What is the Solutions Journalism Summit?

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 90 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 tacticalcollaboratively 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.

Q: Who comes to the summit?
A:
This is a gathering for journalists and people working in the world of journalism interested in how to do (and teach) solutions journalism. We limit it to journalists only, so we can deeply focus on the reporting and editing techniques, collaborations, and connections attendees are looking for. This is not, unfortunately, a gathering for communications professionals or those working in social change. If you are not working explicitly in journalism, we reserve the right to refund your ticket.

“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, editor, Montgomery Advertiser

Participants from the 2018 summit in a breakout conversation

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. 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, director of audience, Mother Jones

Q: Panels are invigorating. How many panels can I expect?
A: ….

Q: I’m just kidding! Panels seem to really limit a group’s potential. What’s the format?
A: We couldn’t agree more, 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 last year:

  • 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: So how do I participate in the agenda design?
A: We will send out a survey to all confirmed attendees to help us shape the agenda to best meet your needs. Tell us what you’re an expert in, what you’re looking to better understand, and how we can help. We craft the agenda directly from your responses.

Q: Okay, so I’m convinced it will be intellectually stimulating. But will I have fun?
A: 
I know this is audacious to say, but yes, indubitably. Not only are people generous and collaborative, but we (SJN) also incorporate things like a storytelling night, appropriate stretching time, and highly professional 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.

Q: How much is a ticket? What does it include?
A:
The first 20 tickets for the summit are $375 and will go on sale April 22 at 10am ET. (We sold out all early-bird tickets in 24 hours last year.) The second 25 tickets will open up one week later on April 29 at 10am EDT for $475. One week after that on May 6 at 10am EDT, we’ll open up the final 35 tickets for $675. Please note, due to the coronavirus and the surrounding uncertainty, for the first time, we’ll be offering refundable tickets. You can refund your ticket up to 30 days before the summit starts.

The ticket includes delicious meals on Friday night, and meals all-day Saturday and Sunday. The ticket also includes new friends, collaborators, & insights, and these amazing little handmade soaps that housekeeping puts in all the rooms every day. But, you know, come for the agenda, not for the soap. Note: the ticket does NOT include lodging. See here for info on how to reserve a room.

Q: How can I get my boss to cover my trip to the summit?
A: 
Give them twelve minutes in peace with a cup of coffee and this.

Q: Are you offering scholarships?
A: 
We offer limited scholarships for those who have demonstrated interested in and commitment to solutions journalism who would otherwise not be able to attend. See more information here. Deadline April 6.

Q: I am left with so many questions.
A: Here are answers to more. Or feel free to email with any further questions: samantha at solutions journalism dot org.

Heard enough? Go here to register.

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About the Solutions Journalism Network

Our mission is to spread the practice of solutions journalism: rigorous reporting on responses to social problems. We seek to rebalance the news, so that every day people are exposed to stories that help them understand problems and challenges, and stories that show potential ways to respond.

THE CASE FOR SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM:

Even hard-nosed investigative reporters agree that the news provides an excessively dismal view of the world. Audiences regularly come away from the news — even high quality news — feeling powerlessness, anxious, and resentful. When the daily news product makes people want to tune out and disengage, it doesn’t bode well for the news business — or for democracy.

We believe that journalism can do better. It can provide a view of the world that’s faithful to reality. It can strengthen engagement with audiences and rebuild trust. And it can sustain itself financially. But it needs a major disruption — not just around better platforms or packaging, but around the news product itself.

Solutions journalism heightens accountability by by reporting on where and how people are doing better against a problem — removing excuses and setting a bar for what citizens should expect from institutions or governments. It offers a more comprehensive and representative view of the world. And it circulates timely knowledge to help society self-correct, spotlighting adaptive responses that people and communities can learn from.

We help reporters, producers, and editors bring the same attention and rigor to stories about responses to problems as they do to the problems themselves. Doing so, we believe, can elevate public discourse, spur citizen agency, and reduce polarization. It can strengthen democracy. And it’s just better journalism.

WHAT WE DO:

  • Train journalists to rigorously report on responses to problems.
  • Support news organizations producing solutions reporting projects.
  • Connect journalists and newsrooms for shared learning and collaboration.
  • Build the solutions approach into journalism-school curricula.
  • Disseminate solutions stories across society.