The Missed Opportunity of HuffPost’s “Good News”
Today the Huffington Post introduced a new section of its website called “Good News.” In her introduction to the new feature Arianna Huffington wrote:
“I’ve long said that those of us in the media have provided too many autopsies of what went wrong and not enough biopsies. It’s a belief that goes hand-in-hand with HuffPost Good News’ editorial mission to turn our attention to what is working.”
Trying to emphasize positive news rooted in “what is working” is good, but Huffington missed an opportunity to do something deeper and more impactful with “Good News.” In her short introductory post Huffington uses the word inspiring (or some variation of it) nine times, and provides examples like a man who rescued puppies in Afghanistan. Granted there are also examples of activists and leaders writing on social change, but it all seems retrospective, not forward looking. At first glance, “Good News” looks less like a biopsy, and more like a Hallmark card you send after someone gets terminally ill.
When I first saw a reference to “Good News” on Twitter, I hoped it was a sign that the Huffington Post was going to take on an in-depth effort to provide more “solutions journalism.” Solutions journalism is not so much about writing about “what is working” but rather about “what might work.” In a recent New York Times editorial David Bornstein seemed to predict HuffPost’s announcement when he wrote:
“Journalism is a feedback mechanism to help society self-correct. We know from behavioral science that information about a problem alone is rarely sufficient to generate corrective action. People need to know what they can do ― and how. That doesn’t mean including a little “good news” now and them, but regularly presenting people with innovative ideas and realistic pathways and possibilities that remain outside their view frame. In this sense, solutions journalism needs to be interwoven with traditional journalism ― it rounds out the story, so to speak.”
Jonathan Stray referred to something similar in his post on “Journalism for Makers:”
“Where is the journalism for the idealist doer with a burning curiosity? I don’t think we have much right now, but we can imagine what it could be. The journalism of makers aligns itself with the tiny hotbeds of knowledge and practice where great things emerge, the nascent communities of change. Its aim is a deep understanding of the complex systems of the real world, so that plans for a better world may constructed one piece at a time by people who really know what they’re talking about.”
It isn’t that the Huffington Post can’t or doesn’t already do some of this. There are expert journalists working at Huffington Post, who are digging deeply into issues and systems (see for example Michael Calderone) and some of the new partners who Huffington lists could help. But I had hoped that this new “Good News” section would indicate a new emphasis and dedication to that work, and a central hub for pulling it all together from across the web.
There is a great debate emerging about solutions journalism and I think we’ll see more and more of it in the year ahead, but I’m not sure how much we’ll see on Huffington Post’s “Good News” page, unfortunately.
After Matter: Notes, reactions & links
On Twitter Holly Epstein of the New York Times reminds me that NYT has a blog “Fixes” dedicated to solutions journalism. In the spirit of reporting on what is working, I should have included that in my post. GOOD magazine, which is one of the partners listed by Huffington, also does some interesting work in this space.
Jay Rosen summed it up pretty well on Twitter: