Posted by: Lucila Cejas | October 9, 2014

There’s No News Like Bad News

One of the topics that stood out to me in our reading was bad news. Studies have shown that men are more drawn to negative news, while women are more interested in positive news. The biological explanation for this is that it is in the male’s natural response to detect and investigate something negative to be able to protect their offspring, while females are naturally repelled to it for the same reason.

Journalism has always been a male-dominated industry. Men would determine what was news and how it would be covered, and women were more directed towards “soft news”.  But is news about gender anymore? Or is it more about shock value? Headlines usually focus on murder, treason, scams, and illegal activities. The advent of social media has democratized the ability to create and share information, yet we usually see our friends (and ourselves) sharing what is commonly known as “downers”.

Generally speaking, society becomes less violent with time, yet the news becomes more pessimistic. Why is that? Do we need to learn about bad people so we know what kind of dangers are out there? Do we need to read about misery so we can hold our kids tighter at night? Or do we seek for injustices in the world just to tell ourselves that it could be worse? Sometimes it feels like negative news becomes a part of the discourse only for people to have a “legitimate” instance to be full-blown judgmental.

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Responses

  1. “The news only covers bad things” was the most repeated complaint I heard during my time working for a local news station—and sadly, it’s true. Tragic or shocking news stories are more exciting to work on and often churn the most activity/reaction from the audience. Over time, those that do work in the news industry become desensitized to terrible news and it all becomes a decision between what’s “newsworthy” and what story is going to be the “kicker” at the end of the show?

    Referring to the Hierarchial Model outlined in Chapter 1, Gans (1979) and Gitlin (1980) categorize a few theoretical perspectives on what shapes media content. One category suggests “content is influenced by other social institutions and forces,” or “giving the public what it wants,” and from my personal experience with the industry I feel that negative news is publicized more often because it grabs more attention. Negative news sparks conversation and debate among the audience, it picks up the most “click bait” and it makes reporters feel proud of themselves and the work they do. (Which is also categorized: “Content is influenced by media workers’ socialization and attitudes.”)

    This past spring the New York Times ran an article about how some journalists are now paid to write depending on the amount of work they produce and the amount of traffic it generates.

    (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/24/business/media/risks-abound-as-reporters-play-in-traffic.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&_r=2)

    The author, David Carr, writes, “Gee, it’s almost like news is supposed to be a business or something.”

    Which makes me wonder, if all news organizations move towards models like the one I mentioned above, does that reduce the organization, or even the journalist’s credibility?

  2. I’d quote and respond to every sentence you wrote but it would all be variations of: Mmhmm; yep; I agree; true; yes, you’re right. I couldn’t have said it any better.

    :thumbsup

    My only comment is that perhaps we feel the need to absorb such a large volume of negative content so that we can point our fingers and tell our selves, ‘at least I’m not that’.


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