Remember Martyn Lewis and his Good News campaign?
Of course you don’t.
For starters you’re probably far too young. And for main course, it never really took off.
In case you need some background here, he was a TV newsreader who took it upon himself to lead something of a crusade to get more positive news stories on his medium and in print.
Ironically, of course, Lewis was the man who – four years after launching his campaign – broke the world-shattering bad news that Princess Diana had died.
He was much misunderstood, with his crusade painted as all a bit Pollyannaish.
As he has explained a few times, Lewis never actually suggested ignoring bad news.
What he wanted was for the media to spend a bit more time looking for and reporting positive solutions to the problems they highlighted.
Because Lewis went on to write books with cringy titles such as Cats in the News, it’s easy to write him off.
But he had a bit of a point – one hinted at in the last few days by retiring Times executive editor Roger Alton.
Alton – who I always warmed to because his language was apparently often as colourful as his supplements – said this:
“Some newspapers – very much not The Times, and I hope not any paper that I’ve ever worked for, really – the default position is: the world is sh*t, and here are some bad stories about it. And I don’t think that’s what papers should do. You should feel better when you read your paper rather than worse.”
That thought is also at the centre of Liverpool Echo editor Ali Machray’s #tellali crowdsourcing ideas initiative over the future of his paper, which I wrote about last week.
Among the messages from the people of that great city was that the Echo appeared too downbeat, too willing to reflect the seedier side of life, with this mock page one neatly summing things up.
Among the findings were that, while 92 per cent of readers felt that Liverpool had improved in the last 20 years, 71 per cent thought the Echo didn’t adequately reflect the city in a positive light.
There’s no doubt that stories about murders and certain other crimes can do wonders for print sales and web figures.
But readers don’t want to buy a daily or weekly version of those Crap Towns books.
If the town or city they’ve chosen to live in is dirty, beset by eyesore buildings, or hit by job losses, they look to us to take a lead.
Not to sweeten the pill, not to sanitise or airbrush reality.
But not to smash and grab either.
If we want more good news about our own media community, we might find that accentuating the positive helps.
On a completely different tack, I loved this signing-off blog from Croydon Advertiser editor Glenn Ebrey this week.
There’s a lot of good stuff here, but one particular gem in the list of lessons he’s learned struck a chord with me.
Never lead with your least worst story
This was a mantra I picked up from a former editor and it has stayed with me. If you’re having a dry week and struggling for a front page story, don’t just settle for the best of what’s inside. Be creative, try something different. Some of our best splashes, including this from the Diamond Jubilee week in 2012, came out of the desperation of not having a ‘traditional’ front page story.