“It’s a reference book for kids to get ideas as to how they can make the world a kinder place.” Journalist Michelle Figueroa joins Zibby to discuss Good News Movement and its corresponding book, A Good Thing Happened. Michelle explains why she decided to start a news organization focused on sharing exclusively good news and the importance of packaging these stories for young kids. Send in your own good news to @GoodNews_Movement on Instagram!


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Michelle. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss A Good Thing Happened.

Michelle Figueroa: Thank you so much for having me on. It’s a total pleasure. I hope to keep spreading my message that good things are happening anywhere and everywhere in the world.

Zibby: I love this mission of yours. Can you talk a little bit about that and the Good News Movement and your whole Instagram community and how you pick user-generated stories? Let me hear the whole thing. I just love it.

Michelle: Thank you. I’ll start with the fact that as a reporter, I have been a freelance — they kind of call it a permalancer, permanent freelancer, for different networks. I had always been drawn to positive stories. Unfortunately, I was finding that those weren’t making the cut. I had a treasure trove of good stories. I thought it was a shame that people weren’t hearing them. My idea is that, yes, we have to hear the bad news, we have to be informed of what’s happening, but there should also be equal value to good news. I had an ear infection in bed the summer of 2018. I decided to take a leap of faith and create my own media platform. I didn’t really have lofty expectations at the time. I said, let me just share good news. Little by little, it began to grow. Then it started to grow really quickly and then even more quickly and then even more quickly. It’s been amazing. It’s really been a collective effort. I tell people, when they ask how many people are on my staff, I tell them 4.3 million because people are, essentially, producers. They’re filming things with their videos. They’re sending me their good news. It’s really been a collective effort from all corners of the world. It’s been such a joy being part of that and filling people’s newsfeeds with positivity. I haven’t heard of one person who says they don’t like seeing good news.

Zibby: How many submissions do you get a day of stories that are good, good news stories?

Michelle: Let me see if I can do the backwards math. I know per minute, it’s about one every three minutes.

Zibby: Wow.

Michelle: It’s a ton. That’s part of the job, is looking through all the submissions and trying not to miss any. Inevitably, we’ll miss some. It’s great. There’s never a shortage of good news. I think that’s what people are really curious about. Even reporters will tell me, how do you find it? I said, oh, it’s there. There just never had been a centralized method for people to send it in.

Zibby: You’re getting good news, one every three minutes. How do you then pick which goes up on Instagram or which goes up where? How do you work your way through it?

Michelle: It’s interesting because there isn’t really — some people ask me, what subjects do you prefer? Honestly, I think it’s kind of the same reporter instincts. Both what I feel as a human, I think that’s a big part of it, but it’s also from my experience from reporting and the stories that were compelling to me and the ones that I thought had more of a story to them. I think it’s a combination. A lot of it is just gut, your feeling. Sometimes people tell me, I don’t know if this qualifies as good news. I’m like, if it made you smile, if it made you feel good, then I’m sure it’ll make other people feel the same way, if it moved you, if it made you cry. It’s not a very technical process. It’s more of how it makes me feel. Judging by my reaction, that’s when I say, if I feel this way, maybe other people will too.

Zibby: What made you then write the children’s book?

Michelle: Funny enough, my first job out of college was at Houghton Mifflin, which some people might recognize with Curious George. Actually, there was a Curious George conference room I remember from my time there. I never thought I’d be on the other end of it. I thought it was a perfect idea for kids that aren’t online. The book is intended for children from four to seven, but anyone can read it, but for children that aren’t online to get the message that they can be the good news. Really, my hope with the book is that they feel inspired that they can make the change. All these stories that are in the book are stories that are real, that happened, that were on my page. Most of them revolve around kids doing good. For me, it was a reference book, almost, for kids to get ideas to how they can make the world a kinder place and be the good news and also a reminder to adults to open your eyes to good news. Sometimes we walk down the street and we’re focused on maybe our issues or our phone or what we have to do. Just taking a moment to observe your surroundings and the kind things that are happening, like someone helping an elderly lady cross the street, all the beauty that’s in the world, to not miss out on it. I hope this book inspires people to tap into that.

