EDITORIAL: Shining a light on solutions

What’s going right.

At its most fundamental, is it a journalist’s main role to expose wrongdoing and serve as a watchdog of institutions and leaders? Or is there more to the job description these days, particularly at small community newspapers like this one?  We ask because we see our role as broader than reporting on problems and challenges. We want to shine a light on solutions, too.

Don’t get us wrong, we take our responsibility to objectively report the conduct of town business seriously, as our coverage of the termination of School Superintendent John Buckey attests. But should it stop there, or do we have a broader responsibility to our readers?

As we begin year two of operation, we believe we do. And on our pages in the coming months you will find stories not only of what’s going wrong, but what’s being done to fix issues, and how effective these fixes are.

There’s a name for this approach.  It’s called “solutions journalism.”  There are four basic tenets, shared by a national network that supports such efforts:

  1. “A solutions story focuses on a response to a social problem — and how that response has worked or why it hasn’t.
  2. The best solutions reporting distills the lessons that makes the response relevant and accessible to others. In other words, it offers insight.
  3. Solutions journalism looks for evidence – data or qualitative results that show effectiveness (or lack thereof).
  4. Solutions stories reveal a response’s shortcomings. No response is perfect, and some work well for one community but may fail in others.”

We have used and will continue to use Open Meeting and Public Records laws to assure transparency in our local government. We will continue to monitor the use of the ARPA millions granted the town by the federal government. We also want to be clear that these solution stories aren’t meant as advocacy. That’s what editorials are for, and we will continue to share our opinions in this space.

Solution stories are meant to illuminate. No town is an Island.  Well, okay, some towns are, but we can learn from the experience of others on tackling issues like sustainability, mental health and fiscal management, and share our success stories as well.

Let us know if you have ideas about solution stories we should cover. It’s hard to remember sometimes, but a heck of a lot is going right.

The Current Editorial Board

The members of the Current’s editorial board are Ed Bell, who serves as chairman, and Virginia Buckingham, both members of the Current’s board of directors; Kris Olson and Will Dowd, members of the Current’s editorial staff; and Robert Peck and Joseph P. Kahn. Peck is an attorney, former chairman of Marblehead’s Finance Committee and a former Select Board member. Kahn is a retired Boston Globe journalist.

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