At the Intersection of Media Innovation and Solutions Journalism: Applying the Solutions Journalism Model to Develop Socially Conscious Entrepreneurs

At the Intersection of Media Innovation and Solutions Journalism: Applying the Solutions Journalism Model to Develop Socially Conscious Entrepreneurs

L. Simone Byrd
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5808-9.ch014
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Ongoing social transformation and rapid technological change have ushered in a new frontier which offers a plethora of opportunity for what the future of higher education could potentially look like. And, for media education in particular, these shifts, while casting a wave of uncertainty and caution, outweigh the costs and are ripe with opportunity. When it comes to cultivating media savvy entrepreneurs, particularly those who are interested in using digital tools and approaches to solve societal issues, the marriage of solutions journalism and media entrepreneurship presents a host of opportunities. This study seeks to examine how the solutions journalism framework and accompanying standards can be used as a foundation to teach media entrepreneurship from a social enterprise philosophy/approach.
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In these contemporary, yet highly uncertain times, it is clear there is no escaping the clutches of societal change. Brooks (2020), in an Atlantic article aptly provides the groundwork positing how, historically, America has experienced several moments of moral convulsions. Respectively, throughout time, there have been periods and eras of discontent which have led to sweeping social change—good and bad depending on the viewer’s vantage point. In particular, he affirms:

The late Harvard political scientist, Samuel P. Huntington, noticed that these convulsions seem to hit the United States every 60 years or so. These moments share certain features. People feel disgusted by the state of society. Trust in institutions plummets. Moral indignation is widespread. Contempt for power is intense.

This is also true for all the functions within a society; namely the industries which we have come to lean on for employment, mental, emotional, and financial well-being, the growth of generational wealth, etc. This is regardless of whether that change is forced or voluntary. Traditionally, change is considered seismic when the shift significantly alters everyday life that citizens have become accustomed to. For decades, many higher education institutions in the U.S. have enjoyed being insulated from the outside world beyond the Ivory Tower; particularly those shifts which have otherwise decimated and/or eradicated other industries from existence. However, as the decades of protest dawned, those societal rifts that were initially ignored or overlooked, spilled over on to campuses across the nation. Students are now, more than ever, are engaged in a multitude of protests for a variety of causes.

They actively want to confront and provide solutions to the world’s modern problems. Despite the enduring and historical insulation that higher education has maintained, the onset of the global pandemic, Coronavirus (or Covid-19) which emerged in the early spring of 2020, proved to be a formidable opponent which has wreaked havoc and, as a result, the crisis’ ripple effects has played out in our digital, media-saturated, real time environment. The effects have also impacted every touch point of everyday life. Months later, these lingering economic, social, health and political challenges continue to persist. In addition to the pandemic, this has also been a year which saw the police-led killing of George Floyd play out on traditional broadcast news and across social media. As a result of the latter, there was a tremendous outbreak of social unrest and peaceful assemblies in response to what many see as unjustified, police brutality and killing of unarmed citizens. Protestors advocated for needed and widespread criminal justice reform, and generated awareness of existing systemic structures of inequity that have left certain racial and ethnic groups continually marginalized. What is more, as of early December 2020, “the daily death toll from Covid-19 reached a record high of 3,124 according to John Hopkins University. That’s more deaths than those suffered in the 9/11 attacks” (Maxouris & Yan, 2020). Thus far, even more sobering is that in the U.S. alone, almost 300,000 people have succumbed to the virus since the outbreak began. These events occurred during an election year in an already tense and politically divided country, and now that the U.S. has finally concluded one of the most hotly contested, precarious controversial elections in modern history, university leaders and educators will have to determine how to confront these circumstances, while trying to remain steadfast in their pursuit to ensure and deliver a timely and quality education to the students they serve.

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