I’ve found reading the news over the past couple of months extremely depressing. The killings of innocent bystanders in France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, South Sudan, Japan and no doubt other countries, the Brexit shock and its effects on UK and EU politics, the unbelievable election of Trump as a Presidential candidate, the return of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation to the Australian Senate in force, the Russian state-sponsored multi-sports doping scandal, the continuing scandal of Americans killing each other en masse, their refusal to address black murders by police, the crushing of democracy in Turkey, the Panama Papers expose of international tax avoidance, sexual and domestic abuse all over the world…the list goes on and on and it’s too much. There must be an alternative.Whether its old-style papers, TV or social media, rubbish is served up as ‘news’. Papers focus on police events (robberies, crashes, killings, arrests). TV focuses on exploitive, unrepresentative photo opps and video grabs (of celebrities, politicians, animals, the weather). Twitter is dominated by outrageous statements, personal threats and intimidation for nonentities seeking their Warhol moment of global fame, now supported by other media exposures. There seems nowhere much to turn to find out what is really happening in the world.
What is ‘news’?
‘News’ is information about important or recent events. However, it has increasingly been interpreted to be about bad or extraordinary or unusual events. Through the influence of News Corporation worldwide, the focus has also moved from ‘news’ to ‘entertainment’ – that is, what is interesting to lots of people, not what is actually important. And it has moved from words to pictures, from long essays to instant, single pictures, momentary events. In particular, ‘good’ news – those things that are positive, unlifting, motivating, inspiring – seem to have disappeared from the ‘news’…with the major exception being sports, where the focus on winners might be considered ‘good’ news.
Most of what happens in my day and probably yours and most people’s is…generally good! You generally don’t get attacked, robbed, have a crash or have anything much bad happen. Perhaps a bad coffee, a missed appointment, a boss who fails to notice your efforts, a transport delay. You generally have enough money to live. You generally interact with a set of people and situations you like (OK, you do have to work mostly, but even at work, most people enjoy some or most aspects of what they do or who they work with). At the end of the day, you think, ‘I had a good/OK/excellent day today. I think my future prospects are good/OK/excellent.’ Systems seem to work. The sun rises and sets.
‘News’ doesn’t reflect reality
So why doesn’t the ‘news’ reflect this?? Because ‘good’ news isn’t seen as very exciting. Its not unusual, it’s not sensational. I proposed a ‘good news’ page to a major newspaper a couple of years ago and, though they said it was a good idea, they said it wouldn’t sell.
‘Good’ news can be motivating, energising, inspiring
Yet what we teach our kids is to emphasise the positive, the successes. Why? Because feeling good about yourself, about events, about your location, your area, your situation often leads to a desire to do even better! It inspires people to do more! The whole positive thinking movement, the visualisation of success technique as a means to improve performance and much psychological counselling are based on positivism being more motivating than the fear of failing to achieve, even when the performance is the same. (For instance, 60% can be reported as ‘you passed the test’ or ‘you didn’t do very well’ and the motivational impact of each statement can be quite different.)
Shouldn’t we focus more on ‘good news’ stories and less on the exceptional, unrepresentative, uncontrollable, negative/bad ‘news’ stories that now dominate the so-called ‘news’?
What would ‘good news’ look like? The daily set of stories might come from the following criteria:
- Reversing the bad news focus on existing information. For instance, instead of talking about the unemployment rate (say 6%), the story could be about the 94% employment rate. Instead of talking about failures of governments and organisations, we could focus on (genuine, not PR) success stories – government policies passed, government policies that were proving successful, organisations that were (genuinely) growing, winning new contracts, producing new (needed) products, paying taxes.
- Reporting on positive society/social achievements. For instance, reporting on new science developments, new innovations, new social activities that are having positive effects, reporting on all those people who win Order of Australia awards (or similar) for their inspiring work, on teachers inspiring students, on social workers successfully addressing difficult social situations.
- Reporting on environmental successes. For instance, reporting on new solar installations, new farming practices that are more sustainable, restorative environment work, the creation of new parks, towns or communities that have introduced innovative work, volunteers who work unpaid on so many wonderful environmental projects.
- Reporting on the joys of daily life. For instance, reporting on the individual and personal joys some people get from bird watching (especially rare and migratory birds), growing new season flowers, growing homegrown vegetables, cooking, taking physical advantage of whatever the weather season is.
All of these and many more examples are likely to be motivating, energising, inspiring to people who see these stories. More focus on these types of stories, or these ways of presenting stories might lead to a more healthy social atmosphere, rather than the doom and gloom that the current ‘news’ focus on fear, failure and terror leads us to.
Different Thinking: A Good News publication
So I’m thinking of launching a ‘Good News’ publication. Here is an example of the types of headlines that it might include, compared with the ‘bad news’ headlines that currently dominate.
|The Good News||Current ‘Bad’ News|
|Woman wins major party US Presidential nomination for first time ever||Clinton low favourability rating matches Trump: worst ever in contests|
|Government agrees to accept all 100 recommendations of sexual abuse royal commission||Man accused of sexual abuse of 20 children|
|Infant mortality rates continue to decline. Poor indigenous rates being addressed.||Baby dies when oxygen valve connected incorrectly|
|Government increasing the amount of bike paths to make cycling safer, more attractive||Cyclist killed after being ‘doored’|
|Bank satisfaction rate now over 80%: highest in inter-industry comparisons||Banks sued by customers over financial planning deception|
|94% of potential workers currently employed||Unemployment rate shock: rises from 6.0% to 6.1%|
|Train statistics show highest ever performance: 92% on time and 99% service delivery||Thousands of passengers stranded at Central Station in rain deluge|
|Winter vegetables plentiful; first spring blooms appearing||Wet winter delays crop planting|
|Warm winter results in high community participation levels in council programs||Warm winter results in short snow season. Operators fear business failure|
|Girl, 16, completes first season of football umpiring: learns to take charge, be responsible||Football referee abused by parents|
I’m not sure which medium to use or whether it would actually work, but I think readers/viewers would feel better about themselves and about their day. Perhaps they wouldn’t have to turn on the tripe of current entertainment TV to block out the bad news forced on them now.