Why the Future of Journalism Is in the Story of Solutions

Taken all together, the practical actions YES! Magazine features reveal large societal shifts that hold the potential for a better world.
Australian Indigenous Hug photo by SidKid

Groundbreaking News: In 2008, a large and diverse crowd gathered in the rain outside the Redfern Community Centre in inner-city Sydney to witness the screening of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's formal apology to the indigenous people of Australia for a long and harrowing history of oppression. Stories like this can change the narrative of our history and our future, and highlight the power of people to take the lead. Photo by SidKid.

There’s a catch-phrase turning up in the media world. It’s “Solutions Journalism.” Media organizations are recognizing it’s not sufficient to report just on problems. Our world is hungry for solutions.

At YES! we applaud this development. As many of you know, we have focused on solutions ever since we began publishing in 1996. It’s great to have company.

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Why do we focus on solutions? At our founding, we recognized our world was headed toward a huge transition: Our societies couldn’t keep heating up the atmosphere, expanding material consumption, and concentrating wealth and power. We knew that, without a change of course, we would hit environmental, social, and economic walls.

The question on our minds was: “What would such a transition look like?” As YES! co-founder and Executive Editor Sarah van Gelder put it, “Will we turn against each other in a struggle for the last resources or turn to one another in cooperation and community?”

Now, as then, we believe a key to determining that choice is our collective ability to envision a path to a better world. Fortunately, there are plenty of people developing the solutions that make up that path. By telling their stories in YES!, we show that grassroots leaders can be found in communities everywhere, and we invite others to join in becoming agents of change.

One thing you’ll notice about our solutions journalism: We don’t focus on just any solution. For example, you won’t find a story on Wal-Mart going green. Why not? Because any environmental good those changes may do is outweighed, in our judgment, by the flaws that make the Wal-Mart model damaging to our society as a whole.

You also won’t find many stories on technology—it's an important force but is not by itself a solution. If we suddenly had cheap, carbon-free energy, but didn’t change our culture and institutions, we’d still destroy our Earth. We’d likely build even bigger houses, overfish our oceans even faster, dig even deeper for minerals to make gadgets, and concentrate more wealth in global corporations.

So what are the solutions that we at YES! view as worth communicating? They are solutions that:

  • Help tell new cultural stories, based on an understanding of our deep interconnectedness, that change how we think about ourselves, our sources of true happiness, and our relationships with all peoples and all other life.
  • Demonstrate new (and also very old) ways to live, and institutions that support healthy, inclusive communities.
  • Reveal rule changes that reward cooperation rather than exploitation, and partnership rather than domination.

We focus on solutions coming from the grassroots because we know significant shifts must come from the people. That’s why you’ll see YES! frequently covering social movements. Those often take the form of protest, such as the folks in Texas protesting the Keystone XL pipeline, and families of prisoners protesting mandatory prison sentences. When those protests move in the direction of real solutions, we report on them as part of the pathway to deep change.

The practical actions we feature fit together to reveal large societal shifts that hold the potential for a better world. Our journalism offers a lens that reveals an emerging world nearly invisible to most of the media.

So you can see, our journalism is about solutions, but not just any solution. It’s about transformational solutions for a turbulent time—solutions we can all help make happen. Our lives quite literally depend on them.