Interview: Joey Sikes Spreads Positivity With Brightly News Site

Updated: Jun 13, 2021

By Chloe Olivia Sladden

If it bleeds, it leads. That has been the journalistic mantra for decades, if it’s bad news, it’s written, signed, sealed, and delivered straight to the front page of the paper. In the area of click bait and profits, the media can often play on how we’re hard wired to focus on the negative news, which can only leave us with negative emotions afterwards. What news readers and writers need are a good action plan, to decrease the dominance of negative news. One way to do this is to include more positive news in the media, which is what Joey Sikes, the founder and developer for the Brightly News website is hoping to achieve.

The inspiration for Brightly News came from one of Joey’s previous projects, which involved “a search engine spider so it can scan news sites and pull in content. I’d already written code for that and use that to pull articles, and then I sorted out the issue of how to filter the positive from the negative. I think it was just a personal need, something I found myself wanting to balance out the news I was taking in.”

Joey uses a sentiment analysis with connotations, negations, and booster words to help filter the positive stories from the negative stories to feature on the website. Joey reveals that he filters the stories using “certain words that were typically associated with positive or negative things, and they are put in the Finn list of almost 5000 words, and I rate them from positive five to negative five. I read the string, the title of the article and if one of those words is one of my 5000 words, I would tally up a positive and negative score. If it has four negative words that might give a negativity score of -10 and if there’s two positive words, that gives a positivity score of the five, and you add them together and that gives you a score of -5.”

The point of positive news website such as Brightly News “is not to turn a blind eye, and just pretend the world’s perfect and there are no problems. If you go to any news website, there’s no place to just take a break and smell the roses and see good news”, comments Joey. However, there is a long way to go for a more balanced news-cycle, as negative news remains dominant. Joey reveals that only four to five percent of what I was pulling in would be considered good or positive” which communicates how many news organisations are still using the “if it bleeds it leads” mentality, when it comes to writing stories that will be clicked on and thus make more money.

Sikes suggests that the reason readers are looking for bad news, when they know the negative effects, it can have on them because people are “looking for things that confirm how they’re feeling, so if you’re feeling bad and feeling negative and you’re reading the news. It’s like confirmation bias, to me if you’re feeling down and negative and then you read about all these horrible things going on in the world, it creates this weird spiral, where you feel worse and then you look for more bad news to confirm that.”

The important thing is to break that cycle and go to site like Brightly News to read more positive news to stop you from going into a ‘doom scroll spiral’. As there are still many benefits to positive news, as “negative news can make people afraid and anxious”. If people began to read more positive news, there is a higher chance they’ll become “more empathetic, understanding and patient”. The reason for this is because it would mean readers are not “so stressed out and anxious” about the news and the subject areas it focuses on. Positive news would allow readers to feel positive emotions, as taking a break from negative news can have a huge psychological impact on readers, as if they feel better about the world, they may begin to feel better about their own lives. “You have more room to be a little more understanding, and a little more patient”, adds Joey.

Brightly News has eight sections of stories on its website, and some sections get more positive stories from others. “Food is never a negative, foods always like check out this new cookie recipe”, laughs Joey. “The other one is sports because entertainment, celebrities wishing their kids happy birthday and sports are always about teamwork or training to win a big game or reporting on actually winning a big game.” Although, this can lead to the home page being overrun with stories from one of these three categories and neglecting to include the others.

Sikes came up with a category offset, so sections with a large amount of news stories will get less points, so the categories which need to have more stories shown on the website, get more points. He also uses blocker and booster words to help filter the feel-good positive stories from the negative ones, so phrases such as good would “count as a positive five” compared to just the word good, which would get a “positive three” in his website’s positive news algorism.

You can help Joey spread the positive news stories from Brightly News, you can sign up for an account with the website here and submit links to positive news stories you can find, that may get featured in the Brightly News newsletter or on the Brightly News Facebook, Instagram or Twitter pages, which you can follow. “Just by submitting a link, you’re helping people by helping them find positive news”, adds Joey, which can make someone feel more positive about the world and about their own lives.

If you want to find out more about Brightly News, and have a new place you can go too, when you want to “smell the roses” and read and feel positive stories, then look no further than Brightly News.

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