Happy News Site Has Potential To Be Just Plain Sad

from the all-smiles dept

Collaborative “citizen reported” news sites are all the rage these days, so some bizarre take on the trend was surely inevitable. The development in question is the imminent launch of HappyNews.com, which will focus only on — you guessed it — happy news. As opposed to the various wiki-style sites that get ordinary people to voluntarily write stories, HappyNews will operate more like Ohmynews, which pays people for their efforts. The paid-submission approach sounds worthwhile and ripe for testing in the US, but that’s where the logic ends. The focus on only good news — which apparently has been tried before — is just a problematic premise. We’re all for reforming the media’s tendency to harp on the worst news possible and we wish HappyNews luck in their goal of supplementing traditional news, but perhaps there’s a reason there haven’t been any successful “happy news” outlets: happy isn’t news. If a story with a positive angle is at all newsworthy, it will mostly likely either be: 1) picked up by traditional media, 2) a feel-good ditty typically relegated the end of local newscasts along with the one about the waterskiing squirrel, or 3) all of the above.

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Comments on “Happy News Site Has Potential To Be Just Plain Sad”

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dorpus says:

What is Positive?

Depending on the audience involved, the legalization of gay marriage or marijuana somewhere is either “very good news” or “very bad news”. What about the so-called environmentalists who want to plant their damn trees everywhere and increase air pollution in the form of pollen? Or discourage automobile usage, which can make things more difficult for handicapped people or senior citizens?

eskayp says:

Re: What is Positive?

Very true about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ being relevant.
Beauty is in the eye of…
One man’s meat is…
On the other hand, the major media know that fear sells.
They will play up the ‘…another man’s poison.’ aspect of any situation.
Fox may claim ‘fair and balanced’ but the objective viewer is hard put to find it.
Given the chance, most of us are intellectually lazy.
We bypass alternative explanations for less demanding narrow perspectives .
We avoid ambiguity, preferring the often erroneous certainty of simple answers.
As for the ‘All good news, all the time’ concept,
it’s just a different, less stressful flavor of the same sound-bite garbage
we’ve been spoonfed for the past several decades.
Sadly, outlets with intelligent analysis and discourse are receding further into the background.
Which begs the question: “Whither TechDirt?”
We are better off here than watching some CelebrityDirt elsewhere!

Brian Boyko (user link) says:

Re: What is Positive?

We’re struggling with those very questions right now. For the most part, we’re looking to determine if something is “good news” based on the rubric of “the greatest good for the greatest number of people.”

Even then it’s touch-and-go, taken story-by-story At the same time, if something is truly controversial, we err on the side of truth. We put stories in our environment section on positive impacts on global climate change because while many would fume and consider good news in this regard bad news because they don’t believe global warming is occuring, global warming simply IS occuring, and there is no serious scientific debate on that matter. Therefore, global warming treatment initiatives are considered “good news.”

As for “automobile usage” we also have to look at the nature of the story. Most “bike instead of drive” initiatives are voluntary, and would not make life significantly more difficult for the elderly. A mandatory law might, and I don’t know if we can consider that good news.

Within the mission of the site, I am fully aware that (contrary to normal journalistic ethics) the more controversial it is, the less likely it will get coverage on our site. Again, some comfort comes from the idea that our site does not exist in a vacuum.

I am VERY open to ideas as to how to solve this problem and how to best serve our readers.

— Brian Boyko

Disclaimer: Brian Boyko is an editor and consultant for Happynews.com

Brian Boyko (user link) says:

I don't nessessarily disagree

I don’t nessessarily disagree with the above comments, and harbored similar thoughts when I was hired onto the happynews.com project. While I’m going to say that depressing news is a problem, I don’t think it’s the most important problem with news coverage. I think what’s depressing about the news isn’t that it’s bad, but that there’s not very much coverage of events before they happen (meaning that it’s too late to do anything) and much of the “bad news coverage” – crimes and car crashes – isn’t something that people can do much about. Unfortunate events are merely meloncholy – unfortuntate events that one is impotent to affect more so, and that, I believe, is the key factor of civic disengagement.

I also think that citizen-journalism might just be a powerful treatment of civic disengagement.

But I think some of those concerns will be alleviated by the citizen-journalism aspect of the news site. Happy News initiatives tended not to work because “happy isn’t news” – but in the print media. We think this will work because we’re not trying to compete with Time Magazine, we’re not even, really, trying to compete. No media on the Internet exists in a vacuum, and we’re encouraging people to treat Happynews as a suppliment. Indeed, though I’m loathe to say it – treat it, if you must, as an entertaining compliment to headier news sites.

Another reason this site should not be dismissed is that if we find the site isn’t working because “happy isn’t news,” it is a simple matter to use the already existing technology and news structure in order to shift gears, adjust to the market, and provide broader coverage.

I don’t think that we’ll need to do that, though. After all, one of the biggest blogs on the Internet is Boing Boing, a “directory of wonderful things” and although they report depressing developments from time to time, it’s readers often come for the cool tech stuff and general feel-good nature of seeing, say, a pac-man guitar, or barbie doll jewelery.

Happynews.com is very much an experiment in media and while you concerns are understandable, and indeed, well founded, I think you should keep an open mind about the possibilities of the site itself. If nothing else, we plan to grow, adapt, and change as time goes one. Or die.

— Brian Boyko

Disclosure: Brian Boyko is an editor and consultant for Happynews.com.

A Writer against low wages says:

Re: I don't nessessarily disagree

You pay your writers 1.5 cents per word for stories they work hard on. We’re talking about $8 for a researched, well written article. How can you justify such insulting pay? Don’t you feel that’s taking advantage? Your tip jar (what web surfer is going to offer a tip to a writer because he enjoyed an article?)doesn’t make up for the low offfer of pay. If I’m not mistaken, you also won’t pay a writer who hasn’t reached a threshold of $50.

I’d be interested to learn how this is ok.

Brian Boyko (user link) says:

Cit-journalism and happynews.

I also want to mention Happynews’s citizen-journalism outlook. One of the reason that sites such as GoodNewsHound tend to be a bit skimpy is that they don’t have a whole lot of original reporting. Hopefully, through the citizen-journalism program at Happynews, ours will.

— Brian Boyko

Disclaimer: Brian Boyko is an — do I really need to repeat this a third time? — editor and consultant for Happynews.com

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