Wrapping up 2020 in Solution Set

I’m ready for 2021. 

I had big goals for Solution Set in 2020, but like seemingly everything else, this year forced me to change my plans. We published on a fairly erratic schedule this year, but starting in January, we’ll be back in your inbox on a regular basis. 

However, I’m still figuring out what exactly that will look like. That’s where I need your help. I created a very short survey to learn more how Solution Set can be most useful for you. We’ll continue to publish case studies, but I want to add additional types of resources that can add value. I have some initial ideas, but the survey will help narrow our focus. 

[Take the survey here.]

I’ll report back on our plans for 2021 after the holidays, but thank you for your input, and thanks for reading Solution Set. 

But before we turn the page to the new year, I thought it’d be worthwhile to share a few of our highlights from 2020. It’s been a long, tough year, but these stories showcased journalists and news organizations who were doing their best to serve their communities at a a time of immense need. I hope they’ll provide you with some inspiration for 2021. 

Thanks, and we’ll see you in January.

— Joseph

Highlighting Black-led publications

This fall, Solution Set partnered with Democracy Fund’s Local News Lab and Engaged Journalism Lab to showcase Black-led local news organizations that are using engaged journalism strategies to identify and meet community information needs while building sustainable business models. 

We tried to call attention to the outlets doing essential community-focused journalism. Engaged Journalism Lab covered how Flint Beat built a new newsroom from scratch and Local News Lab reported on The Triibe’s deep commitment to building community in Chicago.

In Solution Set, my colleague Elise Goldstein reported on Madison365’s path to business sustainability by focusing on serving communities of color in Wisconsin. I reported on Bridge Detroit’s Community Priorities Model, which it uses to plan coverage around topic areas that most resonate with local residents.

All four stories are definitely worth your time.

How one nonprofit newsroom utilized its board of directors to boost its fundraising with a matching campaign

In early April, readers of inewsource, the San Diego, Calif.-based nonprofit investigative site, received an email from Karin Winner, president of the site’s board of directors. 

“This past month has been unprecedented in so many ways,” Winner wrote. She continued: “We know you agree that fact-based news is a necessity. Especially now. If you’re able to make a monthly donation to get us through this crisis, please do so now.” 

This was the kick-off of a three-day fundraising campaign inewsource launched in response to the coronavirus pandemic. While the nonprofit regularly fundraises, this was a unique approach for the site: it enlisted its board to create a matching challenge. 

We dove into the thinking behind inewsource’s campaign to learn more about how it utilized its board of directors to help grow the impact of its fundraising. Even though inewsource is a nonprofit newsroom, there certainly were lessons here for for-profit outlets as well. 

Read the full story on inewsource‘s fundraising.

‘All Facts. No panic.’ How The Philadelphia Inquirer covered the early stages of the pandemic

In mid-march, Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Ellie Silverman was sent to report on the first government-supported coronavirus testing site in Philadelphia. She wanted to speak with people who were coming to get tested, but, understandably, didn’t want to risk getting sick herself. 

She came up with a simple solution: She walked up and down the line of cars with a hand-made poster board asking people to call her to chat. They did. And The Inquirer published a story about their experiences. 

The pandemic created large and small challenges for news organizations around the world, and outlets, such as The Inquirer, have continued to come up with solutions to report the news and provide life-saving information to their communities, all while making sure that their own teams remain safe and healthy. Solutions have ranged from small and creative —  like Silverman’s newsgathering improvisation — to a wholesale reorganization of news beats, workflows, product development, subscription and donation marketing. 

This issue of Solution Set, from the early days of the pandemic in March, examined how The Inquirer covered the onset of coronavirus, how it developed new products to meet reader needs, reorganized its news organization in real-time, and how it’s gained financial support even as it brought its reporting outside its pay meter.

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