Billy Penn partnered with newsrooms across Philadelphia in 2017 to cover the challenges of — and solutions to — prisoner reentry in the city. Supported by the Solutions Journalism Network, the 15-newsroom collaboration spent the past year looking at what’s working and what isn’t. In 2018, we’ll choose a new topic to focus on.
What if I asked you: What are the biggest problems facing Philadelphia today? You could likely, in an instant, give me a long list of deep, seemingly intractable hardship that surrounds us.
Now what if I asked: what are some of the most effective solutions for confronting those challenges? My bet is that your response list gets a lot shorter.
This imbalance isn’t an accurate depiction of reality. For every injustice, there are a multitude of people fighting back, chipping away at the problem slowly but surely. We just don’t always know that they’re out there, or how they do it.
In 2018, more than dozen of your local newsrooms and universities will take a step towards rectifying this by collectively reporting on an issue of critical importance to our city from a solutions-oriented perspective. That means we will highlight who and what is working to solve a problem locally, and finding who’s doing it better around the country, in order to bring those lessons back to Philly.
We need YOU to help us choose our topic. It’s easy to weigh in: Tell us your idea, or text 215-774-3212.
This will be our second year of this kind of experiment. Throughout 2017, through what was known as The Reentry Project, this outlet, along with 14 others, took on what is typically discussed as the unsolvable problem of people cycling in and out of prison.
We didn’t shy away from exposing what makes recidivism so pernicious, but we honed in on what works to improve the chances of people with criminal histories building successful lives. Then we sent reporters to four other states to report on effective models that could be applied in our city. In total, we produced close to 200 stories and broadcasts, the majority of which brought to the fore the lives and perspectives of those with lived experience.
We received a great response from people directly impacted by the criminal justice system, and from other readers, listeners and viewers.
Our 2018 initiative will be similar, but on a different issue. For those of you who followed the Reentry Project: don’t worry. All of the news organizations involved maintain a commitment to keeping up coverage of this important topic. But, as a group, we’re eager to add on something new (and in due course, a new name).
Telling us your idea takes about 10 seconds. But before you text us at 215-774-3212 or fill our this form, take a moment to think about our emphasis on solutions. What’s a local issue that you wish you knew more about, in terms of what people are doing to fix the problem?
Thank you for helping us do our job better. We’ll leave this survey live until the end of the year. In January, we’ll look at where you’re interests lie and announce our 2018 focus. Then, we’ll all get moving.