News Over Easy

The general idea is to cast light on grace and goodwill wherever they are found.

Man holding up a piece of paper with a smile drawn on it.

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Another day, another blizzard of news. Things explode, catch fire, collapse, collide, flood. People steal, murder, assault, deceive, flee. The waves of sad and terrible stories are unending, so we are seldom shocked. Victims are everywhere. The world can seem dark.

The antidote is good news, of which there seems to be not nearly enough. But it exists, of course, and many Americans hunger for it. Fortunately, some people (and companies) have made it their mission to deliver stories that uplift and inspire, or at least amuse. It’s a legitimate kind of counter-programming, even if it turns the stomachs of hardcore journalists. The general idea is to cast light on grace and goodwill wherever they are found. This in itself constitutes a measure of good news, and it’s fine with me if the incentive is financial gain.

HuffPost, CNN, Time magazine, and many other mainstream media outlets regularly present to their audiences a few shiny newsbits calculated to warm the heart.    There’s even a Good News Network, which is a vibrant, multi-platform operation run by a woman in California.

Notably early to the touchy-feely lane of journalism was Daryn Kagan, a longtime CNN anchor who some years ago was let go by her network. Rather than mope, she decided to devote herself to promoting the kinds of stories she was rarely able to tell on TV. Kagan now shares those narratives on a website and a syndicated newspaper column. “Some former colleagues told me I would have nothing to talk about if I focused on positive news,” she wrote to me in an email. “But interestingly, the numbers on my site are the highest on days when there are really devastating stories in the world. There is only so much bad news consumers can take.”

It was with that realization in mind that Bill Buckley, a former banker in Bangor, Maine, chose to purchase and run what is arguably the strangest little national publication specializing in super-low-impact journalism. His Coffee News, a cheeky, two-sided broadsheet printed on tan paper, is published weekly. Its editorial staff, which includes a researcher, is deployed across several states. And despite the name, its content has nothing to do with coffee. It’s an ad-supported potpourri of frothy stories meant to be read while you’re waiting for your cuppa at any of the thousands of establishments around the country that distribute it. The pandemic badly dinged circulation, but Buckley cites research indicating he still has about three million readers a week. Three million!

So, what kind of reporting does one find in Coffee News? Well, it was in a recent issue that I learned of a Carolina boy who discovered in a lake bottom a safe that had been stolen from a neighbor’s house some years earlier. As “news” goes, this is three levels shy of snoozer. But it’s exactly the kind of gem eagerly devoured by the demographic (age 50 and over) Buckley and his team target. Coffee News is a full cup of adorable.

“You go into a restaur­ant and a waiter hands you a menu and takes your order,” Buckley told me when we spoke by phone. “She is gone for 8-10 minutes. What are you going to do during that time?” That is Coffee News’ media space. Pure, caffeinated genius.

Plus, Buckley said, “when people pick up Coffee News, it gives them the feeling of an earlier time, when things were simple and more fun. No cellphones. Just holding it is comforting.” I’ve little doubt. In some circles, it seems, people much prefer their eggs and their news over easy.

In the March/April issue, Cable Neuhaus wrote about how pop culture came to the rescue during lockdown.

This article is featured in the November/December 2021 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

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