Arts, Culture & Media

9 stories that show how to make things better


Protesters in Madrid, organized by the Arab Culture Foundation with the support of more than 50 mosques, rallied last month against the terrorist attacks in Paris under the slogan "against terrorism and radicalism."



What stories show problems being fixed, things being better? The Solutions Journalism Network gave us a few examples, from courts helping veterans to a police department that cleaned up its act to Africa's quiet solar revolution. 

1. How Europe is countering radical Islam

Christian Science Monitor
Peter Ford

How are parents, Muslim clerics, and European governments combatting the spread of radical Islam among the youth? Peter Ford looks at responses in three cities, and evaluates how well they're working, where they fall short, and how unlikely allies are uniting to engage these at-risk youth. [3,413 words] 

2. The special courts that take on criminal cases of veterans struggling with trauma

PBS NewsHour
Spencer Michels

Veterans courts are popping up nationwide, with the goal of reducing recidivism, keeping the public safe, and actually addressing a veteran’s unique, and often traumatic, past. There’s been some great coverage of this issue lately (some we highlighted last year), but Spencer Michels excels here in weaving together a strong narrative and compelling evidence of the courts’ utility. [7:29 min video]

14-year-old Shawnee, in the library at the Wyoming Girls' School in Sheridan has found coding helps her be at peace.


Justin Sheely

3. How to close the digital divide on the inside

Adriene Hill

Research shows that most kids make no progress — or even lose ground — after being locked up in juvenile justice facilities. But at the Wyoming Girls’ School, every girl eligible to graduate from high school in 2013 did. On average, in a nine-month stay, they make 3 years worth of progress in reading. Listen to Adriene Hill‘s great radio piece on what this outlier is doing differently. [7:53 min]

Students at the 2014 OneGoal Graduation Gala at the Palmer House in Chicago.



4. The nonprofit aiming to increase NYC student graduation from college (from 1 in 5 now)

Chris Peak

OneGoal helps low-performing students in low-income Chicago neighborhoods get on track to succeed in higher education. In 2013, the organization successfully replicated programming in Houston. Now, it’s launching in NYC. Chris Peak on the strengths of the program — and the difficulties it might face in NYC’s unique educational environment. [973 words]

Screengrab of a surveillance video in Miami Gardens, Florida.


This American Life

5. How one police department confronted its own racial bias — and improved

This American Life
Robyn Semien & Sean Cole

"Wouldn't it be lovely for a change to hear a story about police and black residents that could give any small sense of hope?" Yes, Ira Glass, yes it would. Robyn Semien and Sean Cole explore how Las Vegas Metro police department, once a leader in unjustified police shootings, aggressively confronted racial bias and is now a "star pupil" in policing. [27 minutes]

High school student Myriah Brisco, 14, left, and her mother, Ramona Roberson, comment on their restorative justice class at the Augustus F. Hawkins High School in Los Angeles.


AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

6. Can a policy shift decrease school suspensions? Yes, it can. 

LA Daily News

The Los Angeles Unified School District has cut its suspension rate by 81 percent since 2008. Christine Armario’s excellent piece chronicles how the nation’s second largest school district is replacing zero-tolerance policies with restorative justice — and is seeing impressive results. [888 words]

Master gardener, Zach O'Donnell, shows a class of second graders from Academy of the Sacred Heart and Samuel Green Charter School flowers in Green Charter School's Edible Schoolyard in New Orleans.


Julia Kumari Drapkin/

7. What we can learn from charter school failures

Patriot News

Pennsylvania is considering turning the management of all eight schools in York City School District over to a management company in Florida. Daniel Simmons-Ritchie explores similar experiments in Michigan and New Orleans and provides a fantastic example of how solutions pieces can cover failure. [1,158 words]

An employee with M-POWER installs a solar panel on a roof near the city of Arusha, in northern Tanzania.


Courtesy of Mathieu Young/Off-Grid Electric

8. Africa’s quiet solar revolution

Christian Science Monitor

Africa skipped landlines and went straight to mobile phones. Could it skip fossil-fuel-based electricity in favor of sunnier, solar-based power? Lorena Galliot deep dives into solar’s success, its pitfalls, and how panels the size of an iPad are improving the lives of hundreds of thousands of Africans. [3,042 words]

Couples waited outside in 25 degree temps in Newark, New Jersey, on Saturday for the city’s Valentine’s Day sale of vacant lots.


Cassie Owens

9. Couples lined up for Newark's Valentine's Day vacant lot sale

Next City
Cassie Owens

A box of chocolates, a bouquet of flowers…a plot of land? This past V-Day, the city of Newark sold small plots to 100 couples for $1,000 a pop, part of an innovative attempt to fight urban blight. But is such “homesteading” smart? Equitable? Cassie Owens on what’s working — and what might not — in Newark’s “sweetheart lots” solution. Great example of how a solutions piece can still include tons of caveats. [1,186 words]