How good news became irrelevant
Only bad news is good news. This is the definition young journalists are frequently taught nowadays.
For instance, when a dog bites a man, it’s irrelevant. No one (editors) cares. But, when a dog is bitten by a man…well, that’s news! Judging by the fact that newspapers are full of bad news, you can say that the above mentioned quote is literally understood. However, the real question is why only bad news generate high circulation?
Why people think that bad news sell newspapers? Why editors struggle to increase circulation by putting shocking stories and terrible headlines on the front page?
Let me illustrate this with mentioning just a few headlines you can come across in the regional newspapers. Don’t blame me for leaving out the names of those publications. After the following headlines, they don’t deserve to be mentioned. Hope you agree.
Thus, in the newspapers you can read such things:
- A woman killed her husband with a kitchen towel…
- She hanged herself on the blossoming cherry tree…
- A man killed his wife, jumped into the well and hanged himself…
- A religious education teacher got beaten up almost to death by her pupils…
- Pensioners rest on benches, while graveyards remain empty…
- The fire burned Vicko the pig, Jagoda the cow and Ivan the man…
A man broke into the kindergarten and stuck a goldfish on a toothpick…
Cat with five legs will lead a normal life if the two limbs are removed…
… and many more.
This may look like a joke. Unfortunately, it isn’t. I have chosen absurd headlines which can make you laugh, that are on the verge of the “Believe it or not” section. As if they mocked themselves in an attempt to be sensational. I did not mention those tragic headlines that range from politics to the crime section. but it is enough to just open the newspapers, and you will see them. Analyzing the front pages of regional newspapers, it is easy to see that bad news are undoubtedly dominant.
Buying the newspaper, an average reader wanting to read something positive among the news, is forced to choose the front page where fewer casualties, less corruption and less bad news are featured. It seems as if this trend is on the rise. Journalists rushing to find new, undisclosed, and as horrible and incredibly bizarre news as possible, look in all directions, searching through private lives, digging out deepest intimacy of public figures, pulling out the worst in people, families, and the society in general.
Media theorists tend to use simple explanation for this all. The more tragic the news in the print media are, the less the readers’ lives seem to be tragic (in comparison to what they have just read).
With high unemployment rates around the world, in the time of transition and recession, general poverty and lack of money, a news consumer becomes less unhappy after he compares his life with the lives of those people from the front pages. It seems as if it isn’t such a tragic thing to lose a job after all. Just imagine how it would feel like to lose a house in a fire, or to be robbed by thieves, beaten up by someone on the street, or all those stories about the murders of the closest family members, abuse, violence and horrors that fill the newspapers!?
In the never-ending line of bad news, our lives almost seem to us like a good news.
Compared to others, we got it good!
Compared to those people from the newspapers, we got it great!
This is how the mechanism of publishing bad news looks like – the worse the others are, the better we will be.
Thus, the mirror principle is often forgotten. According to this principle, what we read and how we live eventually becomes the very image of us. It is easy to give in to bad surroundings, give up the moral values we respected, succumb to the onslaught of bad examples… Thus, our reflection in the mirror becomes uglier under the burden of bad news with which we live. Such news do not motivate us, do not stimulate us, and we are not affected by positive examples, because everything becomes open to public; everything becomes negative, leading to some new questions such as “why do I need all of this, ” or “What’s the point of being a good student, a good parent, a good neighbour, a good man in bad environment?”.
On the other hand, it would be interesting to do a research in which one newspapers would only run good news. Would you rather buy newspapers with front pages writing about the achievements of young mathematicians, instead of newspapers where such news are almost unnoticeable and placed at the bottom of the page? Imagine the front pages writing about how it is a good thing to be the best student, without the negative connotation of being a nerd at the same time. That would be something, wouldn’t it?
Or, imagine when a bronze medal won on some sports tournament would not be considered a betrayal of the nation’s hope into that athlete?! Imagine when that news would be treated as a good news, without sounding as a true disappointment.
Or, imagine if the same space in the news that is usually reserved for the fictional starlet profession (whatever that means), would be dedicated to praising a foster mother!? Because she is one of many women who have dedicated their lives to raising other people’s children, not asking any recognition or praise for what they are doing. Now wouldn’t that be a story!?
For example, that is one of the women who came to the event where children from foster families received New Year gifts #NDF had organized. She told the story of how she had been working for years as an accountant, spending most of her time among folders and registers until one day she suddenly made up her mind, quit her job, and invested all her emotions, effort and work in two boys she now takes care of while they are growing up in her family. She tries to give them love and attention they have never had before, and help them become good, honest and hardworking people. Good news are all these people who took in children in dire need of love and family, raising them alongside their own children; rejoicing with them when they come home with good grades, when they succeed in something and most importantly, when these children call them “mom” and “dad” for the first time…
These are the news, interviews, stories I would like to read about. These are the stories that would not lull us into believing that our lives are “small” and that nothing can change them; that lives of other people are even smaller or worse than ours.
How nice it would be if the news about achievements and stories about good people would motivate us to change ourselves for the better. It would be like a competition of the two top athletes where, regardless of the result, no one is a loser. On the contrary, they just motivate one other to be better.
Good news would make all of us better people, and our lives more fulfilling.
For the end, I want to share with you the story of the optimist and the pessimist that everybody can identify with:
A father had two sons, one of whom was an eternal optimist while the other was a perpetual pessimist. He decided to try to temper both of their proclivities. His plan was to give the pessimist every toy and game he could possibly desire, while the optimist would be given a shovel and directed to the basement, which was filled with horse manure. The father sent the optimist to the basement, while leading the pessimist to the room filled with presents. After the pessimist opened all the gifts, he turned to his father with a sad face and said: ”How can I possibly use all these? The TV will wear out, the Nintendo will get smashed, and all the other toys will be broken.”
Disturbed that his plan had half-failed, he quickly dashed to the basement to see how the other son was progressing. There in the basement was his other son, shoveling the manure with a gleeful smile.
“What are you doing son? “, the father asked him.
“Father, with this much manure, there must be a pony in here somewhere!“, replied the optimist.
It’s up to us whether to let lethargy and bad news take over our lives, or decide to seek good things in all that surrounds us. It’s just like the test you use to define your way of seeing things: Looking at a glass filled halfway, do you see it as half empty or half full? Personally, I always see it as half full. Our happiness depends on our decision on how we want to live our lives.