Will this be my last contribution to the WATWB? By the time the next one rolls around, I should have my new website up, looking so much like this one that you’ll wonder why I bothered. But in my own mind, which is the one that’s kept me company over the years, it’s far more professional and focused. So no messing about with random odds and ends, no matter how positive. Because after all, does it make any difference? Is the world a better place because once a month, I post a good news story?
Well, yes, it turns out that it is. A teeny weeny bit, anyway. According to Jodie Jackson, a research associate at the University of East London, the positive news about positive news is that it works: ‘Readers say that positive news changes the way they see the world and generates feelings of optimism, hope, self-efficacy and a restored faith in humanity.’ It isn’t, she says, a matter of ignoring the bad, but of presenting it in a different light, showing not just the problem but also a possible solution. The important term is self-efficacy – reading about solutions strengthens the belief that as individuals, we can be part of the solution too.
That’s a big contrast with a comment I came across on the Guardian website, following an article about deforestation. The average reader gets up, listens to news/reads paper over breakfast (hit of helplessness) goes to work (no doubt shackled to perpetuating calamity), tries to fit in survival basics during breaks (shopping, ablutions, personal business), then home to the quick dinner and news whilst endless documentaries about shock and horror in the world complete a day that has been subject also to continuous advertising and charity appeals (hit of helplessness). Wow! And that’s the sort of news we’re fed every day. Time, I think, for the average reader to be given some reason to hope.
Hence the Constructive Journalism Project. If you happen to be in Aarhus, Denmark, next month, you can go along to a two-day conference on the topic, where among the speakers will be Steven Pinker. Failing that, you can read my blog. Because I can’t really stop now, can I? Not now that I know it makes a difference.