June 18, 2024

OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEWS

IF YOU SNEWS, YOU LOSE

By Carmen Greger

“News is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress; all the rest is advertising,” the famous words of Lord Northcliffe. These words ring truer today than ever before as our media landscape is filled with ‘SNEWS’ – sensationalized, negative, and often divisive content that can be toxic to our well-being.

In today’s fast-paced, always-on, digital world, the old adage that “If it bleeds, it leads” seems to be the underlying principle of many news organizations. In the race for views, clicks, and ad dollars, it feels like the industry has lost sight of its true mission: to inform, educate, and enlighten the public in a responsible manner.

Of course there are still some good sources that curate a respectable collection of information and ‘news’, but there are countless sources of ‘SNEWS’ where truth, relevance and media accountability is lacking. The news should be informative, real and helpful to the audience, offering insight and resources, perpetuating positivity & unity, instead of displaying damaging and divisive drama on repeat.

The Destructive Power of Bad News

Jonathan Swift once quipped, “Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it.” This couldn’t be more accurate today. With the proliferation of fake news, intentionally divisive headlines, and drama-centric reporting, the media often serves as a breeding ground for negativity. This constant barrage instills fear, promotes division, and more than just misinforms—it actively harms.

We’ve become so accustomed to this onslaught that we often don’t recognize the stress it brings into our lives. As consumers of content, we’re exposed to a diet high in alarmist headlines, political mud-slinging, and catastrophic forecasts. This is not merely an observation; studies have shown that excessive exposure to negative news can increase anxiety, stress, and even symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

It’s Time for a Change

If our societies are to heal, grow, and flourish, we must demand better. We need to hold media platforms accountable. We need to understand the importance of the energy in the stories we consume and how they affect our collective psyche. “The medium is the message,” as Marshall McLuhan famously said, and today that message is often rife with division and despair.

But there is so much good news out there; we need to request it and consume better content. How do we go about changing the channel and enhance the number of inspiring and authentic options we have to view?

Voting with Our Dollars

It’s easy to feel powerless in this vast media landscape, but every viewer, reader, and listener has a powerful tool: choice. By consciously choosing where to put our attention and money, we can effect change. As consumers, when we support platforms that prioritize the truth, positive narratives, and unity, we’re sending a clear message about what we value.

For instance, consider platforms like Medium. For a small fee, readers can access a myriad of perspectives and stories. This format encourages diversity of thought, nuanced discussions, and a move away from the clickbait norm.

The Power of GOOD News

“Good news isn’t sexy, but it’s what we need,” says journalist Amy S. Choi. By amplifying GOOD on all our devices, we create an atmosphere of hope and positivity. It’s certainly not about ignoring the problems of the world; it’s about collaborating and focusing on solutions, progress, and the many good things that are happening around us.

Is Media a Reflection of Reality?

There’s a chicken-and-egg scenario at play: does the media reflect our reality, or does our reality get molded by the media? The truth lies somewhere in between. While the media mirrors societal events, it also shapes perceptions. The stories we consume mold our beliefs, our actions, and our very fabric of understanding. This is why it’s crucial to be discerning consumers.

What Can We Do?

  • Educate ourselves on identifying biased and misleading news.
  • Support and subscribe to independent, investigative journalism.
  • Diversify our news sources to get multiple perspectives.
  • Engage in constructive conversations instead of heated debates.
  • Limit exposure to negative news and balance it with positive stories.
  • Use fact-checking websites to verify information.
  • Engage with news organizations, praising good journalism and criticizing the bad.
  • Avoid sharing unverified or sensational news on social media.
  • Teach the younger generation critical media literacy.
  • Remember the power of turning off or switching channels.

Where to Find the GOOD News:

  • Good News Network
  • Positive News
  • The Optimist Daily
  • Solutions Journalism Network
  • Sunny Skyz
  • The Happy News
  • Inspire More
  • HuffPost Good News
  • Reason to be Cheerful
  • Upworthy

As we look into the screen that mirrors our world, we must ask ourselves: is this the reflection we wish to see? If not, it’s time to change the channel, change our habits, and support platforms that align with our vision for a better world.

We are all worthy of much better, especially the youth who are constantly bombarded with an overwhelming amount of stressful events and images via any one of their many devices. The ripple effect we create by making conscious choices and raising the bar to both create and consume quality content can shape a brighter, more informed, and unified future. Let’s heed Mahatma Gandhi’s enlightened advice, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Together, we can make the difference we all need and deserve.

