"I know people in my own life that I've told - as a journalist - to stop watching, stop listening to and stop reading the news, because of the way it can create anxiety and disengagement and really miss out on telling the whole story," says Jules Holtz, fellowships manager at the Solutions Journalism Network.
With death tolls and infection rates splashed across our screens daily, it is no wonder that news fatigue has heightened since covid-19.
In response to this crisis, new outlets have sprung up around the world, looking for alternative ways to provide news that will make people feel hopeful and empowered as well as keep them informed. More established organisations, from local papers to international outlets, have also made an effort to feature more stories that look for silver linings.
With more people using social media now to stay informed, 'good news' accounts have proven particularly popular.
Combining positive news with self-care is an Instagram page called The Happy Broadcast. Content creator Mauro Gatti started it in 2018, after struggling with anxiety and realising that the fear-mongering and click-baiting headlines were making his condition worse.
Since then, the page has published hundreds of stories of "fixers, doers and problem-solvers" from around the globe, in easily digestible posts accompanied with Gatti’s own colourful illustrations.
Alongside eclectic but always uplifting news items, the page posts mental health advice and other actionable tips individuals can do to make the world a better place. "The Happy Broadcast is part of a bigger plan to provide the tools to help build stronger mental health," explains Gatti.
The page has more than 600k followers, netting around 150k of them during the pandemic alone through top stories about eco-friendly ocean sculptures or pandas no longer being endangered.
This all sounds overwhelmingly positive. Yet many journalists consider it vital not to gloss over negativity but rather to incorporate it into stories about solutions to problems.
Jules Holtz's Solutions Journalism Network (SJN) is a non-profit that advocates for stories about responses, their strengths and their limitations. "Cute puppies and heroic neighbours, we love to read about those, but often what’s missing is the rigour of solutions journalism or the fact that that response is not replicable or scalable."
In a 2020 trial of their reporting approach in six communities across the US, SJN reported that across all communities and ages, but especially among young people, solutions stories were preferred.
Other outlets have stuck with a more traditional for-profit business model in their quest to bring positivity.
Summers McKay, CEO of The Optimist Daily, explained that "it's really important to us to prove that this is an effective business model and that people do purchase content that inspires them."
The Optimist Daily, which started in 2017, has seen its user traffic quadruple since the start of the pandemic and article shares rising with every post. Its mission statement emphasises the personal self-help advantages to positive news, saying that "the ultimate goal is to elevate, motivate, and reignite each individual's innate reservoir of intelligent optimism."
Alongside lifestyle and wellbeing articles, a piece about a teenager who developed a Chrome extension that adds sign language to Disney movies was a recent hit and is fairly typical of the inspirational content a reader might find on the site.
The publication received such positive responses in the pandemic that McKay and her colleague Kristy Jansen expanded their operations into a podcast, The Optimist Daily Update.
Nearly two decades ago, in 1993, Positive News was founded as a cooperative, not-for-profit organisation owned entirely by readers and journalists. It publishes works of constructive journalism stories that swap out the doom and gloom for "progress, possibilities and solutions". The latest stories tell of a free video streaming service that helps climate organisations raise awareness or the Dutch repurposing vacant prisons after the number of prisoners has fallen dramatically.
The pandemic also saw the launch of a new app Squirrel News that publishes a curated selection of constructive journalism stories from the likes of The Guardian, BBC, CNN, Euronews or The Conversation. Run by a team of volunteers, the non-profit outlet has also launched a podcast where it looks at important stories, such as the situation of female judges in Egypt or basic income for Irish artists.
"The vehicle of social progress is social innovation, and then that has to become popular in people's minds," said founder Jonathan Widder. "This is the part journalism has to play, it's not enough to only report on the bad sides and then nobody knows what to do."
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