Tuesday, July 20, 2021

It's a pity they forget to put these items in our news . . .

The pics and comments at the end of this post were emailed to me by friend and colleague Tony Z, with the caption “It's a pity they forget to put these items in our news . . .”

The email prompted another friend and colleague, Leo M, who had been copied in on the group email, to respond “You are so right TZ, Why can’t the media actually bring us good stories?”

There is a simple answer: It doesn’t sell, people are more fascinated by, and interested in, bad news.

An article from 2019 looked at extensive studies into this phenomenon and reached some conclusions. It can be viewed at the website of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) September 17, 2019 at:

The studies involved over 1,000 respondents in 17 countries over 6 continents.

  • People have a “negative bias”, that is, they give more weight to negative information than to positive information.
  • This pattern is worldwide.
  • They could find no differences attributable to content or national differences in the various countries ie it’s the same the whole world over.
  • There are however differences within and amongst individuals ie some are more negative-news focused than others.
  • “Our evidence suggests that, all around the world, the average human is more physiologically activated by negative than by positive news stories. Even so, there is a great deal of variation across individuals. The latter finding is of real significance for newsmakers: Especially in a diversified media environment, news producers should not underestimate the audience for positive news content.”
Roy Greenslade in an article in The Guardian back on September 4, 2007 gave his own take on the phenomenon at:
. . . the regular calls for papers to publish "good news" rather than bad is largely a waste of time. People are stimulated to read by the latter. They want to know what has gone wrong rather than what has gone right. Second, it reminds us that "real news" - about events - wins far greater attention than "manufactured news", about personalities and scandals. Third, it proves that journalists face an uphill task in trying to tell people what is happening. The audience just isn't reading or listening.

And fourth? I realise I may be overstating this, but it does suggest that people do not bother to inform themselves about what is being done by those who govern them in periods between the eruption of crises. This means that they are not aware of the complexities of problems until it is too late for them to take a coherent stance for or against policy decisions. This situation tends to favour political leaders.
Some final observations and comments . . .

To see the “bad news fascinates and dominates” tendency in action, simply recall how cars slow down at traffic accidents as people sigh, express their sorrow and then possibly do a subconscious mental genuflection with the thought that they are glad it wasn’t them.

That was brought home to me a few days ago as I looked at the latest post on The Bored Panda website. It refers to a Reddit site that has a segment “What is a seemingly normal photo that has a disturbing backstory?” The Bored Panda link for the post is:

I am not posting any of the photographs, some of the images are just too horrific and traumatising to post – Auschwitz guards, male and female, in uniform out for a walk laughing and singing to a piano accordion; Jewish children holding hands as they unknowingly walk to their deaths in the gas chambers at Auschwitz; a father and daughter in Omagh, Ireland just before a bomb in the car next to them exploded (the father and daughter survived, the photographer did not).

Morbidly fascinated, I kept reading the whole commentary and looking at all the photographs to the end, all the while thinking to myself such thoughts as how terrible, how sad, and so on.

Enough said.

Here are the feelgood pics that were sent to me . . .

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