A spark of hope
Christian de Boisredon, founder of Sparknews and Impact Journalism Day, is fighting the news mantra “If it bleeds, it leads”, encouraging a more optimistic portrayal of the world we live in.
At age 24, recent university graduate Christian de Boisredon found himself fed up with newspapers full of doom and gloom, so with a couple of friends he set out to travel the world to meet, as he says, “those who were trying to change it through innovative projects”.
“We crossed part of Africa in a Peugeot 104, travelled South America by bus, rode trains across Asia, and then came back home in a Trabant from Eastern Europe,” recounts de Boisredon, who was sponsored by French multinational retailer Carrefour for the trip.
When the travellers returned, de Boisredon was invited to write a book on the subject, so they organized a conference to talk about their trip. They persuaded 3,500 people to each stump up 10 euros for the pleasure of attending, thus financing the event and providing a platform to launch the book, World Hope Tour , which became a bestseller and went on to be translated into seven languages.
Although a great many opinion leaders in journalism thought it was a nice idea, they remained convinced that readers weren’t interested in positive news – when it bleeds, it leads, right?
Christian de Boisredon
De Boisredon then went to work for Arthur Andersen Consulting in strategy and change management consulting, but it was always his plan to follow up on his trip and see how he could bring a positive spin to the daily news cycle.
His employer encouraged him, and in 2004 he organized a major event with more than 1,500 journalists and opinion leaders at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. It was a great success. “We debated why journalists don’t talk more about solutions than problems,” he explains. “But although a great many opinion leaders in journalism thought it was a nice idea, they remained convinced that readers weren’t interested in positive news – when it bleeds, it leads, right?”
Determined to prove them wrong, de Boisredon began a campaign with the French national daily Libération to encourage it to run an issue containing only positive news. “Eventually, on 26 December 2008,” he recalls, “the editor agreed to run a positive edition of the paper, called ‘Libé des Solutions’. It was so successful – the best-selling edition of the year – that we did it nine more times!”
In 2012, de Boisredon continued his campaign with the launch of Sparknews, to source and showcase innovative solutions and to connect them with the corporate world. Sparknews has several thrusts, a key one being Impact Journalism Day, the fifth of which ran on 24 June 2017. “It brings together 55 international newsrooms that run between 20 and 50 good news stories in print and on the web on one day each year. We’re supported by many famous names, so the event always creates a lot of buzz on social media, this time reaching 45 million people on Twitter in addition to some 120 million readers,” de Boisredon says.
Sparknews, which is financed by sponsorship, also runs a project named Solutions & Co with 20 financial dailies, including The Financial Times, Les Echos and China Business News. “We work closely with editors in chief to encourage solutions-based journalism with a financial angle, with this year’s theme being the circular economy,” de Boisredon says.
De Boisredon has also created the Positive Innovation Club, which has some 30 international members including companies such as SKF, BNP Paribas, Adidas and L’Oréal. “Every two months, we present them with eight innovative projects, start-ups or initiatives,” he explains. “Each gets a three-minute pitch. Then, we do eight one-hour workshops on the best ones to see how corporate can work with them. It’s about bringing people together to encourage more positive business growth through innovation.”
With all of this, de Boisredon is a very busy man. “Once you start focusing on the positive in society, you see there is so much to do,” he says. “We’ve got so many ideas and so many potential projects that our biggest problem is choosing where to focus.” De Boisredon laughs and adds, “We are also always looking for new partners in addition to our five main sponsors to support us with future projects, such as our planned drive on female entrepreneurs.
“If you’d said five years ago that we’d have news media in 50 countries working to promote positive news on a regular basis, I wouldn’t have believed you,” de Boisredon says. “But we do, and we’re now looking to do a similar project with TV. We want to bring other entrepreneurs on board, and we’d like to expand our initiatives out to other news media.
“The French political context feels more positive now,” he says, “and we’re excited to see where things will take us.”