More than 2,300 participants from 137 countries recently completed the massive open online course (MOOC) “Solutions journalism: New ways of elevating your reporting and engaging audiences.” It’s now available as a free self-directed course and can be taken at any time, at your own pace.
The course is organized by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas and is sponsored by the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN). It’s taught by Hugo Balta, owner and publisher of the Latino News Network and an accredited solutions journalism trainer.
The course is comprised of four modules, along with an introductory module in which Balta dispels common misconceptions about solutions journalism and gives students insight into how they can apply the practice to a variety of beats in different mediums, including print, online and broadcast.
During the course, Balta also explains how to leverage solutions journalism to build trust with audiences, increase engagement and loyalty, and drive impact and accountability. The curriculum also includes the exploration of best practices in solution journalism from across the globe, how to propose a story/series, and how to measure its success.
Balta, a seasoned news veteran with over 30 years of experience, has led newsrooms in multiple markets and platforms, including The Chicago Reporter, Chicago’s PBS Station (WTTW) and Telemundo New York. He has served twice as president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) and was inducted into its Hall of Fame in 2016. Additionally, he’s an adjunct professor at Columbia College Chicago.
The course also includes video recordings with guest speakers, including Kavita Chandran, journalism trainer and news content advisor from Singapore; Chibuike Alagboso, journalist with Nigeria Health Watch; and Swati Sanyal Tarafdar, a LEDE Fellow and accredited solutions journalism trainer from the SJN.
After the initial offering of the course as a MOOC, student James Hall impressed Balta with a thought-provoking piece about wildlife conservation efforts in Colombia.
Hall’s article “does well in outlining the four pillars of solutions journalism in unpacking the complicated social problem of increasing human population encroaching on wildlife and the need for a relationship based on coexistence and conservation,” Balta said, emphasizing that this is the primary objective of the course.
Hall said he “jumped at the chance” to sign up for the Knight Center’s solutions journalism course, in part because he had recently been reading about the solutions journalism movement.
“From my perspective, there is a clear need to explore alternatives to the current focus on problem-based reporting, which has resulted in a media ecosystem with all sorts of harmful societal consequences, from news fatigue and public disengagement to negativity bias,” he said. “Embracing a more nuanced and solutions-oriented approach to journalism is not only more ethical but also leads to better reporting and is truer to life because, no matter how challenging the situation, there are always constructive responses or the potential for these to emerge over time.”
Hall said he’s still incorporating what he learned.
“The course has definitely enhanced my reporting skills, boosted my confidence, and massively improved my abilities as a beginner freelance writer and journalist,” he said.
Students who take the self-directed course will have access to all video classes, recordings of chats with guest speakers and reading materials – all designed to provide a robust learning experience.
If you are interested in exploring solutions journalism and honing your writing skills, the free self-directed course is available on the Journalism Courses platform. While you’re there, check out our other free online courses on topics ranging from audio storytelling to digital investigations.