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TMCNet:  Why 'good news' is hard to find

[November 26, 2012]

Why 'good news' is hard to find

Nov 26, 2012 (The Aegis - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- I sometimes hear comments about how negative the news is. "When you turn on the TV," people say, "all you see is crime, death, violence and destruction." Or, as one area resident said recently: "The only time [my community] makes the front page of The Aegis is when there's a car crash." I sympathize with these views. I understand how depressing it can be when it seems like there is nothing good happening in the world, or in your own backyard -- or conversely, when you see good things happening but "the news" still seems to always be bad.

There's a limit to what I can say about "negative" news coverage because, as you might guess, I have a job to keep.

A big part of why there's negative news is because people keep reading or watching it.

But I will also say this: it's important to remember that media outlets cover events that are "newsworthy" -- that is, unusual, uncommon, surprising, shocking, etc.

The truth is, the vast majority of things that happen on a given day are overwhelmingly good (or "uneventful," which I would argue is just as good).

We could probably fill dozens of Aegises every day with all the things that didn't go wrong, all the good Samaritans, all the hundreds of acts of compassion that I see every day and I'm pretty sure you do, too.

So media coverage should make you conclude that 99 percent of these positive events aren't "newsworthy," which is, literally, really good news.

It means the crime, the death, the conflicts and the craziness are anomalies -- especially when you see other news like, for example, Harford County being the second-least-violent county in Maryland, according to state uniform crime reports (a story we did report, by the way).

This reminds me of a conversation I had back in middle school, in the cafeteria, when I said I thought most people were basically good.

My friends thought I was crazy and argued people were mostly bad, or that the world was mostly bad (I'm paraphrasing a lunchtime argument from almost 20 years ago; cut me some slack.) To me, the world was like a chocolate-chip cookie, with the bad things being like the chocolate chips. You notice them because there are fewer of them; they stand out. You forget that most of the cookie is the dough (the good things) because dough is boring. There's too much of it, and nobody likes too much cookie dough (note to anyone baking me chocolate-chip cookies anytime soon!).

My friends remained unconvinced, although, in fairness, it was hard to publicly convince anybody of anything in middle school.

Even if your life seems horrible right now, I am willing to bet that if you made a list, the good things in your life would still outweigh the bad things. You just have to know how to see them. (Hint: Add things like "Living in the richest country in the history of the world" to the "good" side.) So here's the really, REALLY short answer to my headline question: "Good news" is hard to find because it's everywhere. It is literally all around you, and it's hard to see because it's so obvious.

A better source than the mainstream media for proving this idea might be security cameras, as shown in the great YouTube video "Security Camera Video Captures Good Too": https://www.youtube.com/watch v=C0fAnwX76aI .

And so, the newspaper is not a reflection of how the world "really" is. It is only a reflection of the news.

More specifically, it's a collection of "stories," as we call them in the newsroom, a way of categorizing the world, and that's never the whole truth.

Maybe someday the world will be so absolutely, undoubtedly good that even the media won't have anything bad to report.

I would probably be out of a job. Then again, maybe I would just get to do a news report like the one made up by the band Carbon/Silicon in their song "The News:" "Good morning, here's the news / And all of it is good / Good evening, here's the news / And all of it is good / And the weather's good!" Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! ___ (c)2012 The Aegis (Bel Air, Md.) Visit The Aegis (Bel Air, Md.) at www.baltimoresun.com/explore/harford/publications/the-aegis Distributed by MCT Information Services

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