Are you sure you want to read that good-news story? I'm positive
A number of news outlets are publishing only positive stories. But in an industry where bad news can do us good, defining positivity and negativity is tricky
Have you ever felt in need of an antidote to bad news? Some Dubliners have recently been reading the Champion, a publication of positive stories created by central Dublin’s Lourdes Youth and Community Services (LCYS), whose members were eager to address the issue of “bad press”.
“The reaction has been fantastic. People are delighted to see the positive side of young people’s lives as opposed to the other side,” says Trish Martin of the LCYS.
In the UK, the print edition of “the world’s original and leading positive newspaper”, Positive News ( postivenews.org.uk) has a circulation of 60,000. Founded in 1993, it has sister editions in the US, Argentina, Spain and Hong Kong. The paper’s editor, Sean Dagan Wood, was among the speakers at a conference last year at the British Museum in London calling for a cultural shift in news media. The Good News for the Media event was chaired by a trainee accountant and perfumery worker, Jodie Jackson, who founded the website whatagoodweek.co.ukin 2011.
“I was becoming frustrated with the lack of positive news, frustrated with constantly being confronted with problems, not even on a global scale, just individual tragedies that seemed to feed their way into my outlook of the world,” she told 100 delegates. Jackson collected what she considered good-news stories from various sources and uploaded them to the site weekly, and she began probing other people’s experience of news.
“I always ask people if they read the newspaper and if they replied no, I’d ask why. In almost every case, their answer was because they found it too depressing. Not once did I hear that it was because they just weren’t interested.”
Jackson claims the truth reported in mainstream media doesn’t reflect the world. “If we are seeking truth, we should perhaps include more examples of human resilience, recovery, positive emotions, accomplishments and solutions,” she says.
Conducting a tally of positive versus negative news in the English media last July, excluding sport and celebrity stories, Dagan Wood found an average of 16 percent “positive” content. The London Independent topped the poll with 22 per cent.
“I think the question is whether that balance of good and bad news is a true reflection of what’s going on in society, or not,” says Dagan Wood. “People are turned off by the overwhelming negativity of the news because it’s disempowering, affects their wellbeing, and doesn’t reflect their full experience of life with its hardships and its joys. I think people don’t want to just be passive consumers of information [but] want to share, interact, collaborate and respond creatively to the world.”
The Huffington Post established its dedicated Good News section a year ago. Launching the new service, Arianna Huffington said, “Everywhere around the country, people and communities are doing amazing things, overcoming great odds, and facing real challenges with perseverance, creativity and grace. But these stories are rarely told online, in newspapers, and on TV.”