OUR SAY: Bad news trumps the good

A SIGNIFICANT about of debate on social media has been directed toward the amount of bad news appearing in the paper.

The thread started with an observation about how much "bad" news there is out there and how it must be the media's fault for putting it out there.

From the media's point of view, the truth is somewhat sadder.

The so-called bad news you seem to dislike is what the readers and viewers want, and the proof is in print sales for our papers and in the digital statistics for online performance.

A chart of the best-selling newspapers would show a spike every time there has been an accident, tragedy or some other change to normal events in the community.

In the mid-1990s I worked at another newspaper where we even trialled only good news in the paper. All the major stories were the heart-warming, human interest stories which our readers had told us they wanted. Car crashes, crime and deaths were relegated to briefs and small filler stories.

Was the result a spike in our circulation?

Sadly no. Sales of the paper dropped and we started to hear a different criticism.

It was most succinctly put by a reader who asked in a one-line letter:

"When are you going to go back to printing the real news?"

It seems humans are not programmed for good news.

It seems evolution has wired us to look out for the unusual and potentially dangerous, which might be why we tune into the bad stuff instead of the good.



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