WKMG and other Graham Media stations believe news coverage that provides evidence-based solutions to community problems is a way to keep themselves relevant to viewers.
Does local TV news have a trust issue? Is it being painted with the same fake news brush as some of the cable news programs?
Allison McGinley, the news director at WKMG, Graham’s CBS affiliate in Orlando, Fla., thinks so.
“There is a cloud that is beginning to be cast over local news because of what has happened in the cable world,” McGinley says. “We as local news organizations need to recognize that and prove the opposite because that is not the way local newsrooms operate.”
McGinley says WKMG’s “Getting Results” efforts and the company-wide initiative, “Solutionaires,” is “a way to be really relevant to our audience every single day and I think it is journalism like this that is really going to make the difference.”
WKMG has been branding itself as the station that’s getting results since 2015.
WKMG began “Solutionaries” in June 2021.
Jeff Hoffman, WKMG’s general manager, says, “’Solutionaries is a concept identified by Graham’s CEO Catherine Badalamente. She challenged us to innovate, to modify our storytelling for what audiences wanted and it really fit in with our getting results brand.”
What is ‘Solutionaries,’ and how does it work on WKMG?
McGinley says the best way for WKMG to serve its viewers isn’t to just constantly tell them what is wrong in their communities, “but to tell them what solutions are out there and who are the people that are creating those solutions.”
The idea of solutions-based journalism has been preached around the world thanks to the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN), founded in 2013, an independent, nonprofit organization that advocates an evidence-based mode of reporting on social problems.
Erik Sandoval, an investigative reporter at WKMG, says he got in touch with the Solutions Journalism Network when WKMG was launching ‘Solutionaries’. He wanted some background on solutions-based journalism and how it’s structured.
That led to Sandoval’s participation in the Solutions Journalism Network’s Train the Trainers program in November 2023.
Sandoval says the free Train the Trainers program was a week-long Zoom tutorial of three hours each day. The program drew a global range of participants. “I had people in my class from Japan, Indonesia, Uganda, Italy, South Africa and Brazil,” Sandoval says.
He was the first local TV news journalist to take the course.
Kyuwon Lee, SJN’s manager of training and curriculum in Seoul, South Korea, was Sandoval’s facilitator for the Train the Trainers session in 2023. Lee says the course is a relatively new initiative that SJN began about four years ago. Since then, the course has been taken by 216 journalists from 63 different countries, and 50-80 journalists apply to take the course each time it’s offered.
The course is designed to equip trainers with solution journalism background skills, story examples, audience case studies and community engagement practices that trainers can use to best spread solution journalism, Lee says.
One of the central tenets of the course is the four pillars or cornerstones of solutions-based journalism: response, evidence, limitations and insights.
“I really like the way the Solutions Journalism Network is teaching and instructing other journalists,” McGinley says. “Look at a systemic problem, find the potential solutions, [figure out] how do we work harder to make them better and what is standing in our way.”
Lee says, “People respond better to solutions journalism stories versus problem-only or negativity-based stories. There has been multiple independent research about that.”
“As an industry and as local TV newsroom leaders, reporters, photojournalists and producers, we need to recognize that our audience is looking for that kind of information every day and we need to ensure that we are continually being relevant to them,” McGinley says.
“Research has shown a lot of people just tune out local news because it’s so depressing,” Sandoval says. “That is what we are trying to solve here, give a little ray of sunshine in your community.”
Every Tuesday afternoon at 3:30, WKMG airs a half-hour of solutions-oriented news.
There is a Graham Media Solutionaries YouTube page that, to date, has 14,400 subscribers and 315 videos.
Solutions Journalism Network’s website has a solutions story tracker page with some 15,000 examples. It’s a free resource and it collects all the solutions journalism stories from all around the world.
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