The fight for good news

More media outlets should bring smiles to the faces of readers. Source: Alamy / Legion Media

More media outlets should bring smiles to the faces of readers. Source: Alamy / Legion Media

There is no rule in journalism that says newspapers and websites should be filled with negative news. Collectively, we journalists and editors need to put more happy and feel-good stories out there.

As I glimpsed through a weekend edition of a leading Indian newspaper that has gone from a respected source of news to a commercial rag, I grew increasingly depressed. In 20+ pages, there were 2 positive articles to accompany election-related muck, articles on murders, violence and an assorted set of bad news from corruption to delayed projects. The paper had a shortage that particular day of non-election advertisements so it decided to bombard readers with bad news.

Looking for a glimpse of positive news, I went online to read a Russian newspaper that is fairly well-balanced although it tends to be critical of the present government. I found it incredibly difficult to find one positive article even in the lighter sections. This Russian paper online was a mirror image of the Indian newspaper I read. Just the language was different!

Reading those 2 newspapers, one would get the impression that India and Russia are completely backward, violent and corrupt countries where life is depressive and hopeless. Thankfully as someone who has seen enough of both good and bad in the two countries, I can vouch for the fact that there is so much to celebrate and be grateful for in both Russia and India.

The mainstream media seems to have lost the plot and has some sort of a feeling that only bad news is newsworthy.  Years ago, when I worked for an international news agency, I filed 2 articles to the desk editor in Moscow. The first one was about a bear killing two campers on an island off the Khabarovsk region and the second was about a captain of an oil tanker saving the lives of 2 fishermen at sea. No prizes for guessing which one was rejected by the editor and categorized as “not really us.”  The editor’s thinking that people would lap up the news about the rampaging bear and not give a second look to an article on a real-life hero is commonplace across the news publishing industry. One has to wonder as to who benefits from such a bombardment of bad news? The said editor wasn’t necessarily a negative person, but his judgement on what is “news-worthy” was at times puzzling. He rejected an article about a helicopter crash (obviously bad news) since all the people on board were Russians and there weren’t any foreigners! He said if was established that sabotage was behind the crash, then we had something that could be used!!

As someone who has been in journalism for more than eleven years, I think it’s a misconception that only bad or sensational news sells. Many journalists and editors have taken it upon themselves to spread bad news under the garb of sensationalism. The media is so full of bad news that many professionally certified life-coaches tell their clients to altogether ignore the newspapers and television news! It’s a horrible feeling to know that many of those who preach positive thinking and using the Law of Attraction think of us, the media as proponents of negativity. Something needs to be done to reverse this.

It is simply not true that only bad or negative news is popular. There are enough readers out there who want to read the positive and happy news. Some of this publication’s most popular articles are about success stories of Indians in Russia or Russians in India. The ones that describe positive events and new innovations from Russia also score high on the readership counts. But then why is it that good news has to be just “Beyond the Headlines”? More of the mainstream media needs to be encouraged to put a greater proportion of good news out there. There is a serious amount of craving for it and would lead to both increased readership and brand loyalty.

Editors and journalists who find these ideals sceptical need to remember the words of Charlie Chaplin from the film The Great Dictator:

“I should like to help everyone - if possible - Jew, Gentile - black man - white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness - not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way.”

The media can help people find the way, by promoting what is good in the planet and by being as far as possible a source of happiness and a unifying element.  The media can fulfil Chaplin’s dream by fighting “to free the world - to do away with national barriers - to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance.” 

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