Zibby: I have four kids. My little guys are seven and eight. I just read the book before this to my daughter. We were looking at the pictures of the elephants. There is a picture of two elephants and a man kind of wrapped in the trunk. She wanted to know what the sacrifice was that was the good news.

Michelle: That’s a great question. That is a pea farmer in Kenya who, on his free time during drought season, he brings water to the animals so they can survive. Now he actually — there’s an organization that pays for him to do this. Otherwise, a lot of the animals would die because no one was providing water. That was very sweet. He’d drive hours on his own dime. That was actually from a real picture of him, of the elephant and the trunk wrapped around him. That was really sweet. It was really hard to pick which of the stories to showcase. Obviously, a book has a finite amount of pages. That was really tough, actually. I hope that the ones I picked resonate with kids and they enjoy them.

Zibby: Amazing. Do you find yourself in your own personal life having lots of good news? Do you feel like you celebrate the little moments or that somehow, you’ve been blessed by so much good news you want to share it? Have you overcome things that make you want to see the beauty in things? Where is this coming from for you?

Michelle: It’s funny. Even yesterday, the boathouse where I’m at right now, it’s on a street which name is — it’s Dutch, very long. I didn’t remember it. My phone was dead. Two complete strangers invited me into their home to charge my phone. I just became friends with them. Actually, my best friend arrived today, but yesterday, I was on my own. I said, hey, I wonder if I can make friends today. It was a fun journey. I made ten friends. I kind of went outside my comfort zone and just asked people, hey, do you want to be my friend? All sometimes it takes is just having a little ask. I notice on my page — that’s one takeaway, I think maybe the most meaningful one from my page. Whenever anybody asks for help, there’s never a shortage of people who want to help, who want to be kind and help someone in whichever way. I see that here right now when I’m traveling and I’m on my own. I think I’ve been blessed in so many ways in general, even as a journalist. Journalism can be tough. I’ve had guardian angels always giving me advice and feedback. All these people I’ve met have made me who I am, including my own family, my friends, and community. At the end of the day, I think our communities strengthen us and make us who we are, professionally and as people. I feel like I’m a collection of all those experiences that I’ve had, good and bad.

I’ll tell people, kids — I’d go to schools. Lately, I’ve been going to elementary schools to read the book. I’ve been telling them, I was rejected plenty of times from the news, plenty of times. One year, I was rejected from doing local news. The following year, I was given an opportunity to work for national network news. I tell them, don’t let anyone define you. It can be easy to get discouraged if someone else is defining you. You think, maybe I need to throw in the towel. I think that’s part of the process. Sometimes we see success stories of people, whether it’s celebrities or acclaimed authors or in any profession. We don’t see their flaws. That doesn’t come on screen or in a basketball game or what have you. You don’t know all the failures that they’ve gone through. All of us have seen a little bit of adversity, some more than others. I think that’s also why the stories resonate, because a lot of the people that I’ve showcased are people that have overcome obstacles that many people can identify with. No matter where you’re from in the world, there’s always that common thread. Everyone’s just trying to do the best they can in life. Everyone has their own adversity.

Zibby: Wow. If people listening have good news or want to read or watch or whatever, how can they find you? What should they do? What are the next steps?

Michelle: Definitely. If they have Instagram, that is where I hang out the most, @GoodNews_Movement. If they’re on Facebook, we’re also on Facebook. There’s no underscore. It’s just GoodNewsMovement, all together. Then it’s funny, we couldn’t find a good — my husband helps me as well. He manages Twitter. We couldn’t find a really good handle, so right now, we’re @GoodNewsCorres, and I think it’s 3. If you’re on Twitter, we’re there too. My son, who’s eleven, last summer, he did some updates, good news reporting. That was really fun to work together as a family and bring this good news. The pandemic, I lost one of my jobs. I was a reporter and also a salesperson for a local TV station. I lost that job at the beginning of the pandemic, but it was a blessing in disguise because I could focus, really, on Good News Movement. My husband was an opera singer. He lost a lot of his work during the pandemic. That’s a good news for us, is that we’ve been able to create the movement. It’s really been our job. It’s a job, looking for news, finding, sharing the news. I take it as seriously as I do any news report that I’ve ever done because it’s a huge platform. I always try to make sure my information’s correct. That’s one thing that drives me nuts. Sometimes online when I see misinformation and it goes viral, I’m like, no, people. I got to check. Make sure what you’re reading is correct. Double check with different sources. That’s very important to me, too, as a journalist, to not only bring good news, but also, if I’m not sure about something, I don’t post it. I always try to verify directly from the source.

