News Reporting: Negativity is conditioning us to only be negative!

I had an interesting conversation over the weekend about the way news is reported in Australia, and more broadly, and the conclusion that was reached around the dinner table was that news reporting has become so negative on the free to air TV in Australia that we have become so conditioned to the negative things reported that:

a) Nothing really surprises us anymore; and
b) We expect negativity and thus, by extension, are becoming more and more negative.

It is difficult to believe, for example, that the Columbine High School massacre was only 15 years ago and that our reaction, in Australia, to that massacre was, as I recall it, nothing short of hysteria (and rightly so). Now, in the shadows of similar events seemingly occurring on an, if not monthly, then bi-annual basis we seem to react in a way that it almost dismissive. What I mean is that we, as a body of individuals, seem to simply accept what has happened without demur and get on with life rather than react with a level of sorry that is appropriate to the horror of the news we are hearing.

Another news story of late goes to the question of negativity: the recent kidnapping of a 3 year old girl in Childers was a horrific story. Did anyone who heard that story not immediately think the worst: that the young girl had been murdered? And then when the young girl was found did anyone who heard that story not immediately think that something “fishy” was going on? Rather than be overjoyed for the family of the young girl, our thoughts immediately went to the negative.

If all one hears and sees is the negative then of course one starts to become conditioned to the negativity and not respond to it. Now I concede that there are some horrid things that go on in the world from time to time AND we need to know about them. However, there are a significant number of positive and local stories that we do not hear about or see simply because there is so much negativity to report that it gets lost in the rush to be negative.

I am a vociferous reader of news: there is no newspaper, online paper or blog that I will not read assuming it is within the ares that interest me. I do not watch news broadcasts on TV nor do I read, bizarrely, much of the locally produced newspapers. The balance of those programs lost me some time ago. I have found that as I have picked what I read and focused on reading what I enjoy, that I am reading much less negative news.

The focus on negative news is detrimental to not only the adults in our community but also the children. I have a number of friends with children who comment when asked that they do not listen to the news much nor watch the news with their children any more because it is so negative and, in some cases, so graphic that they will not put them through it. This is a travesty: how does a child learn about the world around them without seeing what is going on in said world.

I think we would all be much better off if the focus of our news services and free to air tabloids was on the positives in the world rather than the negatives. Positivity does not sell papers nor attract more viewers so the said news services / tabloids will never change their focus. That is saddening but reality. I hope a day never comes when we are so disassociated from what is horrific that we are no longer empathetic to those suffering. Then again, I am left to wonder if we are not already there.

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