MinnPost launches Rural Dispatches series

Posted in Vibrant Rural

Journalists’ story selection and tone/content of reporting can raise and shape conversations about issues important to rural communities. Typically, though, traditional reporting focuses only on problems, often leaving rural communities without many options or hope to counteract the negative light in which it is cast.

Solutions journalism“, however, offers a way to see community challenges in a new light. This growing approach to journalism identifies relevant social issues while also providing examples of credible responses to those problems from which other communities can learn. Stories of growth and resilience offer lessons or strategies for communities to learn from and adapt.

Started by New York Times Fixes column writers David Bornstein and Tina Rosenberg and author Courtney Martin in , “solutions journalism is rigorous and compelling reporting on responses to social problems.” The solutions journalism network has spread from the east coast to more than 30 newsrooms across the country, now including Minnesota.

The Engaging News Project out of the University of Texas at Austin, in partnership with the Solutions Journalism Network, conducted a study, that found, “readers of solutions journalism finished their article feeling more informed and interested than non-solutions readers.” Furthermore, “solutions readers had an increased desire to share what they read, to read more about the issue, and to seek out more articles by news organizations covering stories in a solutions-focused manner. They also felt more optimistic.”

Most solutions journalism efforts to date have focused on urban communities, but MinnPost, a nonprofit enterprise whose mission is to provide high-quality journalism for news-intense people who care about Minnesota, recently launched their Rural Dispatches series, MinnPost specifically will apply the solutions journalism approach to rural Minnesota community stories.

Last week, MinnPost journalist Gregg Aamot featured the work of the Center for Small Towns and its director Kelly Asche. The title, “Toward a new narrative: How the Center for Small Towns (CST) crafts a different rural story,” tells this story with a broader arc, in a way that can be useful to communities. Aamot lays the groundwork for how CST is working with communities in rural Minnesota to update the rural narrative.

“We are certainly not here to say that everything is great,” he said. But, he added: “The discussion is often framed as, ‘Oh, we need to do something to help small towns!’ ” A more meaningful starting point, he argued, would begin with a recognition that “there is a load of talent and social capital right here (in rural areas) that needs to be tapped into.”

Read the story and share with those you know in the rural Minnesota. Keep tabs on the series for more stories that will offer new approaches to issues happening in our rural communities.

Blandin Foundation is pleased to support the work of MinnPost and other Minnesota media working to adopt and adapt Solutions Journalism, and all those working to update the narrative of rural places in Minnesota.
**Article also ran in the Star Tribune.
Photo credit: MinnPost

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