Zibby: It’s amazing. On Instagram, though, when people are submitting their news, do they DM you with it? I want to start submitting good news, basically.

Michelle: Yes, please. Zibby, I want all your good news. I tell people — someone’s like, I’m sorry I’m sending you too — I’m like, no, that’s the whole point. The more I get, the better. If people want to direct message me, there’s an email button on Instagram. There’s an email button. You click it. Then I’ll get the email. That’s a way to also submit.

Zibby: In terms of your platform in general and having this offset your job, was monetization ever a goal for you of the Good News Movement? Is it now? How does business interplay with this philanthropic endeavor you’re really doing?

Michelle: It’s a news service. When the TV does the news, they do commercial breaks to pay for all that goes into it, so same thing with us. We find partners that really make sense with our brand, that otherwise, we might be sharing in our regular content. It’s funny because people say they don’t see the sponsored content. We’re very strategic with who we work for, companies doing good in the world in some way. We do that so we can pay for ourselves. Hopefully, it’s not in a way that’s too overbearing. Of course, our objective is to share good news. It’s a news service. At the beginning, I didn’t really think it would turn into a business. I didn’t really know how big it was going to get at all. Now that it has, we definitely have to support ourselves somehow. We do, but always trying to do it with good judgement and never straying away from our values and our morals. We’ve always said we’re not political. I even got an email from the White House. I didn’t look at it because we’re not changing who we are, our identity. I think that’s very important. It’s a place. There are plenty of places for all kinds of politics and different kinds of news. We keep it pretty pure and make sure we’re feeding people just the truth, the good news as it is.

Zibby: Brave to you. It’s really amazing.

Michelle: Thank you, Zibby.

Zibby: Now that you’ve written this children’s book, is there any advice you would give? I was actually at the dentist the other day. The hygienist for the kids or whatever, the assistant, was like, “I’ve written three children’s books. Now what?” What would you say to her? I was struggling for an answer myself.

Michelle: It’s different for each person. It’s what fills them. I actually met an author at this book talk in New York, Books of Wonder. He wrote a really creative book about bathtubs. Instead of kids being afraid of the bathtub, it was a bathtub being afraid of the kid.

Zibby: Oh, I love that book. By Simon Rich?

Michelle: Yeah. I thought it was so inventive and creative and fun. I’d like to do something more creative. I guess I would tell the person who’s written three books and then they don’t know what is, think about what brings them joy in their life and if maybe that could lead to ideas for what they could do next. For example, I was thinking of doing a garden, a Good News Movement garden to beautify some spaces and have maybe followers — we could fundraise or something. I like making things tangible. Online, it’s nice. When I’m ninety years old, I could say, here’s my book. Here’s the garden. It’s growing. That’s a very personal quest for each person, but maybe just to listen to what makes them happy and what’s made them happy in the past. What made you happy as a kid? What made you happy during college? What brings you joy now? For me, I love listening to positive stories. I always have. Even though it’s a business now, it really has been an extension of myself. It was never like, I’m going to do stories on this so I can sell. No. It’s always been, this is who I am. I think it’s really who I am kind of stretched out into a media platform. I think being authentic is really important. People, hopefully, they see that in what I do. Those two things, searching for your joy and also staying authentic to yourself. I feel like in the reporting world, there was a lot of the, try to be like this or like this. People just want to meet a real person. Just staying true to yourself is the best thing you can do.

Zibby: Awesome. Thank you so much. Thank you for bringing good news and joy and all this positivity in a dark time in a lot of ways. Although, it feels like in one way or another, it’s always a dark time somewhere in the world. Having this as a resource is really wonderful. Congratulations. Thanks.

Michelle: Thank you. Thank you, Zibby. Thanks for having me on. I love your podcast. I’m happy to think of any good news we can share together. Send me yours whenever you’d like.

Zibby: Okay, look out for it.

Michelle: Sounds good. Take care. Bye.

Zibby: Take care. Buh-bye.



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