First-of-its-kind audience research conducted by media firm SmithGeiger, now released by Solutions Journalism Network, demonstrates that solutions storytelling offers key benefits for journalists and news consumers alike across platforms and demographics. Across 638 respondents in six diverse U.S. metro areas, solutions journalism outperforms problem-focused stories largely across markets, media types, age and even political affiliation.

Andrew Finlayson, a vice president at SmithGeiger, says, “These results unequivocally affirm the significant appeal, impact and efficacy of the solutions journalism approach in local news.”

As news avoidance and distrust grow, solutions journalism has rapidly grown from an “extra” to a must-have for newsrooms building or repairing relationships with their communities. These results reveal the extent to which audiences respond to solutions journalism in ways that can strengthen local news.

Here are the top takeaways:

10. 79% percent of people surveyed believed that local news both “identifying specific problems facing your local area and to also report on the solutions community members have found to address these problems” is either essential or important.

9. Solutions stories polled higher in virtually every positive metric than the problem-focused stories including:

  • Helping to make a difference in my community (42% to 25%)
  • Depth of information (41% to 30%)
  • Delivering a fresh approach (40% to 25%)
  • Capturing what matters (37% to 28%)
  • Quality of storytelling (37% to 30%)

8. Among those surveyed, 88% said a solutions journalism story they viewed left a positive initial impression on them, compared to 74% for a comparable problem-focused story.

7. 54% of respondents said the problem-focused story was interesting to watch. For the solutions-focused story, that number was 61%.

6. 83% of respondents said they trusted the solutions journalism story, compared to just 55% who said the same about the problem-focused story.

5. By margins of 35% to 27%, respondents said the terms thoughtful and well-crafted “perfectly describe” the solutions story vs. the problem-focused story.

4. Almost double the respondents (52% to 27%) described the solutions-focused story as “uplifting” versus those who felt that about the problem-focused story.

3. Respondents were also about 10% more likely to say the solutions story changed their understanding of an issue and would make them watch the station’s coverage again.

2. The survey results above are fairly consistent across demographic differences like age, gender, location and political beliefs.

1. Overall, 51% of respondents said they preferred the solutions journalism story they viewed versus 32% for a corresponding problem-focused story. A majority preferred the solutions journalism story for each age group 18–45. A plurality (47%) of those in the 45–54 age group also chose the solutions story.



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