a limited budget?”;
- “How to staff sustainably for solutions reporting: Is it someone’s job or everyone’s?”;
- “Short-form solutions journalism/integrating SJ into daily news”;
- “How can we make multimedia SoJo stories in one week using design thinking?”;
- “Reporting solutions journalism for audio/radio/podcasting”;
- “How to expand solutions journalism into Europe”;
- And almost 50 others.
Of the attendees from 2019:
- 92% said they gained new insights and tactics that will help them further their work;
- 98% said the Summit allowed them to meet peers who they otherwise would not have had the chance to meet; &
- 83% better understand solutions journalism and the work that SJN does.
Q: Okay, so I’m convinced it will be intellectually stimulating. But will I have fun?
A: It’s almost impossible not to. Not only are people generous and collaborative, but we (SJN) also incorporate things like a storytelling night, appropriate stretching time, and dance parties into the mix. And not to oversell it, but past attendees have ranked the catering as “the best conference food ever.”
Q: Why isn’t every gathering held at Sundance Mountain Resort?
A: We don’t know. A short shuttle ride from Salt Lake City airport, it’s easier to get to than Brooklyn on the weekends.
Sundance sits on the slopes of Mt. Timpanogos in Utah’s gorgeous Wasatch Range. The quiet resort is absolutely stunning, an ideal location for meaty discussions, creative brainstorming, and after-hours old-fashioneds at the Owl Bar. See more details about the resort here and fawn over a Sundance google image search here.