Previous studies on solution journalism and investigative journalism suggested that both cross over to each other and typically share many characteristics. The previous findings, however, are contradicted by a recent study that says both “have different pathways of reporting and storytelling.”
Three members of the School of Journalism and Communication, University of Oregon—Brent Walth, Nicole Smith Dahmen and Kathryn—conducted the study, which also revealed that both reporting styles actually have little crossover between them.
The researchers analyzed 142 investigative reports and solution stories with the quantitative method. The news stories were extracted from Investigative Reporters & Editors and the Solutions Journalism Network.
The solutions stories’ characteristics were found at a rate between 5.6% and 26.1% in the investigative stories. In solutions stories, the investigative journalism characteristics were found in lower rates of between 2.7% and 8.2%, according to the study.
Solution journalism mostly identifies the problems and tries to give solutions to them without holding the power accountable, while investigative journalism reveals social problems and holds those in power accountable.
One characteristic of solution journalism found in investigative stories was identifying the response to problems. About 26% of investigative news stories carried that aspect of solution journalism.
On the other hand, the investigative reporting aspect that showed up more in solutions stories was “identifying risk or actual harm caused by the social problem,” with 68.5% of solution stories carrying that information.
Walth, B., Dahmen, N. S., & Thier, K. (2019). A new reporting approach for journalistic impact: Bringing together investigative reporting and solutions journalism. Newspaper Research Journal, 40(2), 177–189. https://doi.org/10.1177/0739532919834989