SNEWS: Sensationalized, Negative, Exaggerated, Withholding, and Superficial

In our era, this potent acronym – SNEWS – encapsulates the myriad ways in which news has shifted from its foundational principles of objective reporting and informative discourse to a chaotic whirlwind of fleeting headlines and emotional manipulation. Let’s break it down:

Sensationalized: In the quest for eyeballs, views, and click-through rates, many media outlets have opted for the flashy over the factual. This sensationalism often involves amplifying the most dramatic aspects of a story, even if it means compromising on nuance and accuracy. It’s the proverbial sizzle without the steak, appealing to our basest instincts and curiosities rather than our desire for understanding.

Negative: Humans have a cognitive bias called the negativity bias, which makes negative events seem more significant than they actually are. Some news organizations exploit this, focusing primarily on negative stories because they’re more likely to capture and hold our attention. While it’s essential to report on pressing issues and challenges, a disproportionate focus on the negative can paint a skewed picture of reality.

Exaggerated: Hyperbole has become a frequent guest in newsrooms. Instead of presenting events as they are, there’s a trend of magnifying them, making them seem more pressing, more catastrophic, or more ‘newsworthy’ than they might genuinely be. This distortion can misinform the public and create unwarranted panic.

Withholding: It’s said that omission can be as misleading as a lie. Many media sources engage in selective storytelling, choosing to report on certain events while entirely ignoring others. This withholding of information can lead to a lopsided view of the world, where some issues are blown out of proportion while others are underrepresented or invisible.

Superficial: In an age of 24/7 news cycles and the demand for rapid content, depth often takes a backseat to brevity. Instead of in-depth analysis and comprehensive reporting, we’re served bite-sized, superficial takes on complex issues. This skimming over subjects prevents audiences from gaining a thorough understanding, leaving them with catchy headlines but little substance.

These elements of SNEWS have tangible impacts. For one, they can breed a pervasive sense of cynicism. When news feels like an endless barrage of crises and controversies, people might begin to feel that the world is perpetually on the brink of disaster. This outlook isn’t just bleak—it’s paralyzing. If everything’s going awry, why bother trying to make a positive impact? Regular consumption of SNEWS destructive; SNEWS is a terrible waste of time and energy, and is downright toxic for the mind, body and soul on the individual and collective level.

Moreover, the SNEWS approach to journalism can contribute to societal polarization. If every issue is presented as a dire conflict and every opposing viewpoint as an existential threat, is it any wonder that civil discourse has become a rarity? Instead of understanding and compromise, we’re seemingly pushed towards tribalism and antagonism.

Yet, there’s a silver lining. As consumers become more aware of these pitfalls in modern journalism, there’s a growing demand for more responsible, balanced, and constructive news. People are yearning for stories that not only inform but inspire. There’s a hunger for narratives that highlight solutions rather than just problems, that showcase humanity’s capacity for goodness, innovation, and unity.

This shift is evident in the rise of ‘constructive journalism’—a movement within the news industry that focuses on solution-oriented reporting. Instead of just highlighting a problem, these stories also delve into efforts to address it, providing a more holistic view of the world and fostering a sense of hope and possibility.

Such journalism doesn’t ignore the challenges and complexities of our times. It acknowledges them but also sheds light on the myriad ways people are striving to make a difference. This approach is not just refreshing—it’s essential. In a world grappling with unprecedented challenges, from climate change to socio-economic disparities, it’s vital to spotlight not just the hurdles but the pathways to overcome them.

So, how do we counter SNEWS in our daily lives? Firstly, by being discerning consumers. It involves questioning the stories we consume, diversifying our news sources, and actively seeking out constructive narratives. Secondly, by voicing our demand for quality journalism. This can be through supporting independent media, engaging in dialogues with news organizations, or even becoming storytellers ourselves, using platforms like blogs, podcasts, and social media to share balanced, insightful perspectives.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we must remember that news is not just a reflection of the world; it shapes our perception of it. If we let SNEWS dictate our worldview, we risk being trapped in a cycle of cynicism, apathy, and division. But if we choose to seek out and amplify stories of hope, progress, and unity, we can foster a global community grounded in understanding, collaboration, and shared aspirations for a brighter tomorrow.

“The world is not divided between East and West. You are American, I am Iranian, we don’t know each other, but we talk and we understand each other perfectly. The difference between you and your government is much bigger than the difference between you and me. And the difference between me and my government is much bigger than the difference between me and you. And our governments are very much the same.” This quote by Marjane Satrapi underscores the universality of human experiences and emotions and how, often, what’s reported in the media is a mere fragment of the vast mosaic of human life.

While SNEWS may dominate much of today’s media landscape, it doesn’t define our reality. Through conscious consumption, critical thinking, and a commitment to unity and understanding, we can usher in an era of news that not only informs but uplifts and unites. It’s time to change the channel: Out with the old, and in with the NEWs.