I consider myself a bit of a news junkie. I inject myself with several pages of it daily (though sometimes I freebase it).
I get all my news from online. When I’m travelling and I can’t get on a computer, I freak out a little. I feel anxious, because I know that the news cycle is so quick that even missing one day means that there are things I’ll never know about. I was on my honeymoon when Michael Jackson died, and I never really got closure (he just still seems alive to me). For some irrational reason, that scares me, even though I know it’s probably not that big of a deal.
I’m used to news being largely “negative.” It’s not really negative, it’s news, and a story is only news if something changes. No one writes a story about how the Eastern Seaboard or Gulf Coast of the US are free of hurricanes at the moment. There are no articles about how someone didn’t get murdered (unless a plot was foiled). It’s just not news if things are going as planned… that’s sort of the nature of news.
It always irritates me when people think we need more positive news stories. The positive news stories are almost always the ones I skip, because most positive news stories are feel-good bullshit. There is the occasional interesting piece, but even when it’s a cat who can sense someone has cancer, or a 5 year old who called in a house fire and saved his family, the good ones worth reading still have a little dark side to them (someone got cancer and the house fire happened).
What would people like to have done? It’s not as though they can trust news editors to put in “positive” stories. Editors all know: if it bleeds, it leads. No self-respecting news agency will freely insert fluff pieces into their otherwise important news of the day. News is for information, not making people feel better.
No, if you want the news to make you feel better, you would basically need a government mandate. China has lots of feel-good stories in their news. Sure, you might not hear about the lung-clogging smog or violent suppression of protesters in the Chinese news, but you’ll come away from reading or watching it believing things are going great… even if it’s a lie.
I don’t think that’s what Americans really want, not even the ones who are upset about how “depressing” the news is. I’m fairly confident that Americans like the freedom of the press, not news agencies whose primary goal is to make us all smiling, naïve fools. Yet, that’s what you get if the media focuses on “positive” stories, not real news.
Sometimes, I have to wonder… does the average American (or anyone from anywhere) really know what they want, let alone what they need? Sometimes I get the feeling people just want everything to cater to their happiness, and I don’t want to believe that’s true. I don’t want to believe that people are that self-centered, that sheltered, or that eager to be willfully ignorant. I don’t want to think those things… but I do, because it’s probably true, and it’s better to consider the truth than to embrace comfortable deceptions.
If you aren’t outraged at least five times before lunch, you aren’t reading enough proper news.