Special Reports

Q&A on Globe series, Learning Curve

What is the series?

Learning Curve is being produced over the next year in a partnership between the Globe and the Solutions Journalism Network. It is being funded by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation.

What is the goal of the series?

The Globe will undertake a yearlong look at promising practices addressing a wide range of social, emotional, and cultural issues that unfold every day in public schools in Massachusetts and beyond that could be affecting classroom achievement. The series will aim to explore potential solutions through the eyes of educators, students, and other key players while also analyzing relevant research. The Globe hopes that this journalism will engage readers and school constituents in very different ways on education issues, prompting more constructive and less divisive public discourse. Ultimately, it could lead to smarter public policy decisions and more innovative school systems that come closer to ensuring high-quality education for all students.

What is the Nellie Mae Education Foundation?

Nellie Mae, based in Quincy, is a charitable foundation dedicated to reshaping public education in New England to work more equitably and effectively, so that all learners — especially those in underserved communities — can achieve the skills they need to be successful and contribute to society.

What is the Solutions Journalism Network?

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The Solutions Journalism Network, based in New York, is an independent nonprofit organization, formed by a team of experienced reporters and editors, that works to encourage and spread the practice of solutions journalism: rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems. Through newsroom partnerships, curriculum development, and collaborations with journalism schools, it is building a network of reporters, editors, and producers with the skills and the motivation to consistently integrate the solutions approach into their news coverage.

What is solutions journalism?

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Solutions journalism is critical and clear-eyed reporting that investigates and explains credible responses to social problems.

It looks at examples where people are working toward solutions, focusing not just on what may be working, but — based on hard evidence — how and why it appears to be working or, alternatively, why it may be stumbling.

When done well, the stories provide valuable insights about how communities may better tackle important problems.

Solutions journalism is not about advocating for or proposing particular models, organizations or ideas. The Globe will not recommend one education solution or another on its news pages; its role is to critically examine potential solutions that could provide powerful insights that change the way people consider our region’s education challenges.

Doesn’t the Globe already do this type of reporting?

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Yes, the Globe has been doing similar stories for decades. But the newspaper — with SJN’s help — is seeking to frame the questions and challenges in fresh new ways. Globe editors see solutions journalism as another tool in the newspaper’s dedication to watchdog journalism across all topics, stories that reflect a commitment to public service and that hold people power and institutions accountable.

How much is the grant?

The grant is for $250,000 over 18 months, with the Globe receiving $170,000 and SJN $80,000.

Why did the Globe accept the grant?

Like other news outlets, the Globe faces a challenging financial landscape as readers rapidly migrate to the Web and as print circulation declines. The grant provides the Globe a unique opportunity to devote more resources — including money for travel and research — than it would ordinarily be able to. Many other media outlets — including the Guardian and NPR — have launched projects that rely on grants from nonprofits.

Do the Nellie Mae Foundation or the Solutions Journalism Network have any say over what the Globe covers or writes?

No. As spelled out in the grant contract, the Globe exercises complete editorial control over story selection, reporting, and editing of stories in the series. As partners in the project, SJN will provide consulting support to the Globe education team through the duration of the project.

Correction: An earlier version of this article had the incorrect name of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation.