By Chris Adams

Journalist Jean Friedman-Rudovsky had written the stories that shined a light on problems in society.

She wanted to direct that light on something else: A way to solve those problems.

“Without that other side, we’re caught in this endless feedback – things are terrible, things are terrible, things are terrible,” said Friedman-Rudovsky, a freelancer now editing and managing The Reentry Project, a joint effort of Philadelphia-area media to explore the challenges of recidivism and reentry among people who had been incarcerated.

The project is sponsored by the Solutions Journalism Network, which trains reporters on how they can report the ways out of societal problems.

In a session at the National Press Foundation, Friedman-Rudovsky talked about the tenants of solutions journalism, using her stories as an example. She was joined by reporters from HuffPost and Kaiser Health News.

Solutions journalism isn’t soft, she emphasized. It’s not a “hero piece” or a light, feel-good feature.

It highlights a response to a problem, but not the personalities. It is based on evidence and data – not merely great ideas that could prove worthwhile some day. It emphasizes approaches that are replicable. And it is upfront about the challenges and limitations the approach faces.

Maybe a solutions-oriented program has a 50 percent failure rate, she said. That still could be better than the 70 percent failure rate of an existing program.

“We’re saying there’s evidence this works, but it’s not a silver bullet,” she said.

The solutions approach was highlighted in a story she did for Cosmopolitan magazine about reentry among women being released from prison.

Jason Cherkis of HuffPost used the approach for his stories on the opioid crisis, highlighting heroin treatment programs that were not being used – despite their success rates.

“It was a way to look at the problem by looking at attempt to find a way out of it,” he said.” Looking at the solution was also finding out why it was not available.”

And Liz Szabo of Kaiser Health News talked about her work at Kaiser as well as USA Today, where a major series on mental illness focused on solutions that were not being used.

These weren’t controversial or unproven solutions, she said. These were programs with 40 years of evidence backing them up.

“People in the public throw up their hands and say, ‘Oh, there’s nothing you can do about mental illness,’ ” she said. “But that’s not true.”