All Tragic, No Magic

Madeline Peckham, Staff Writer

One day of U.S. breaking headlines looks like this: “2 killed and 7 injured in overnight shootings in New Orleans” or “4 dead, more than 20 hospitalized after suspected smuggling vessel overturns off San Diego.” The most positive on this list? “Deputy uses broom to return alligator to pond,”- and it’s a video.

It’s not breaking news that we live in an extremely polarized world. Every event and action has an impact, and the news makes us more aware of that by the minute. We keep up with the news in order to keep up with the world we live in.

News puts order to the chaos, but this order is very one-sided towards negativity. This black cloud that hangs over society blots out anything else we could be seeing and leaves the general news-consuming public with a very sad view of the world. 

That’s why mainstream outlets should dedicate a section to positive news.

Most pieces of news will highlight the worst extremes about a particular topic, or outlets will duke it out to villainize and blame someone relentlessly while defending someone else. 

The vast majority of COVID-19 articles offer up depressing statistics with matching commentary, giving readers a sense of hopelessness. While these articles are factual and accurate, the negative so often outweigh the positive.

News outlets could occasionally choose more uplifting stories to report on while maintaining integrity with the facts. Though so much of the world is difficult right now, there are good things happening.

When a reader wants to find an upbeat news article, they have to actively search for it. Would it really be that much work for outlets to integrate a segment dedicated to providing positive news?

CNN, for example, has several categories featured on their website. Eleven categories, ranging from U.S. news to travel, yet not one is dedicated to the publication of “good news.” 

Outlets such as the “Good News Network” exist, but this publication strictly puts out “good news.” This in and of itself is nice but could be dangerous, because people need to be aware of all news, regardless of the mood. News is on a vast spectrum of mood and emotion; it can’t all be good, but it doesn’t all have to be so bad.

Do we just love tragedy? According to several studies, “bad news” tends to fare better statistically than “good news.” 

But is it possible this is because of the severe lack of positive articles? Or do we, as a society, just “like” hearing the bad news more?

“I mean, I think, one [reason] is that if everything is going fine the way it is, it’s not really news,” English teacher Dr. Robbie Boerth said. “From a news standpoint, what is the importance of reporting on that?”

Good news, while it does feel good, shouldn’t be reported exclusively in the place of critical news that might be “bad.”

We can’t replace what’s happening in the world with feel-good news as much as we may want to. News is news, and it needs to be reported. Just because there is a deficit in good news, doesn’t mean it can be filled with just anything positive. This good news still has to be news. At the end of the day, the truth takes precedence over anything else in journalism.

“I don’t think that the news publications should intentionally go out searching for good news or bad news,” Boerth said. “I think what they need to do is search out the stories that are important, where, you know, the readers or the audience needs to be informed of these events that are happening.”

Simply put, bad news gets views, so outlets deliver exactly that. They need to guarantee that they aren’t wasting time and resources covering something no one will follow. This creates a very cyclical effect. People are seeking out tragedy, and so news delivers what they know will strike their audience. But do people seek out tragedy because that’s exactly what the news delivers? 

If outlets began publishing good news, regardless of concern for popularity and hits, it could break this vicious cycle of depressing news.

Influence and bias are powerful tools. Maybe we just need more positive influence to switch up that negative bias.