While the world is in search of a little bit of happiness and hope, Brent Lindeque is on a mission to turn our heads in the right direction and show us that these stories are actually within our sight. He does so by giving his followers daily doses of ‘good news’, through his online news platform, www.goodthingsguy.com. Brent shares stories of heroes, communities, leaders, organisations and everyday South Africans who have defied the odds despite seemingly impossible situations. Brent is determined to prove that good news does sell and his millions of followers are in agreement. We had no choice but to try and understand the man behind the “Good News”, also known by his followers as “Good Things Guy”.
Why good news?
Why good news? Why not good news? Because there is so much negativity in South Africa. There are so many places where the real news can be found. I saw a space in the market that was empty. Three years ago there was really no place to go to find good news. The big media houses weren’t writing about good news, they weren’t featuring it and there were no real platforms that you could find good news to share with other South Africans.
What has been your journey in reporting and finding good news?
I think my greatest lesson is that I can’t change society at it’s core and I can’t control collective mood[s]. We could come across amazing stories and because we are in it, we are in a good space. We can really see the story for what it is, but society is just not in the space to allow that story in. It doesn’t matter how we post it, how much we share it, or how you see it. If the mood of the nation is not in the right place, then it makes no difference if you post that story. So, it’s quite deflating when you write an amazing piece and it doesn’t get picked up. I think what I am trying to say, in a nutshell, is that my biggest challenge is the fact that there is so much sadness in South Africa — and it’s heartbreaking. It makes people numb, to know how crazy our beautiful country can be.
Do you think that has a lot to do with the current state of SA media?
What is your opinion on the current state of SA media? Media and news will always be the same — reporting on what is going on around us, because it’s what human beings want to know. It’s like driving on a highway and seeing a car accident — everybody slows down to look at it. It’s human nature to want to know what’s going on around you, the good and the bad — but more the bad, because people want to know the crime stats and the current state of affairs and that is what the news reports, it’s their duty. I think the state of South Africa is very sad because we are in a space where there is a lot of crime, a lot of poverty, so it gives reporters a lot of material to report on.
As you said there is a lot of bad news around. How can we go about making good news viral?
It already does. I think there is a lot of noise. The mainstream media seems focused on the same things and in journalism school you learn that if the headline’s dirtier, muddier, [if] there is more blood and crime, it’s going to get more readers. It’s called “if it bleeds it leads”. But the truth is, if it’s good it should, and the reality is it does. The good news stories tend to break through the noise and the clutter of what is continually being spread to us, and people enjoy that break from realness and also to see that the realness has a good side to it. So, I do think that happens organically. You want it to be shared more? You want people to know more about it? Then you need to share it more.
One of the things I’ve said in a radio interview this week is if you want a good neighbourhood, if you want a positive neighbourhood, then you need to look after your neighbours. I think that goes the same for your social media, your platform as a Facebook user, or Twitter user, or an Instagram user. If you share crime stories, murder, rape and sadness, then that will appear on all of your newsfeed[s]. If you share all of the good news, and find good stories and you share those, then your newsfeed will change for yourself and for your followers.
What diﬀerence have you seen from having spread good news on your platform so far?
I think I have been alive and kicking for three years. I really had no idea. It was more a passion project to share good news and to inspire people around me. And, from that day three years ago, it has really turned into a movement.
There are so many people who follow, tap into, and who subscribe to “Good Things Guy” – without the social media which reaches 4 million people. We have a subscriber database and newsletter of over 120, 000 people that it goes to every single Friday without fail. Every Friday that the newsletter goes out I get at least 10 to 20 emails back of people thanking me for [the existence of] “Good Things Guy”.
You come across a lot of good news, which story would you say really stood out for you the most?
In the three years, we’ve published six or seven thousand stories, and they are all beautiful in their own different ways, and I think the one that resonates the most for me was one of the first stories I’ve ever reported on. It was about a man in Somerset West by the name of Andy Loughton. [He] created a bartering system. Instead of just feeding the homeless or helping the homeless, he gave them a job to do and he created a space where they can get their dignity back. That story we posted on our social media when we had, on the Facebook page, 20 followers. Within the space of a couple of hours it had reached 2.5 million people and people where just sharing it, re-sharing it, reading about it, putting it into Whatsapp’s and sending it to their friends. It became a beautiful story which started ‘Good Things Guy’ for me.
About a year and a half later, Andy Loughton and I have kept in contact and he got in touch with me just to thank me. Because of Good Things Guy he was able to get far more exposure with his project, and his project became not just feeding the homeless, up to 300 people a day, but he actually built a shelter for them, he got more work for them and he built this whole community of people in Somerset West that were looking after each other.
What is your hope for South Africa?
My hope for South Africa is that we realize that we cannot rely on other people. We must not feel like the government need to fix it or that charity down the road needs to fix it. The reality is that it is all our responsibilities. If you have you must give and if you can give then you need to give. We need to look after each other because if we don’t, then imagine you were in that situation and no one wanted to look after you. We’re all human and it’s sad that the society we live in, the South Africa we live in has made us very numb. We will be driving down the road and pass 20 homeless people begging before we even get home, but we don’t notice those people anymore because we’re switched off from them. It’s a harsh reality, but my hope for South Africa is that we start being more human again and look after each other.
What is your good news (personally)?
What’s my good news? Well, working in this space and being able to research on all these stories and really finding the beauty in South Africa has made me more proudly South African. I tend to really see the good things in the world. Even though there is a lot of bad news happening around us, I have become that person that is able to see the good in everything, and I think that’s good news. I’m positive and positivity perpetuates me to be positive on the platform and for other people.
My goals for the good things guy in the past three years has been to tell good stories, and that’s not going to change. We’ve grown, there are writers that work for us. It’s become a business. It’s a real thing now, whereas before it was just a passion project. My goal has always been to tell stories, but I think for 2018/19 it’s greater than telling stories. I want to get people to do things. I want to create active citizens that are making changes within their own circles. When they read about a little boy who was inspired by Siya Kolisa to make blankets and to give blankets to homeless people. When they read that story they must get inspired to go make blankets, buy blankets and look after South African around us. Because the only way we will get through this poverty chapter in South Africa is if we do it together, if we look after one another.