Reasons To Be Cheerful: musician David Byrne's idea of what a news channel should be


How best to promote an album called American Utopia? Launch a positive news channel called Reasons to Be Cheerful. That's what ex-head of Talking Heads, David Byrne has just done - and he's part of a wave of news experiments that are trying to pursue an inspiring, can-do agenda. 

Byrne gave a lecture last year about it (see the YouTube at the end of this post) but here's his summary from the Reasons site: 

I imagine, like a lot of you who look back over the past year, it often seems as if the world is going straight to Hell.

I wake up in the morning, I look at the paper, and I say to myself, "Oh no!" Often I’m depressed for half the day. It doesn’t matter how you voted—on Brexit, the French elections or the U.S. election more than a year ago—many of us of all persuasions and party affiliations feel remarkably similar. This feeling is not confined to one side of the political spectrum.

As a kind of remedy to this, and possibly as a kind of therapy, I started collecting news that reminded me, "Hey, there's actually some positive stuff going on!"

I will share thoughts, images and audio relating to this initiative and I’ll welcome contributions from others.

His categories for news are below:

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--- and his stories are building up: about prison reform, or new kinds of transportation (lots of pics of Byrne cycling), or wind power, or climate change healing ideological divides.

We get this, at A/UK - this blog has been committed to a "tools and tales" news agenda for over a year now, and we've mostly trod the line of curating stories that are usable and inspiring. 

This is becoming a wider trend at the moment - we picked it up in our positive health news blog a few weeks ago. In that, we're pointing to sites like Vice: Impact, Positive News, Upworthy, and New Internationalist as examples of journalism aimed at motivating activism and socially creative work. (Add to that the NY Times's Fixes, and the Correspondent in Amsterdam)

Now the mainstream media is noticing. The Guardian's The Upside - sponsored by The Skoll Foundation - has a very explicitly optimistic news agenda

News doesn’t have to be bad. The planet is complex. Away from the horror and conflict, the shouting and the skulduggery, away from the tragedy, disaster and zero-sum misanthropy, there is a wide world of answers and improvements, of win-win and mutual support, of selflessness and curiosity, of movements and innovations.

And when you write about it, people tend to respond positively. They do so because while audiences have always been riveted by bad news (it serves as both an early warning system and a reassurance about the comfort of their own lives), they are tired of the avalanche of awfulness. They are switching off.

That is a bad thing. If people just shrug at news because they feel there is little they can do, nothing will change. 

Journalists in the USEurope and the UK are waking up to this by publishing what is variously described as constructive journalism, solutions journalism or, somewhat misleadingly, positive news.

The paper's economics correspondent Aditya Chakrabortty is also running a channel called The Alternatives, which looks at stories of local economic self-empowerment.

It's great to be part of a wave... Mr Byrne below: