Saturday, December 9 2023

We all know the difference between good and bad news. Bad news usually has
something to do with failure, illness, death, an unsolved problem,
destruction, etc. Bad news causes anguish and disappointment. Good news, on
the other hand, shows us the bright side of life: instances of receiving a
helping hand; serving and sacrificing for others; being forgiving toward
someone or kind to other…at the bottom, searching for to heal some sort of

We receive both good and bad news; however, it is evident, when we “browse
the world” on our computers or when we consult a newspaper that we are
inundated with much more negative content than positive content.

As journalist Susanna Wolf ironically explains, “‘Only bad news is good
news’ is a motto in journalism. It refers to the principle that stories
only sell well when they are based on a conflict or dramatic situation.”

Flipping through a newspaper, we see no balance between news stories about
solidarity in our communities and those that focus on conflict and bring
about fear.

So, can we say that media describes reality adequately? Or would it be
correct to say that it shows a distorted reality, where there seems to be
only evil in the world?

The importance of striking a balance between good and bad news

There is bad news that needs to be communicated. We certainly
cannot not know that a loved one has a health problem. We cannot
ignore that a war is being fought in Ukraine or in Yemen (by the way, we
are not much informed of this last war in Western media) or that we are in
the middle of a pandemic. But the point, however, is: do we really
only need to be informed about bad things that are going on?

It is not a matter of running away from negative situations, since being
informed is a sign of active participation in family and society. Why, for
those of us who are journalists, don’t we report on good news?

Around the globe every day, there are major important acts of solidarity:
missionaries leave for distant lands just to alleviate the suffering of
underprivileged peoples and preach the Gospel; new care homes pop up to
help children; prostitutes are rescued from the street through human
trafficking centers; men and women risk their lives to bring food and water
to war zones. There are peace initiatives to foster human integration¾there
individuals getting over their addictions¾there are countless stories of
forgiveness. Why not give more prominence to this sort of news, which could
bring hope and inspire people?

Valuing the good does not mean downplaying the seriousness of negative
situations, but rather helps us to see the good in mankind.

Promoting peace through information

In addition to the kind of information reported and striking a balance
between good and bad news, the way in which news are conveyed is also
important. Take, for example, the issue of war, which is unfortunately
always topical. Language often shapes our world. It transforms thoughts and
perceptions. Glasser, former president of the Association for Education in
Journalism and Communication (AEJMC), warned against some of the dangers of
putting the press on a pedestal, commenting on the news disseminated in his
country about the war in Iraq twenty years ago: “Now, as always, the
language of war cleans up, mistakes, and falsifies motives; it celebrates
aggression and glorifies death; it demonizes ‘them’ and deifies ‘us.’
What’s worse, the language of war demeans debate by leaving little room for
dissent and disagreement.”

As Professor Norberto González Gaitano of the Pontifical University of the
Holy Cross notes in his work

Journalism and Conflict. A Reading of Journalistic Activity in Light of
the Encyclical Pacem in Terris

, journalists “must constantly try to interpret facts so as not to make
themselves complicit in the propaganda strategies of the contending
parties. Wars are never clean, despite attempts to diminish the terms to
justify the cruel¾or even brutal¾actions they entail or simply to falsify
their motives: expressions such as “selective elimination,” “liberation”
for invasion, “friendly fire,” “collateral effects,” “coalition of the
willing,” “axis of evil,” “resistance” for terrorism, etc. hide the
reality. At other times¾and it happens often when there are still no
casualties, blood, or destruction to show¾journalists focus almost
obsessively on the ritual of the technological display of weaponry¾as if
dazzled by the morbid fascination of evil¾evil that is presented at that
moment only virtually and is therefore harmless.”

If one is engaged in the field of information, it is a pity to give more
importance to sales than the truth. In order to consider this job a genuine
“service,” one must be first and foremost concerned with the common good.


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