All News isn’t Good News; Most News is Crappy

Today I thought I’d buy a couple of newspapers, one national and one local, and cut out the stories that I considered ‘positive news’.

What do I mean by that? Although not necessarily ‘good news’ (certainly not in the Biblical sense), for me positive news stories are reported with an eye on constructive analysis and solutions. Above all, they steer clear of threatening or fear-mongering language.

Armed with my copy of The Guardian and The Bournemouth Daily Echo, I set about on the floor with a pair of scissors.

I didn’t get very far before falling under a miasma of depression. To be honest, I had been expecting a slightly better return than, let’s say, 8 out of 50 with The Guardian. But almost every article was couched in threatening language, even when it purported to be presenting ‘good’ news.

On the front page, jobs are under threat and vital cancer treatment is prevented by the Home Office. Inside, headlines and stand-firsts cover ‘intimidation’ and a ‘fight for survival’, as well as ‘clashes’ and an ‘outcry’ in York, not to mention ‘moral obligations’ and a ‘toxic legacy’.

Moving through the paper are yet more ‘threats’, ‘struggles’ and even a metaphorical ‘wrecking ball’. For the younger reader, there are articles on painful child restraint techniques and teenage suicide.

Internationally, football fans risk racist attacks in Russia, there are more ‘attack fears’ in China, a Canadian ‘dies alone’ and a Dutch woman is found dead after years of depression.

No wonder people so often turn to the sports pages first. Where are all the stories about what people are actually doing to abide, resist and overcome their personal and political challenges? And what is the effect of this negativity on our mood and mind?

So to save you the agony of wading through the muck, here is my selection of positive news stories this Friday:

  • COSMIC: Nasa’s Curiosity rover has found complex organic matter preserved in ancient sediments on Mars
  • WORLD: Ikea will phase out single-use plastic in its outlets by 2020
  • LOCAL: Volunteers knit teddy bears for Dorset Police to deploy when attending incidents involving children

I’d love to contribute to a global news channel where all of us (for everyone is a mediator or broadcaster of news to some degree) share fewer stories of gossip, threat and fear, and more stories of ideas, love and encouragement.


UPDATE, 15 June: After last week’s plaintive cry for positive journalism, this quarter’s cover story of Positive News couldn’t have been more apt: Progress: The Great Untold Story of Our Time by psychologist Steven Pinker. Not naive rose-tinted optimism, but a fair-minded reflection of the ‘real’ state of the world today, and full of sensible corrections like the following:

Whether or not the world really is getting worse, the nature of news will interact with the nature of cognition to make us think that it is. News is about things that happen, not things that don’t happen. We never see a journalist saying to the camera, “I’m reporting live from a country where a war has not broken out” – or a city that has not been bombed, or a school that has not been shot up.

As long as bad things have not vanished from the face of the Earth, there will always be enough incidents to fill the news, especially when billions of smartphones turn most of the world’s population into crime reporters and war correspondents.

I don’t think I’m mistaken when I say that this ‘bad news’ is overwhelmed by the good in our lives, contrary to what might be reported.

What do you think?