News: + or – ?

The news is a weird thing, we share information about the world around us which makes us more aware. But when you really look at the kind of news we receive, it’s often quite mundane and considerably negative. Then there are the ridiculous stories we hear about celebrities, people who are mildly famous, and a few people who really shouldn’t be considerd in the same category. Occasionally you might find a small piece of happiness, a tiny sliver of positive news lingering in the background with the other stories.

But is the news really as negative as it’s sometimes perceived?

Let’s have a look at the very useful BBC News Twitter feed; a perfect sample of news to establish just how positive or negative the news really is. Here are ten sample stories:

1. Four dead in Mexico train crash
2. Police Scotland recover body of the fourth victim from the wreckage of the Shetland helicopter crash
3. Rarely seen species of dolphin has made its home off the coast of Gwynedd
4. Explosion of colour and music opens 1st day of this year’s Notting Hill Carnival
5. Torrential rain and sewage caused thousands of pounds of damage on the south coast of Essex
6. Police investigating double shooting in London that left 24-year-old mother dead arrest second man
7. Green belt house plans have nearly doubled in the past year – research by Campaign to Protect Rural England
8. Tougher sanctions are to be brought in to tackle modern-day slavery in the UK
9. Explosion hits Yemen air force bus
10. Colombian soldiers killed in ambush

Two out of the ten news stories have a positive aspect (I know the sanctions for modern-day slavery is, in theory, a positive story, the fact that there is slavery in the UK is a very negative thing) whilst the remaining eight are negative. Going by the ten headlines, the idea that news has become very negative is one that is heavily supported.

Out of the remaining eight news stories, half of them are reporting deaths. If half of negative news stories are reporting deaths (usually unexpected and/or tragic deaths) then that puts another slant on the negativity of the news. If these new stories are any indication of our daily influx of news, on a regular basis we’re hearing about death, disruption to every day life and government policies that affect the lives of others.

I can’t help but wonder why there aren’t many positive news stories, perhaps it’s not interesting enough to hear about successful festivals or life saving dogs pulling their owners from a river. Maybe it’s just easier, and considerably more shocking, to hear that a family died trying to save their pet from rapids, or of a stage collapse killing a handful of people.

The headlines above came from national news, the BBC is known for covering the whole of the UK and whilst there are occasional news stories which have a local aspect, the main stories tend to be about events which the whole country are interested in.

What about local news?

The following ten news stories come from my local newspaper website, for comparison’s sake:

1. Bedroom tax campaigners spend the night on Bolton’s streets
2. Flat destroyed by blaze in Smithills
3. Reckless drivers “getting away” with breaking the law according to former traffic cop
4. Thieves attempt to rip cash machine out of shop wall in Atherton
5. Bolton’s “Fitness Father” tells life story
6. Hundreds of fans gather at the Reebok for Nat Lofthouse statue unveiling
7. Thief who stole from dead friend lived with the body for three weeks
8. 23-year-old in court accused of stroke pensioner robbery
9. Dentists swap toothpicks for ice-picks
10. Teachers follow petal trail after thieves steal hanging baskets from school

There are seven negative (if you include the fact thieves stole hanging baskets from a school and bedroom tax campaigners) headlines and three most positive ones, though it’s not entirely easy to establish what the positive stories about, they have a local story feel about them which usually contains some aspect of positivity.

The main difference between this list and the one above isn’t really the fact that there are slightly more positive stories. Out of the negative stories there is only one story that mentions death, and even that is more of a natural death than any wrongdoing on the part of the person’s friend.

I always believed that local news was generally more positive than national news, and I guess in some capacities it is. But the fact of the matter is, news isn’t generally positive. Negative stories make up the majority of news reports and there’s little we can do to change that. I guess we just have to grab hold of any positive story and hope it keeps us going until the next positive stories comes out.

If you want to avoid the negative stories, you’re probably going to be more successful reading a local newspaper or watching regional news broadcasts than if you seek out national news.

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One thought on “News: + or – ?

  1. When it comes to national/international news, I find that it is mostly negative. Even if you look at celebrity news, it’ll often be more schadenfreude tinged rather than news of marriages/babies being born. But with that, hearing about the positives in celebrity lives is more likely than in other areas of media. However, there’s even a negative aspect to that: invasion of privacy. Ugh… no winning, really!

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