Most of the daily news coverage deals with upsetting topics. Itâ€™s not that there are no uplifting or inspirational stories, but those that are covered often get buried in the news cycle.
To counter that, The New York Times has launched The Week in Good News, a positive reporting newsletter sent to readersâ€™ inboxes every Friday.
Des Shoe, homepage editor for The New York Times and writer of The Week in Good News, got the idea in December when she had a free day to brainstorm new projects.
“I had found an uplifting New York Times piece â€” a review about the SpongeBob Squarepants musical. It made me smile that not only did a SpongeBob musical exist, but that our critic gave it a good review. I remember thinking: Why haven’t I seen this yet, and, as a reader, where could I go to find more stories like it?â€ť
And, just like that, The Week in the Good News was born. It started as a weekly roundup that elevated a handful of the NYTâ€™s most positive stories to act as an antidote to the heavier news, and later became a newsletter.
Des Shoe works most of the week as a homepage editor, but one or two days each week, she focuses on The Week in Good News.
Lillie Dremeaux, the digital deputy editor for Europe at the NYT, edits the web version of the newsletter, and the photo editor in London, Mona Boshnaq, selects the photo of the week. Once the team is happy with the newsletter, editors in London and New York help promote it on the website and social media.
Although most of the work to produce the newsletter is done in London, Shoe collaborated with the New York team to launch it. The Week in Good News is also featured in the NYTâ€™s American print edition, so thereâ€™s a separate team that edits it down to size in New York.
Shoe puts readers at the heart of her strategy, choosing stories that will resonate with global audiences, regardless of geography or culture.
She also uses data and audience insight to shape the newsletter. “Our readers have overwhelmingly requested human-focused stories that touch on everyday heroism, kindness and altruism, as well as stories about developments in medicine, science and the environment,” she told Journalism.co.uk.
The Week In Good News online feature gained a loyal audience, so when Shoe began the newsletter, she was confident there would be interest.
“Some readers had even requested a newsletter specifically,” she said. “In fact, the very first edition had an open rate of more than 100 percent, meaning that not only were our readers opening and reading the newsletter, they were reading the newsletter multiple times or forwarding it along to friends and family to read.”
It turns out positive reporting has a ripple effect. Shoe said many readers have shared emotionally powerful stories about inspiring things happening in their own communities, like one woman in a nursing home in Australia who loved New York police officers so much, one came all the way to visit her; or the story of a high school student planting trees in her hometown in Virginia, and then moving that initiative to Haiti.
“One reader had the idea of doing a Good News item from each state, and some people are even asking for a daily piece of good news. The engagement is fantastic, and I’ve been really overwhelmed.”