A group of University of Oregon journalism students gathered in the Knight Library on Monday at an event hosted by The Catalyst Journalism Project to publicly discuss their experiences reporting on ways to combat sexual violence.
The event featured six student reporting groups, each of which worked over winter term on a solutions journalism project related to sexual crimes in Oregon. The projects were part of professor and CJP founder Kathryn Thier’s solutions journalism course, and the event doubled as a way to introduce solutions journalism to attendees.
A relatively new movement in the world of reporting, solutions journalism is an approach that focuses on how people respond to problems instead of simply bringing public awareness to them. Beyond providing information, solutions journalism seeks to “provide insight that others can use,” according to a blurb on solutionsjournalism.org
“We’re changing the frame,” Thier said. “We’re reporting what somebody is trying to do about the problem and reporting it just as rigorously as you would report the problem. It starts with the reporter having a different mindset.”
Thier’s students were tasked with using solutions journalism to report on one theme — “Solutions for #MeToo.” The resulting stories ranged in both topic and scope: sex trafficking in Lane County, workplace empowerment for women suffering sexual harassment, the problematic reputation of Greek life houses as sexual assault risk areas and even toxic masculinity. However, all of them focused on the response of local citizens who sought to combat the issues in question.
The finished products, completed by groups of three are all lengthy at around 2,000 words each. They also include audio interviews and some have infographics.
“I knew University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication students would want to cover #MeToo, but I was not prepared for the level of integrity, humility, thoughtfulness and care this group of students would bring to the task,” Thier said on the class website.
After a short introduction, each group briefly recounted their reporting experience. After that, the floor was opened and attendees freely moved from about and discussed the stories with the journalists.
“In keeping with this idea that solutions journalism stories might engage audiences differently,” Thier said, “we felt it was important to invite the audience in to give feedback, to discuss and to talk about next steps.”
The student reporters remained for around an hour to answer questions. While the event was largely about the manner of reporting, many of the conversations around the room focused on the details of the stories presented. At each table, attendees were able to question the reporters face to face about their writing.
“By reading more and more negative news, people stop engaging with the news,” said Isabella Garcia, one of the student reporters. “Solutions journalism is important because it gives people anchors into ‘how do I solve stuff around me?’ It’s giving people agency.”
All six stories can be read on the class blog.
Editor's note: Four of the Catalyst reporters who had #MeToo stories published are Emerald staff members.