Tuesday, July 23 2024

Journalism is, or should be, synonymous with information, and informing means offering people easy access to news that is useful to them or otherwise relevant to the social context in which they live.

One characteristic of journalism that many people notice is the constant onslaught of “bad news.” “No news is good news,” seems to be the motto of many members of the press or news outlets in general.

Communicating exclusively – or almost exclusively – bad news causes problems, from the psychological point of view of those who read it to the point of view of the quality of information. First of all, it causes the reader to have a distorted sense of reality, maybe leading him to believe that only horrible things are happening in the world. This would cause the reader to discount so many positive events that he’s not told about or reminded of.

Moreover, it can lead to highlighting negative feelings and cause people to have a defeatist attitude.

In other words, if all one reads or hears about is bad news, it can, in the long-run, lead to one’s hopes being dashed and proactivity being drained. To do good and engage, we need to believe that it is “not all for nothing.”

The journalist’s balance: 3 tips that are common sense

So, if we are journalists, what should we do to strike a balance? Should journalism not be realistic? Should it not report bad news?

Certainly, this cannot be the case. We don’t live in a fairytale. Evil exists, and citizens have a right to know what is happening around them.

We would like, however, to offer three suggestions for telling the truth, without sugar-coating it, and at the same time safeguarding the readers’ trust in life and in others.

 1. Balance the good and bad news in your news feed to the best of your ability.

For example, if you have to communicate the news of some natural disaster, it makes sense that you would communicate the number of victims and commemorate them; at the same time, however, you might also look for news that talks about the people standing in solidarity who are willing to open their homes to help those affected and the rescuers who have done their best to help. You might eventually look for testimonies of people who came back stronger than before.

If you need to report on a plane crash, share data on all successful flights around the world that day. This would demonstrate that accidents happen, and science and technology are always improving. This is not to belittle the event, which should be given the attention it’s due, but to provide an objective picture so that the reader doesn’t live in fear.

 2. Show situations in which good came from something bad

Let’s look at an example: We have to share the news of a child who died too young. It is absolutely one’s duty to let people know he/she passed away. After all, he/she deserves to be mourned and remembered. However, we could also look for and tell stories of how a painful situation (like the loss of a child) might have turned into a chance to do good, to help, to question the meaning of life and what comes after. Even seemingly unimportant news stories like this one deserve a space at the table of information we transmit and take in, because they can be encouraging, helpful, and inspiring to so many others in similar situations.

3. Use the media to raise awareness about all the ways people help out in today’s society, which is sometimes unknown

Here are some examples: do we have to report on violence and abuse? Sure, but at the same time, maybe we can also talk about the positive scenarios that might matter to people who live in proximity to where the violent act occurred. We can let them know about life-support centers, anti-violence centers for women and children, centers for people with disabilities, addiction rehabilitation centers, help centers for immigrants, family homes, and religious institutions that welcome and support people that are struggling in all kinds of ways.

There are so many positive environments in the world and, above all, so many good people out there who spend their days and careers serving others. Talking about all the good in our communities is the duty of a good journalist. It will increase trust in mankind and motivate others to have the same commitment to seek the good.


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