During this year's lecture, Bornstein promoted solutions journalism, which he never explicitly defined. Solutions journalism is basically journalism that looks at ways people are solving social problems. His premise was that media overlook solutions and focus too much on the problems.
One problem I felt that the talk by Bornstein assumed we knew what solutions journalism is. The term is fairly clear, but it left some ambiguity. Bornstein clarified that solutions journalism is not fluff pieces but could meet the highest journalistic standards.
My main concern about solutions journalism is that it could curtail critical reporting. Journalists might pass up on reporting problems altogether out of a desire to avoid writing yet another piece about how bad things are. I agree there is a bias toward problems and away from solutions, but I don't want reporters to skip important, albeit negative stories as they try and correct for it.
One thing I liked most about his presentation was a point he made at the time for questions at the end. In response to Maria Tsikalas' question about how to avoid fluff pieces, Bornstein said that when profiling someone, avoid casting them as a hero. Doing that makes readers feel disconnected from them, he said. I think that was good, specific advice. When we profile someone, we want to present them faithfully, not reduce them into a cliche.
For now, I retain some skepticism about solutions journalism. But Bornstein's talk presented a good case for it and was well worth attending. The perspective of solutions journalism is one I will add to my toolkit.
For more details, read Ryan Ellerbusch's blog post or Jacob Born's story in The Marquette Tribune. Alternatively, watch a similar talk by Bornstein at TEDxBYU.