Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
This fireside chat article was adapted from a transcript of our fireside chat with Branden.
It’s easy for us to feel like we're burning out and believe our world is filled with a lot of pain and injustice. We see it in much of the content we consume on the internet. What if we change the way we consume news while creating space for hope and optimism? Branden Harvey, founder and CEO of Good Good Good, a good news media company, celebrates the people working to create solutions to the world’s problems — big and small.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
Reflecting on his journey of creating Good Good Good, Branden highlights how his company is helping communities around the globe feel more hopeful about the world.
How did your background influence the start of Good Good Good?
I was a humanitarian photographer before I got into the world of journalism and media. Through this role, I got to travel around the world and help nonprofits tell stories of the good they were doing. However, I also traveled to a lot of places where I photographed and documented tragedies and natural disasters.
What stuck with me after every trip was the incredible people I met who had worked to create solutions to a problem. Despite the doom and gloom of some events, I was inspired by the beautiful resilience of communities who banded together to take care of their neighbors. There were so many hopeful things and my job was to help tell that story.
I realized that the stories I captured were only being shared with people who already knew what was happening. At the time, I wished these stories reached more audiences. I wanted these stories to be more accessible and to ensure it’s not just coming through my lens, which inspired me to start Good Good Good and create the Goodnewspaper.
It’s powerful to see stories of people who are working together, supporting one another, and finding hope within the heartbreak. I know Good Good Good will not always be the most popular news platform because it’s not a mainstream ideology or way of approaching the world; however, we can be the best media company possible for the group of people who are interested and care about those ideas.
How does consuming good news impact our mental health and well-being?
I’m always a bit iffy on ascribing anything. However, I do think it’s impactful to consume good news.
I had a conversation with Dr. Rick Hanson on my podcast where I told him about my idea of creating a good news media company. He mentioned that bad news sticks to our brain like Velcro, while good news tends to slide right off our brains. This resonated with me because I think about how we hyperfocus on the negative comments amongst the positive ones, especially when it comes to social media. We tend to think about the things that make us feel anxious, which is why bad news tends to stand out more than good news.
As Dr. Hanson said, we have to act intentionally to get people to digest good news deeply. He’s a very spiritual guy, so he mentioned a lot about meditation and journaling. I love these practices, but these are practices where you have to know about the problem first and then make it an intentional choice to solve that yourself. You have to choose to meditate on it because you know that consuming bad news is not always going to have the most uplifting impact I thought to myself: Is it possible to connect with people who aren’t as intentional about wanting to consume good news?
This is where the idea of the newspaper came about. We thought that a newspaper would be a good device that doesn’t have a bunch of distractions and push notifications. We’re able to write stories that are long enough but not too short like a Tweet. The physical ability to turn a page when you’re reading can be a meditative practice. Plus, when you buy something, you’re more invested in the item vs. when you get it for free.
As the founder of a good news company, how do you cope with doom and gloom on the internet?
My job probably entails consuming less good news as a percentage of my total news intake than any of our followers because I have to read every bad news story to find the good news. My hope for most people is that they wouldn’t have to pay attention to bad news all the time.
What helps me maintain a deep sense of hope is this following quote from Mr. Rogers: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
With every news story we’ve covered, there’s a bad thing that happened. But, we’ve never not found a good news story. There’s always a helper who’s helping.
A simple practice of my job is being able to pay attention to the bad news but not stopping there. I keep looking until I find a positive story to round it out. It’s a game changer for my mental health and for my ability to not see the world as a terrible place.
I’m still pretty honest and clear-minded on how many problems and injustices there are in the world. However, I do feel hopeful knowing that I’ve never not found somebody who’s working on a solution. I’ve never not found people who have helped each other when there’s a need.
The practice of seeing a story all the way through to finding a helper is a game changer. I feel this can apply to anyone even if they don’t work for Good Good Good. You’ll stumble across a news story that breaks your heart, but I encourage you to keep going and envision what a solution would look like. Keep wondering who’s creating a solution and showing up to make a difference. Ask yourself if there’s an organization you could support to make sure this specific problem doesn’t happen again in the future.
How do you find these helpers when you sift through these news stories?
I treat it as a creative exercise. You want to make sure you know the facts, but go in with an assumption that there’s a solution. I assume somebody is making a difference.
For example, my friends in Kentucky experienced a really big flood a few years ago. I couldn’t reach them, so I contacted organizations who might be helping with the problem. I thought about what somebody might do during times of need. For example, one person might feed others, provide transportation, or give out clothes. Maybe there’s a governmental agency like FEMA that is on the ground helping this community. I recommend thinking about how the community is affected, seeking to understand their needs, and imagining how they might be supported. What’s great about this exercise is that it leaves you with more hope.
We shy away from news that completely feels good and avoids the heart of the issue. For example, there might be an article that talks about how kids pitched in to help buy their teacher a new car, so they wouldn’t have to walk eight miles from school every day. This is an awesome story, but it doesn’t acknowledge the root of the issue. There’s an infrastructure issue and the root problem is we are not paying teachers enough.
I would rather tell a story that provides the context of the issue and showcases the advocacy measures that are taken to solve this issue. For example, I would focus on zoning and seeing if there’s transportation that is being built in that teacher’s town. I know it’s not going to go viral, but it’s the most holistic way of looking at this story.
What is your favorite story you and your team reported in 2023?
The fires in Maui earlier in 2023 perfectly encapsulated what I’m passionate about. For example, some people were immediately working to take care of their neighbors. Local businesses transformed their business overnight to make sure they were meeting the needs of their community. Even though mutual aid stepped up, traditional nonprofits were proactive and provided support too.
The Maui fires are emblematic of a greater issue, which is climate change. They showed to the world how we can specifically show up and support climate relief in Maui or in communities that can be similarly affected.
Months later, you still see people in Maui showing up for their communities even though the cameras left. Talking about the good a community is doing is a way to honor the work they’re doing that doesn’t get reported.
How can we support your work?
You can subscribe to The Goodnewspaper! Our subscribers are the people who have supported us since the pandemic and we greatly appreciate them. By subscribing, you can join our community! We are a group of people who have the same approach in making a difference and feeling more hopeful about the world, and we would love to have you!
We also have a wonderful free email newsletter filled with good news — which I encourage you to sign up for.
Get our free bite-sized climate action plans before you go!