GNN is going on its fifteenth year. Weis-Corbley used to do freelance video and editing work, and would often speak with colleagues about her good-news ideas. “They would always says it wouldn’t sell.” Four years ago she polled her readers, asking if they would be willing to pay for good news. When 800 people responded, and seventy percent of them said yes, she started putting some of the content behind a paywall. Access to the site currently costs fifteen dollars for a year, and almost 8,000 people have paid to subscribe since she started charging—proving, she says, that “good news does sell.”
But can you have “news” in your title if you won’t report on the bad? The function of “the news” is to tell us what we need to know, good or bad. Most people I spoke to said they would publish stories that included tragedy, but only through the lens of something that’s happening to counter it. When every story requires a positive element, important information can’t always pass that filter. Real life is a web of nuance, and it is the job of journalism to parse the issues for the audience, whether or not those issues have viable solutions.
No one I spoke to on the glass-half-full beat felt that they were the end-all be-all for information. Kathryn Hawkins, who runs positive news site Gimundo with her husband, says there is a place for all sorts of news: “I would never say that it should replace hard-hitting journalism, but I do think people benefit from a source that does give them positive stories all in one place.” Good news can be a great complement to an overall healthy media diet.
Intersections South LA is not a positive-only news site, but it’s a good illustration of how positive news can be an important part of an outlet’s overall coverage. The site is run in conjunction with USC’s School of Journalism, and the goal is to provide a true picture of the surrounding community. South LA can be a dangerous place, and while Intersections doesn’t refrain from reporting on crime and poverty—two of the area’s biggest issues—it also emphasizes the good things that happen in the neighborhood. Willa Seidenberg, a journalism professor and the editor of the site, says people in the community appreciate the effort. “People are just happy to have some news and coverage that isn’t all negative,” says Seidenberg. “Journalists are trained to look for the conflict. That’s Journalism 101. You look for the tension in the story, and that’s important to know how to do. But no community is just problems. There are wonderful things happening in this community that have to be part of the conversation.”
But when it comes to reporting these types of stories, there’s a fine line between journalism and boosterism. “It can be hard. You don’t want to feel like you are being a PR flack,” says Seidenberg. “We don’t want to just be cheerleaders for programs.” Walking this line requires care, and Seidenberg says she encourages her students to not only report on positive initiatives, but also analyze them. She says her motivations for making sure good news gets reported stems from what drew her towards the media in the first place. “I went into journalism to make a difference and educate people, not just about the crime, drugs and poverty—which is all there. But there’s also a lot of spirit, too.”