It’s not enough to just present the problem

Fed up with the negativity of the media, Jodie Jackson launched her own news website before bringing together editors, journalists and the public to debate the potential of good news. Here she shares her story and calls for a constructive approach to news reporting

I’m not a journalist; I work in perfumery and am training to be an accountant. But about a year ago, I became frustrated with the lack of positive news. Constantly being confronted with problems – not just global ones, but all the individual tragedies that seemed to feed into my outlook of the world – it began to upset me.

According to scientist Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist, on the whole we are wealthier, healthier, happier, kinder, cleaner, more peaceful, more equal and longer-lived than any previous generation. But this was becoming increasingly difficult for me to believe by reading the newspaper.

So I did something about it; I started a website called What a Good Week. During each week I collected together what I considered to be good news stories from various media sources, and linked to them on my website every Sunday.

I had almost given up reading newspapers before I decided to actively seek out good news. While I was running my website, I would always ask people if they read the newspapers 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.

I ran What a Good Week for a year in my spare time, and I was continuously surprised at the amazing stories I would find. But one of the most exciting things, I soon discovered, was that I wasn’t alone. I found networks of like-minded people, such as those at Positive News, and by sharing ideas it took me on a wonderful journey, which led to me establishing an event at the British Museum in September 2012, titled Good News for the Media.

With a panel of speakers featuring former BBC news presenter Martyn Lewis, Positive News editor Seán Dagan Wood, and founder of the Transformational Media Summit, Jeremy Wickremer, the event brought together more than 100 editors, journalists and members of the public to discuss the potential benefits that good news can offer to society and to the media industry itself.

“I’d ask people why they didn’t read newspapers and in almost every case, their answer was because it’s too depressing”

We discovered how an increasing number of media organisations and journalists are now devoted to reporting constructively. This approach is based on the principle that it is not enough to simply present the problem facing society; people want to know how to channel this information into something constructive.

What we called for at Good News for the Media was for this type of constructive news to have an increased presence in the mainstream press, to become a stable component in classic news reporting rather than a niche part of journalism.

Psychologically, we have a survival instinct that reacts to bad news. People want to know about the dangers of the world so they can avoid them, and newspapers know how to cash in on this. And although society has benefited greatly from the development of critical investigative journalism, the counter productivity is that it misses all the good in the world.

It’s universally acknowledged that the core responsibility of a journalist is to seek truth and report it. But having discovered how much good news is out there, it seems that to me that the ‘truth’ currently being reported in the mainstream media doesn’t qualify as the complete truth, and doesn’t fully reflect the world as it is.

If we are seeking truth, we should include more examples of human resilience, recovery, positive emotions, accomplishments and solutions to the problems we face.

I don’t want to undermine the great work that many journalists do, often in difficult circumstances and sometimes at risk to their own lives. But I believe that it is time for the inclusion of more positive news – an addition that would contribute to a complete picture of the world, not mask its truth.