A big ball of bad news

October 27, 2009 at 2:39 pm 4 comments

Big Ball of Bad NewsHave you heard any bad news lately? I don’t know about you, but I’m getting well beyond the recommended dosage.

Is it because our world, our nation, our community is worse off than it was 20 years ago? The answer is no. It is actually getting better: more people are getting a higher education, making incredible developments in technology, making amazing advances in science and medicine, etc. There’s a lot of good news out there; it’s the fact that the media barely covers it that is perpetuating the problem.

It would take the President of the U.S. receiving the Novel Peace Prize to get on the front page of the news; and people would (and did) still complain via media channels.

Do you wonder why Gen-Yers don’t read newspapers or watch the news? Because the majority of  “the news” is bad! College-aged kids and recent grads are trying to be optimistic about their future; they don’t want to only hear how much the *real world, one that they are about to be a part of, sucks. Do you wonder why Obama had a cult-following of young people? Because he spoke about hope.

* A post about the term the “real world” will be appearing in the near future.

I realize that not ALL news can be GOOD news; to think in terms of that absurd optimism is simply delusional. But my question to the media is this: is it really necessary to be SO negative? I mean, I know ratings might be a little higher with certain demographics, but maybe you should focus on a different demographic — one that would appreciate a little bit of good news for a change.

An assignment in my PR college-course last year and my work experience at Ferris State News Services and Media Relations made me realize how much “bad news” the media covers. For my assignment, the class was required to read or watch 10 news articles or broadcasts and determine whether they were “positive” or “negative.” The majority of my class recorded 9 out of 10 news articles or broadcasts to be “negative” news. During my experience at News Services, we have to work really hard to get the media to even think about publishing or broadcasting something positive about the university. But if something bad happens on campus, the phones are ringing off the hook with inquiries from news vultures.

I’m in favor for fair and accurate reporting, but I think there is more “good news” out in the world than most of us seem to realize.

For instance, think about featuring a story about the little girl with disease-x running a lemonade stand in order to raise money for a charity that funds research for disease-x instead running a story about how many people are dying from this disease-x because they are laid off and can’t get health insurance. Instead of focusing exclusively on the problem itself, let’s focus on the people trying to FIX the problem. There are some amazing people out there who are doing amazing things, their stories just aren’t being told. Just maybe they will inspire others to do something good too.

It seems that in order to be “unbiased” and “objective,” it must have a bad or negative angle. Or maybe it’s the “shock factor” that gets them off. Either way, I would like to see a broad spectrum of ACTUAL true and accurate reporting instead of the obscene rat race for ratings.

My proposal is this: let’s try to face reality — the bad AND the good.


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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Gentry Lassiter  |  October 27, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    If it bleeds, it leads, so they (the media) frequently say. A lot of bad news impacts a lot of people, particularly if it spells evolution through legislative action. The trick is to investigate your angles so your company’s positive news outweighs the bad.

  • […] A big ball of bad news « The PRepguide theprepguide.wordpress.com/2009/10/27/a-big-ball-of-bad-news – view page – cached Have you heard any bad news lately? I don’t know about you, but I’m getting well beyond the recommended dosage. — From the page […]

  • 3. steve fox  |  October 29, 2009 at 9:02 am

    Good topic. I think there is a great deal of research and discussion to be had on this. True, “if it bleeds, it leads.” Why is that?

    First, who are you referring to when you say “the media?” That’s a pretty huge, wide-encompassing word these days. Do you mean the neighborhood newsletter I get, the weekly newspaper, the regional daily, the NY Times, the USA Today, the local public broadcast TV, the local TV news, the national news, the cable news outlets, PBS on TV, NPR, BBC, someone’s personal blog, the Huffington Post, the student newspaper? That’s a pretty big group to just call “the media.” I find, most often, people are referring to major TV when they say “the media.”

    Second, I would encourage you to check out some small-town newspapers that have been, and in many cases continue to be, the lifeblood of real information for many people in our country. The small town papers don’t have much competition for their ad dollars and continue to do quite well in many ways. They also tend to report on a lot of positive news – check out the Big Rapids Pioneer to see what I mean.

    Third, newspapers and TV have always been businesses. They are set up to produce a profit, despite the fact they really have served a social service sort of role in communities. I believe the “negative news” complaint has to come back in large part to the consumers. Would a business provide something its customers do not want? If what you call “bad news” sells papers or gains TV viewers, then that’s what these businesses will provide.

    Finally, in terms of newspapers, maybe there can be an argument made that they should have a model more similar to NPR. I think NPR does a lot of thought-provoking radio – not just “bad news.” What if newspapers changed to a model more like they have, becoming non-profits with more stable funding, and could focus more on the role of being information providers for their communities?

  • 4. Mitch McDonald  |  November 4, 2009 at 2:09 am

    Interesting take on a difficult topic. It’s nearly impossible to nail down a single concrete reason that there seems to be a focus on “bad news,” little-lone get a clear picture of all the variables. But, I think there’s three that we can point to.

    Because people want their information quickly, newsrooms have to pump it out like an assembly line. This forces many outlets to rely on stories that they’ve already written countless times. “X attacked the city of X with a X-bomb, killing X people.” “A train headed from X to X derailed” This formulaic approach to writing is much easier than dealing with “soft-news” stories that require at least a shred of human emotion and descriptive oration.

    Second, is impact. “Bad news” usually has far reaching implications that most people don’t even learn about. While 9/11 was a catastrophic disaster, it went largely unreported that the price of gold suspiciously doubled after the attacks. The heartwarming story will touch readers’ souls, but it’s not likely to cause widespread, real-world changes.

    Lastly, news is entertainment for (some) people. Seeing huge body-counts in Hollywood blockbusters makes us feel more alive. The rubber-necking at traffic accidents is no different than our fascination with serial killers and 24/7 war coverage.

    P.S. I hope your upcoming post about the “real world” pertains to a father explaining the show to his children.


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