Reevaluating the “Negative” News Bias

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The more I think about the whole issue of negative bias to news the more complex the issue seems to me.  As a news consumer in the past, I have been of the same opinion as those which Haiman writes of.  When I thought of the news, I thought of murders, deaths, disease.  I perceived it as being nothing but bad things.  However, since I began taking this news writing class, I have paid more attention to what types of articles are in newspapers.  And I have been surprised by how many positive articles there actually are.  Derek’s blog made me think even more about this.  He quoted a Dr. Nauert, who explained that for issues such as a local health threat there is “increased attention and memory in readers.”  If this is the case, then isn’t it possible there is positive news in every newspaper and we as readers simply allow it to be overshadowed by the negative (since we remember it better)?  I don’t mean to suggest that there is no negative bias at all, I think there is one, it might just be less bad than we may think. 

Furthermore, we do pay more attention to and remember these negative stories more, and thus, they become more newsworthy.  Journalists do want their newspapers to be sold and if we as consumers pay attention to (demand) the negative, that’s what the journalists are going to supply.  So how can we blame them for giving us what we ask for? 

Lastly, there is the space issue to consider.  Print newspapers only have so much room to deal with.  When there is only enough room for one of two good articles written, a decision must be made about which one gets printed and which one is either saved for another day or is just never printed.  The editor is going to pick the story that he/she thinks the readership will care more about.  When there is a “positive” story about a woman winning a pie baking contest and there is a “negative” one about a murder, which one would you want to be put in the paper?  If you are like me, you’ll have picked the murder.  In light of these space constraints, sometimes there is little a newspaper can do to prevent there being more “negative” stories than “positive.”  

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