Plenty of people claim that they don’t pay attention to the news because it’s too depressing. The sentiment is certainly understandable—current events aren’t exactly the sunny side of life. Luckily, for these people, there are websites and print publications from around the world, all presenting news that’s meant to leave you feeling hopeful. It’s the glass-half-full beat.
This type of news is often solution-centric. Jurriaan Kamp has made this the focus of his magazine Ode, which bills itself as a publication “for intelligent optimists.” He says that media should not only inform people of problems, but also possibilities, and most stories in Ode are a balance of both. “I think focusing on just good news is just as stupid as focusing on just bad news,” says Kamp. “The reality is different. We do face challenges, but what is wrong is writing about what goes wrong and then just leaving people with that.”
Before starting Ode, Kamp spent a decade heading the economics desk for the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad. During the week he assigned reporters and edited stories, but on the weekends, he enjoyed visiting bookstores near his home in Amsterdam and browsing the new arrivals.
“One day it dawned on me that that the books I bought were always about solutions,” says Kamp. After reading them over the weekend, it was “back to figuring out whatever the next problem was, and finding the writer to deal with that,” says Kamp. “I realized I was much more interested in solutions than problems. When that disconnect became clear to me I realized it’s time to do something else.”
Ode started in 1995, and was initially only printed in Dutch. Eventually the operation moved to San Francisco, and in 2004, Kamp started an English language version. The magazine presently has 150,000 English language subscribers, and 25,000 Dutch.
Kamp’s newest project, an aggregator called Ode Wire, launched this June. The site scours mainstream news sources for what Kamp refers to as “page 23 stories.” The criteria: a “solution-oriented and optimistic point of view.” They’re in almost every paper, but they are usually buried “on page 23,” hence the nickname. This story sift is done with an algorithm created by Tim Musgrove and his semantic search company TextDigger. It’s a one-stop shop for positive articles from legacy media.
Another noteworthy example is Positive News, founded in the United Kingdom by Shauna Crockett-Burrows in 1993. She describes it as a place to read about “what is breaking through rather than breaking down.” There’s a featured story about flash-mob meditations occurring around London, or a recent post about the installation of community centers in British Museums. While critics may say this type of news is sappy or superficial, Crockett-Burrows feels quite differently. “We don’t deal with soft news. We deal with real people doing real things out in the world,” she says. “We choose to not report on scandal and tragedy because that is being reported day in and day out. We’re not in denial that these things are happening, but there is so much positive news in the world that deserves to be reported.”
Positive News UK prints a twenty-four-page long broadsheet four times a year. It has some 5,000 subscribers, and over 50,000 additional copies are printed per issue and distributed for free by volunteers. It operates through donations, advertising, subscription fees, and a “sponsor a bundle” program, which allows supporters to buy in bulk for distribution. The content is written by freelancers, interns, and the editors.
The Positive News brand has expanded to include print publications in the United States and Hong Kong, a website in Spain, and a website with an accompanying radio show in Argentina. Each version is independently owned and operated, though there is some content sharing between them. Crockett-Burrows says she never expected the publication to get distributed this widely, but she just “hit the right spot at the right time.”