Investigative journalist and University of Oregon assistant professor Brent Walth once asked a journalist to report on what could be done about opioid deaths in the city of Portland, Oregon. He said the piece effectively showed there was a way to reduce deaths in our community and asked why it wasn't happening. The result? State lawmakers changed the law to allow Narcan, a drug that can prevent overdoses, to be more widely used.
I myself didn’t go to journalism school. For too long I took for granted that the power of reporting, and particularly investigative work, was straightforward. Produce a story about something going wrong. Enough or the right people will see it. And then things will change, for the better.
Yet it became clear to me that this theory of change is flawed. Instead, what if people were shown what demonstrably works? Would that make a positive difference?
One of the hypotheses I track as the Impact Manager at SJN is that solutions journalism can lead to accountability. This is not a given and how it happens can be circuitous and differ from one story to the next. But we have some evidence to show reporting on responses can lead to this kind of impact.
Today we bring you a project and stories that held power to account by showcasing who’s doing better, paving the way for policy changes, in addition to the video above of Brent speaking about the meeting of investigative journalism and solutions journalism.
— Alec Saelens
SJN impact manager