Use Some Positive Judgement

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"An environmental leader said, 'Bad behavior is rewarded because what gets reported is the most outrageous statement made.' For every reader who thought the press was guilty of showing a political or ideological bias in the news columns, there were many more who complained about what they called 'negative' bias" (Haiman 49).

Haiman, once again, brings up some very interesting and debatable ideas and topics about the news industry. The quote above made me think about newspapers and also the television media. What is the most common phrase that, most, people say about the media or news?

"All that I see or read is bad news. Where is the good news?"

This statement is so popular among the variety of people I talk to that it has become second nature to even think differently.

According to Marano, "it [our brain] is simply built with a greater sensitivity to unpleasant news" (1).

Marano wrote the above quote in Psychology Today and it matches our society and most people's brain. When you hear of an unusual or tragic event, then what do you do? I would think that you would find out more information or talk to other people about it. The same concept applies when writing a news article. The author wants to find the "news worthy" aspect of the story and they usually will do whatever it takes.

Dr. Nauert, in Psych Central, stated "The researchers found that news about local health threats increased attention and memory in readers more than news about distant, or nonlocal, health threats" (1).

It is amazing how negative news attracts more people than good news.

So, why does the media and newspaper usually report from a negative angle?

Click here for the course web page devoted to Haiman.

2 Comments

Well, Derek, I think you answered your question yourself in your blog. Journalists write about the negative stuff because it’s more newsworthy. They are just trying to do their job and sell papers. It’s like the economic principle of supply and demand. If readers are more interested in (and therefore, demand) negative news, then that is what newspapers will supply. Therefore, in some ways I think the responsibility for the focus on negative news rests with the readers as well as the journalists.

There is also the fact that as Dr. Nauert stresses that negative news has “increased attention and memory in readers.” Is it not possible that there is a greater balance between positive and negative news than we realize, and we just remember the bad more than the good? I know in my local paper there is plenty of positive news daily. Granted, this might partially be due to the lack of more newsworthy stories (since I come from a small town). However, if there is a dearth of space in the paper, which story would you want printed—the one on a woman winning first prize in the county fair pie contest or the one on a woman who held a bank up and is still at large? There probably is something a negative bias to newspapers, but at the same time, I’m not sure it’s as bad as some people think. Nor, am I really sure how this bias can be resolved (keep in mind my example of the county fair contest vs. bank hold up). I think that Haiman may have been oversimplifying the resolution to this negative bias a bit.

Interesting point Derek, and great response, Greta. I honestly can't think to well right now due to a headache and what I believe is a fever, but I think you're right. Negative news sells. The majority of stories are supposed to apply to as many people as possible.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Derek Tickle published on November 6, 2009 7:25 PM.

Reflection #12: Explaining the Answer was the previous entry in this blog.

News Reporting, Bias, and Sensitivity is the next entry in this blog.

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