It often feels like the only news is bad news. We’re more connected to the media than ever before, with 24/7 updates from around the world and constant notifications straight to our pockets.
Unfortunately, a lot of the time that news is negative. So how do we keep our heads above water in the face of so much negativity?
While news is an irreplaceable resource for keeping up with the world, it’s also important to understand that it doesn’t cover everything. With so much happening all the time, news organizations have to pick their battles and ask themselves an important question:
You may have heard of the phrase: “if it bleeds, it leads.” This refers to the common (though not universal) practice of news organizations choosing sensational or violent topics for coverage ahead of more positive topics. The story doesn’t have to be a violent crime, it just needs to be framed in a way that shocks the reader and grabs their attention.
This practice has existed since the very first newspapers started competing. But, as social media has grown to replace newspapers, the practice of having a “front-page” story that hooks the reader has evolved.
Now, every story needs to be “front-page” worthy, since media companies are competing across dozens of articles every single day.
This changes how the news is written.
If a story isn’t sensational, journalists have learned how to make it so. You could almost call this: “if it doesn’t bleed, make it.” This means that coverage of fairly straightforward topics can be made controversial for no reason other than generating attention.
It’s important to be aware that this practice exists, and has become fairly normalized within the media. Approaching news mindfully means being aware that writers are looking for ways to inject controversy into their coverage.
With that said, the vast majority of journalists take immense pride in their pursuit of truth. The fact that this practice exists doesn’t mean the media is lying, but it does mean that news can feel negative even when it’s not. At the end of the day, the news is written by people, and shouldn’t be read as gospel.
Having a certain amount of skepticism is healthy, as taking everything at face value can be a recipe for negativity.
Here are some tips to apply to your daily news ritual.
- It might be a good idea to take a break from news, if something really important happens your friends and family will be there to inform you.
- If you’re reading the news, be mindful of some of the methods journalists use to grab your attention.
- Don’t take everything at face value. Think about the people being quoted, or where the information is coming from.
- Don’t mistake opinion pieces for news. Editorial writing can be a great way to generate discussion, but is completely different from a report.