In my eight years reporting for the Arizona Daily Star, there's one phrase I've heard in interviews more than any other.
"Tucson is a special place."
It would be cliché, but it's true.
Tucson is a special place. It's full of innovators and thinkers and caretakers and creators who share the common goal of making our community a better place.
That's what led the Star to its newest endeavor and me down my latest path, as solutions beat reporter.
Solutions journalism is rigorous reporting on responses to social problems. It includes stories about people and places trying to fix what's broken and tear down systemic barriers, to make the community a more equitable place. It intends to rebalance the news and focus not just on problems, but on potential solutions to those problems.
Solutions journalism helps increase accountability by reporting on where and how people are trying to do better. It removes excuses and sets a bar for what community members should expect from agencies and governments.
The Star is no stranger to solutions journalism. In 2018, several Star reporters and photojournalists traveled around the country to create an in-depth, multipart project about potential solutions to Arizona's foster care crisis.
In 2019, I produced a six-story, five-podcast project about efforts to stop sexual misconduct at universities, thanks to a grant from the Solutions Journalism Network. Since then, I've written solutions-based stories about peer-to-peer reproductive health education at a local clinic and several Pima County programs that aim to get people out of jail and back on track with their lives.
The Star also partnered with Solutions Journalism Network earlier this year for a four-part series about the Tucson Police Department's special teams and the methods they're using to address issues in the community.
In April, I wrote about rising homicide rates in Tucson and around the country, and I wasn't surprised to learn that TPD is already using new, evidence-based practices to try to address the issue. A month later, I wrote about a federal grant that TPD and the Pima County Attorney's Office are using to test backlogged sexual assault kits and make amends with victims for the way their cases were handled in the past.
It became impossible to ignore, so I asked my editor: If solutions are happening all around us, why not make them a regular part of our coverage here at the Star?
If you have ideas for stories, contact me at email@example.com. If you know a person or group that's working to fix a problem or a problem that needs fixing, tell me about it.
Solutions reporting aims to shine a light on people trying to make our community a better place, and that's something we could all use a little more of right about now.
Caitlin Schmidt has won dozens of awards for investigative and sports reporting. She graduated from the University of Arizona's journalism school in 2014. Contact her at 573-4191 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @caitlincschmidt