Bad News All The Time: The Media Needs to Move Beyond Negativity for the Sake of Negativity
Picking up a newspaper or turning on the evening news more often than not reveals some tragic and disparaging headline followed by a long list of negative events that happened over the course of a day. For more than year and a half, the world news has largely focused on the numerous calamities of the Middle East and the potential for a third World War over the Ukraine Crisis or the South China Sea Conflict. This, of course, has left many important stories around the globe unheard.
In turn, the national new sources like to highlight murders, riots, and political gossip while local news sources continue to focus less and less on constructive community news. Mass media is a wonderful tool, but its users want exciting, eventful details. Consequently, every media source from the local newspaper to the worldwide web tends to feature violence, tragedy, suspense, and the follies of stupid people.
Adventures are generally filled with energizing emotions while they almost always start with some bad news. Certainly, there is “soft news,” which covers the human elements of a story, but such coverage often offers superficial details and serves as little more than entertainment, because news sources do not want invest time and resources into covering these events.
The problem with good news is that good things happen at the end of an adventure, so people must search out some new form of entertainment once the heard the good news. Bad news, however, represents the beginning of a new story.
Because people want to see how events are going to unfold and how problems will be solved, consumers remain fixated on bad news longer. There is little action people can take when they hear good news, but they get excited, motivated, and trilled by the prospect of making a difference, even if it is by simply complaining or listening. Good news is usually reported on once, because most people do not intensively follow these stories; whereas, bad news can be updated on a continuous basis since everyone wants to know what is about to happen next, even when there is nothing new.
Furthermore, the growing number of free sources of information available on the internet continually increases competition for diminishing ad and subscription revenue. Unable to survive on small local audiences and low-budget advertisers, small community newspapers, news stations and radio stations are struggling to compete against major news outlets. In order to survive, news providers and gathers must either refine their role or cater to broader audiences and consolidate.
Following the easiest course, news outlets are regionalizing and nationalizing their news coverage, so they can appeal to broader audiences. Because news outlets need massive amounts of ad revenue to support their infrastructure and paid staff, regionalizing and nationalizing the news means catering to special interests, including advertisers, and densely populated communities where readership and viewership are highest. They must, therefore, find interesting and exciting events that a regional and national audience will want to read. Bad news is the obvious choice.
Not only is the traditional role of the local newspaper and television station as a watchdog and community organizer disappearing, local news coverage across the United States and world increasingly lacks value to the communities they are supposed to serve. In many respects, the constant obsession with negative stories hurts small community. Local news coverage must provide in-depth coverage of positive events while presenting negative stories through constructive, solution-driven analysis. Focusing on the negative to focus on the negative only does no one any good.
As an example, New Castle, PA, is a small town of little consequence to the national media stage, even when one considers its historic impact, but it has more in common with more communities throughout the US and the world than Washington, New York, or Los Angeles will ever have. The lessons learned from events and issues in New Castle can have more value to the American People, as well as the Peoples of the world, than how those issues are covered in New York or Washington.
Because the Greater New Castle Area is on the periphery of all major television newscasts, there is little coverage of New Castle and the surrounding municipalities. Unfortunately, the attention it does get from regional news providers is often due to some major negative event that occurred within the community. Not only does this coverage perpetuate a negative outlook among the population, it also hurts the ability of the community to sell itself to outsiders.
Nationally, a 2012 Washington Post article that featured the story of a girl struggling with poverty thoroughly misrepresented New Castle by, in part, focusing on the personal and emotional aspects of her story. Instead of offering insights into the socioeconomic dynamic of New Castle and uncovering solutions, the writer used New Castle as a backdrop for a generic story that could have been about anyone coming from anywhere.
In February of 2015, New Castle was the twenty-sixth city in the nation to be designated a “Safe Community,” yet faulted crime statistics have been used to list New Castle as the third more dangerous city in Pennsylvania just months later. Just like all communities, New Castle has its share of problems and the people in the community know their community has problems. It does the City no good to be the punching bag of regional and national news sources when they need a story to sell.
Quite frankly, the news is almost never good, because people focus on and obsess over tragedy. Good things happen every day throughout the world. In reality, good things happen far more often than tragedies. Consequently, professional media outlets should do more to acknowledge the positive things going on in the world. When focusing on the negative, that coverage needs to be solution-driven analysis. Moreover, it is human nature to focus on bad news even when the world is filled with everyday good, so people need to change their perspective if they want to see good news.
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