The man who told the world that news should be more optimistic – The Guardian


However much we blow our own trumpet over here at the Upside (parp parp!), it’s important to acknowledge that we are truly no pioneers in the field of ‘good news’.

But this week we did at least meet someone who is.

Sir Martyn Lewis ruffled feathers at the BBC back in 1993, when as one of its high-profile newscasters, he suggested that news was too grim and needed leavening to stop audiences switching off. He was given short shrift, and left the broadcaster a few years later.

These days the BBC does have a team dedicated to solutions-focused news, and has seemingly made efforts throughout the Covid crisis to ensure that more constructive stories of optimism and hope peek through. Lewis remarked on this during a recent encounter with a senior executive.

“I know the BBC moves slowly,” Lewis told him, “but even by its standards 27 years is a long time to get something off the ground.”

Socially distanced optimism Photograph: Nick Ashley/CTN

We sat down for a half-hour chat with Lewis about the rise and rise of optimistic journalism. The interview will feature during a (virtual) 24-hour journalism conference taking place next month. Worth dipping in to.

Otherwise, this week we were greatly cheered by:

• the great vaccine hope: 27-minute podcast.

• The Indian school where students pay for lessons with plastic waste: three-minute read.

• The New Zealand couple who gave their land to the nation: two-minute read.

Remarkables Station and surrounds, New Zealand Photograph: Supplied/ QEII Trust

• Scotland became the first nation to provide period products free for all: two-minute read.

• Can Biden reverse the toxic polarisation of recent years? Two-minute OpEd.

Lucky numbers

The number of people killed in terrorist attacks worldwide fell for the fifth consecutive year in 2019, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP).

The EU has drafted a deal to curb greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, against 1990 levels.

Almost 52% of English 17 to 30-year-olds participated in higher education in 2018-19, according to official figures.

And data shows the Covid-19 second wave in England finally levelling off

What we liked

This by the Atlantic is a fascinating dive into the expensive but important world of carbon removal – something you’ll read more and more about as the years go by.

And Nasa reported on how levels of nitrogen dioxide pollutants have fallen sharply this year.

Meanwhile, PositiveNews remains a delight, giving us seven ways to combat loneliness during the festive season.

What we heard

We’re keen to know where you see the hope in 2021. Are you even vaguely optimistic about the new year? Let us know in the usual fashion.

Shelter got in touch to tell us about next week’s virtual carol concert, which they hope will be the UK’s largest, and help raise funds for their Christmas appeal. Check it out.

Last week, we asked how lockdown had changed your family, perhaps making dads a bit more available for school runs and hands-on parenting.

Anna Harrison from south-west London wrote:

My husband is there each morning and each afternoon to see the children off to school and see them return again … the gender balance has never been as good in our household as it is now.”

I’m sure you’re not alone in feeling that, Anna.

Where was the Upside?

With all the ethical shoppers on this very unusual Black Friday.

Thanks for reading. Have a good weekend. Take a walk on the Upside, and tell us all about it.


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