David Byrne announced Reasons to be Cheerful, an online magazine focused on solutions-oriented stories about problems being solved all over the world. reasonstobecheerful.world will publish stories detailing real changes with measurable impact that are meant to inspire and uplift, written and edited by professional writers and experts in their fields.
Reasons to be Cheerful will be the first project of the not-for-profit Arbutus Foundation, created by Byrne to bring the exciting work of others to light via novel and innovative presentation. All of this comes on the heels of the recent announcement of David Byrne’s American Utopia on Broadway, slated to open October 20, 2019 at the Hudson Theatre.
Originally started as a sort of therapy project for himself, this relaunch sees RTBC reinvented as a publication covering health, culture, science and technology, climate and energy, economics, urban issues and civic engagement. Reported, evidence-driven stories will be complemented by personal essays detailing real-life experiences. New stories will be published regularly, with a plan to expand into other mediums including video, podcasts, live events and more.
Byrne says of Reasons to be Cheerful’s origin and evolution:
It often seems as if the world is going straight to Hell. I wake up in the morning, I look at the paper, and I say to myself, “Oh no!” Often I’m depressed for half the day. I imagine some of you feel the same.
Recently, I realized this isn’t helping. Nothing changes when you’re numb. So, as a kind of remedy, and possibly as a kind of therapy, I started collecting good news. Not schmaltzy, feel-good news, but stuff that reminded me, “Hey, there’s positive stuff going on! People are solving problems and it’s making a difference!”
I began telling others about what I’d found.
Their responses were encouraging, so I created a website called Reasons to be Cheerful and started writing. Later on, I realized I wanted to make the endeavor a bit more formal. So we got a team together and began commissioning stories from other writers and redesigned the website. Today, we’re relaunching Reasons to be Cheerful as an ongoing editorial project.
We’re telling stories that reveal that there are, in fact, a surprising number of reasons to feel cheerful — that provide a more optimistic and, we believe, more accurate depiction of the world. We hope to balance out some of the amplified negativity and show that things might not be as bad as we think. Stop by whenever you need a reminder.
Reasons to be Cheerful marks Byrne’s first foray into online publishing, having already connected with audiences as a musician, live performer, author, activist, curator, theater producer, artist and collaborator. At the helm are co-editors Christine McLaren and Will Doig.
Vancouver-based McLaren has been published in Monocle, Metropolis, the Globe and Mail and more, and co-founded Discourse Media, an acclaimed solutions-journalism project. She was the resident writer of the BMW Guggenheim Lab, and the lead researcher for the award-winning book Happy City: Transforming Our Lives through Urban Design.
New York-based Doig contributes to The Guardian and Foreign Policy, and has been a recurring guest on NPR. He created and wrote Salon’s “Dream City” column and was one of the original editors of The Daily Beast. His book, High-Speed Empire: Chinese Expansion and the Future of Southeast Asia, was published by Columbia Global Reports in 2018.
Contributors to RTBC include journalists in countries around the world, of all different backgrounds. Some have also written stories from their own lived experience. RTBC’s relaunch includes contributions from:
Bernardo Baranda Sepúlveda, the Latin American Director of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP). He has worked since 2003 on improving transport options for cities around the world. For RTBC, he tackles the problem of sprawl in Mexico City.
Karen Wong, the Deputy Director of the New Museum and cofounder of IdeasCity. The relaunch will include a story she wrote about a biennial in Amsterdam that featured bicycling infrastructure from around the world.
Theodore R. Johnson, a senior fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law and a graduate of the Harvard Extension School. With his unique firsthand experience, he wrote about attending the Harvard Extension School, which provides a means for people who weren’t put on the “Harvard track” to get a degree from there.
Mitch Anderson, a frequent contributor to the Tyee, where he writes about the environment, climate change and resource economics. For the relaunch, he wrote about using litigation as a tool to fight climate change.
Daina Lawrence, a Vancouver-based journalist, writes mainly about the non-boring side of business and finance, like crime scene cleaners and weed warehouses. Her writing has appeared in the Economist, the Financial Times and the Globe and Mail. For RTBC, she’s writing about programs that reduce gun violence.