Leaving an impression

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"'Behave as a citizen and a journalist: Report, write and edit

as if you care about where you live.'"  - Geneva Overholser, quoted in Robert J. Haiman's Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists

Haiman points out that focusing on negatives is another form of bias.  Maybe news is so frequently guilty of taking the negative stance because it's easier.  Aside from the gloomy curiosity culture holds fast to, our tendency to lean toward fault-finding is not only a quick attention grabber but typically easier to pin-point.  This attitude, I think, falls under a category of decision making in which a person chooses to a) complain about something or b) correct it. 

Which do you think is the easier selection? A reporter's purpose is not to resolve or correct the "negative" in an article.  I'm not saying that. I only mean it's less difficult to find the fault. Think how challenging it can be to spot the good within the bad - see the silver lining. 

Is it more challenging to write a positive story?  It might be. But Haiman explains, "They are finding ways to tell compelling stories about success, achievement, discovery and victory."  People still believe what they see in print, and the focus of news impacts public understanding:

"Violent crime -- especially juvenile crime and violence -- has been dropping steadily since 1993. Overall violent crime declined more than 5% in 1999 and juvenile crime declined a whopping 11%. Juvenile homicides actually have declined 58% since 1994. And yet one-third of Americans believes that crimes by adults are on the increase and two-thirds believe that juvenile crime is on the increase. How could this be if the press was doing a fair and balanced job of reporting?"

 

By reporting the "good," reporters have the ability to impose a negative or positive impression upon their audience.

 

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3 Comments

You bring up a good point in mentioning how when reporters focus disproportionately on the bad, they aren't doing their job of accurately reporting on their events of the area (unless, of course, things are disproportionately bad in that area). So often I think journalists want to focus on the gritty side of things because that's the side people are most uncomfortable with talking about. They think they're exposing truths that are hidden. But sometimes journalists wallow so much in the bad things that happen they're not really being accurate. A similar issue is addressed in the other chapter in the reading--when you focus on interviewing people who've suffered through traumatic events in an insensitive way, you're not going to get the most accurate information. Accuracy and objectivity should always be the goal, and that should include covering both the positive and the negative.

Aja Hannah said:

The problem with "good news" is trying to find the lead that will grab attention, but I'm sure it's there.

Maybe there should be two papers again like the morning and evening papers except "good news" and "bad news" until the negative papers figure out how to evenly incorporate the both.

Your blog also reminds me of writing editorials. It's easy to complain about something, but trying to find a solution is much harder.

Jennifer Prex said:

I agree that, unfortunately, it is easier to find the faults and focus on them rather than focus on ways to potentially improve it. It's easy to out-right criticize. It takes very little thought to do that. It's much more difficult to try and come up with a solution to a problem, as that requires much more thought.

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