Have I Got Good News For You?

The media needs to be a messenger of good news
A short essay from April 2009

Bad news is always good news for the media, and in financially disappointing times like ours, newspapers and news channels are thriving on life’s grievances and tragedies. Pictures of city bankers, shirts untucked, shoulders slumped and briefcases hanging from their tired arms, fill the pages as banks close and the economy tumbles.

News of celebration, praises and joy, on the other hand, come as rarely as the eclipse. But long before the recession began, the media has always been obsessed with the gloom and doom.

Such an attitude emanates from a negative and cynical approach to life, and it is sad when criticism becomes a way of life and a vantage point from which to view all things from.

It is a shame that newsworthiness today is defined by the scandals, sensations, lies and deceit of the common people. The privilege of freedom of expression has turned into a freedom of criticism. This appears in the form of opinion columns, radio talk shows, publications like Private Eye and programmes like Have I Got News For You? and Mock The Week.

The cynical, unbelieving journalists write the news in the daily prophetic for secular cynics. The papers become the bringer of bad news – the messengers of hopelessness in society.

Let’s admit that good news has never been trendy. Much better to lament on capitalism, globalisation and Starbucks than praise the charity shop’s fundraising efforts. Obama’s Yes We Can campaign made us cringe, because we don’t actually believe we can.

The media does not dare air hope, because its people are not equipped to do so. It does not spread good news, because the writers and commissioners do not believe in it themselves (and that is why we hate Readers’ Digest – it’s too positive).

The world is a cruel place and we cannot live in denial from its harsh reality, but mainstream media lacks a positive portrayal of current affairs. When it becomes a critique of the world, suggesting no solutions and carrying no hope in its pages, it spreads pessimism among its readership.

The media needs to give more praise and coverage to the politicians with successful policies, to the business that are creating jobs, and to those who actually do get it right. It needs to realise the full extent of its influence and its ability to shape readers’ opinions and attitudes – a responsibility that comes with freedom of expression.

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