Why, Generally, Does It Have To Be Bad To Be Newsworthy?
Recently, I heard someone make the following statement: “Why is the news so bad, isn’t there anything good to report?” I have had that same thought many times throughout my life. I have not done a statistical analysis on this, but I think that during a thirty-minute news program, at least two-thirds of the program is about negative or “bad” news. I’ve always thought that all we need to do in order to have positive news, is to simply find and report it.
Now, I’m unsure about simply saying “good or positive” news is something that we can find and then report on it. You see, I think we really won’t consider “good or positive” news, worthy of being broadcast as news. In other words, we really don’t want good news – we want news!
I know you are probably thinking, “what does he mean – news, but not good news?” Here are some definitions of news: (1) a report of recent events (2) previously unknown information (3) matter that is newsworthy (4) something significant that happens (5) interesting or important information not previously known or realized. I copied all of these definitions from various on-line dictionaries and for my purposes here, I would like to focus on the last one. News – interesting or important information not previously known or realized. On the surface, I think the definition is clear and straightforward. But, when we think deeper into what “not previously known or realized” means when applied to the way we use the news in today’s society, an “AHA” moment occurs.
Something positive or good, generally, isn’t something that’s “NOT previously known or realized.” There are many people doing many great things all of time. Consider where you are as you read this. Think about all of the people in the immediate area where you are located. What are they doing? Perhaps, some are cleaning, some working, some are exercising, some are … The point is, that most, if not all, are doing good and positive things. News must be interesting or important information not previously known or realized.
If we reported on what the large majority people were doing on a regular basis, it wouldn’t be news. It simply wouldn’t be considered interesting or important information not previously known or realized. Why? Well, as mentioned before, I believe most people are doing good and positive things on a regular basis. Reporting on what most people are doing wouldn’t be news. News, must be out-of-the-norm. It must be unusual. It must be not previously known or realized. Therefore, when someone commits a horrible crime, it is news. When someone does a heartwarming act, it is the norm and therefore, not “newsworthy.”
For one of my jobs, many years ago, I met with representatives of the local newspapers for the purpose of trying to get the newspapers to give more positive recognition of the accomplishments of our local high school students. In the meetings, the representatives from the newspapers would emphasize the need for fair and balanced reporting of the students’ accomplishments. When I asked them what they meant, they responded with fair, meaning: the accomplishment must be deserving of recognition, and balanced, meaning: equal recognition for all schools in the area. I told them that was unreasonable since, if one school won first place in the state and only one first place award was given, then it’s impossible to equally recognize other schools for such an accomplishment.
While meeting with the newspapers’ representatives, I also argued that if a group of students in a school did something “negative,” such as steal all of the computers, then the newspapers would report it, but if the same students did something positive, such as win a state-wide contest in mathematics, then we would be lucky to have the students mentioned in the paper. The negative event would be “front-page news” and the positive event would be “last-page mentioned.”
The interesting thing about this conversation with the representatives from the newspapers is that they agreed with me. They proclaimed that the negative event is more newsworthy than the positive event. Why? Because, most of the time, students are winning awards, not stealing, doing good deeds, etc. and only when they do something out-of-the-norm, i.e. bad, do they do something that is NEWS! Ouch!
So, why, generally, does it have to be bad to be newsworthy?
*To be newsworthy, it must be something that’s interesting or important information not previously known or realized.
**We know that most of what humans do is good.
***When bad things happen, that is the exception and not the rule, therefore, the bad or negative events are interesting or important information not previously known or realized and that’s NEWS!
So, generally, does it have to be bad to be newsworthy? Yes! :-(
What do you think?