Isn’t it terrible? I don’t know what the world’s coming to. So many awful things happening. It makes you wonder where it’s going to end.
I hear this all the time from so many people, reacting to the daily diet of news served up.
Watch the TV news, check the news websites, read the printed newspapers and you will be greeted by a relentless, unending slew of wall-to-wall tragedy, death, destruction, mayhem and misery.
There are of course terrible things that happen – and yes, we do need to be aware of the worst events and aspects of life. But when was the last time you saw more than one item of good news in amongst the daily diet of disaster?
The policy of “if it bleeds, it leads” gives a disproportionate impression of the world that we occupy. I very often hear people saying they have “given up on watching the news” or they don’t read news sites or newspapers any more. That is a dreadful state of affairs, as the incumbent power and money merchants rely on laziness and ignorance on our part to keep them in the style that they are accustomed.
Those that keep watching include a large population of viewers and readers scared stiff into staying quiet and buying more weapons, home security – and most critically – clinging to the ones that scared them in the first place. First you frighten them, then you take their money by providing the kit and tools they believe will keep them safe. Brilliant.
Of course if you suggest that the news served up is unbalanced, the media types respond automatically with the hysterical claim that you are somehow advocating a “Soviet style censored and good news-only agenda”. Nonsense. What we’d actually appreciate is a bit of balance.
To illustrate the point, a genuine reflection of reality in a news bulletin would sound something like this:
“Good evening, here is the news. Today in Nottingham, nothing happened. Hundreds of thousands of people went about their business and nothing bad occurred. The same was true in Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh and 3,278 towns and cities around the country. In Cornwall, 99.9987% of the population also had an uneventful day, getting up, having breakfast, going to work and coming home to watch the telly. One person was badly injured in a mugging incident which left them in hospital. If you check the other news channels, that last story is the only one they will be covering…”
Of course, nobody would watch it. Because it’s boring. But that’s largely what day-to-day reality is like. Nothing much out of the ordinary happens. What did you do last Tuesday? Unless you had a special occasion, you probably can’t remember. Neither can I.
So – do we let this happen? Do we actively feed the monster of ever-more salacious bad news? Or are we victims of a closed shop of negative news cartels? It could be argued that if we didn’t watch, read or buy the media output then they’d have to change. But in reality how feasible is that?
In theory the internet should bring ever-more diverse means by which to keep ourselves informed. Unfortunately, that stretches both ways. Any idiot with an agenda can set up and propagate their own warped view of the world. And who’s got the time or inclination to sift through to find out what is true? Far easier to just flick on the news or check the news apps.
I listen to BBC Radio 4. The perception that R4 remains an objective source of information has been a little shaky, particularly during the Brexit timeline. Interestingly, I’ve read comments accusing the BBC of being biased in both directions. This period has also brought out the worst in bias from the British broadsheet newspapers too. Whereas the “quality press” of the Times, Telegraph and Guardian have never hidden their colours too deeply, the sense of balance has historically at least been nodded at. I don’t get that sense any more.
So what are we to do? Listen to Morrissey, who advises us to “Stop watching the news, because the news contrives to frighten you…’. That feels like giving up. It feels like a surrender of our rights to be kept informed.
I do believe we have an active part to play in this. If the height of our aspiration is to be titivated by Love Island and to be enthralled by X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent, then quite frankly we deserve everything we get. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t watch these shows. They bring fun, entertainment and comfort to millions. I’m saying that we shouldn’t only watch these shows.
Regular readers will know that I’m an optimist. And there are grounds for optimism. Look at Blue Planet 2. The fact that the BBC continues to put money into programming of this nature is fantastic. And the fact that an entire country was galvanised into action over plastic waste was just brilliant.
What we need are those subversive positivity merchants. The ones who infiltrate the cartels to bring the occasions victory of good news. Or bring the angle that something can be done. The kind of things you see in local newspapers, local news channels – before the more talented reporters get whisked off to the global outlets and have that positivity knocked out of them.
What can we directly do? Respond when we see it. Flood the Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and websites with appreciative noises to let them know we read the good stuff, we like the good stuff; we want to see more of the good stuff.
In the meantime I’m off to read the news reports about my beloved Southend Utd’s third defeat in the first three league games of the season. I’m afraid nobody can put much of a positive spin on that one…