Can important “good news” offset traditional “if it bleeds it leads” news? Ariana Huffington says yes, indeed, and undertakes to prove it.
Here’s the essence of Ms. Huffington’s rationale:
“This ethos [‘if it bleeds it leads’] is wrong, both factually and ethically. And it’s lousy journalism. As journalists, our job is to give our audience an accurate picture — and that means the full picture — of what’s going on in the world. Just showing tragedy, violence, mayhem … misses too much of what is going on around us. What about how people are responding to these challenges, how they are coming together, even in the midst of violence, poverty and loss? And what about all the other stories of innovation, creativity, ingenuity, compassion and grace? If we in the media only show the dark side, we’re falling on our jobs. And, what’s more, it turns out that we are also failing to give our readers and viewers what they want.”
That rationale reflects the thinking of many prominent social thought leaders. Two of many examples:
In his 2011 volume, The Better Angels of our Nature, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker wrote that despite society’s progress over many centuries toward non-violence, “Our cognitive faculties predispose us to believe that we live in violent times, especially when stoked by media that follow the watchword ‘if it bleeds, it leads.'” And just this past weekend, New York Times syndicated columnist Nicholas Kristof framed the fundamental issue in a delicious historical allusion: “Can you name the discover of the small pox vaccine? Probably not: Edward Jenner is little known today. He lived roughly when Napoleon did, and …he managed before he died to save millions more lives than Napoleon cost in his wars over the same period.”
At Business in Society, admittedly on a smaller scale than “What’s Working”, for two years we’ve been reporting and analyzing the good news of “positive business” addressing macro social issues http://bit.ly/M51RAk . Two reasons: Because, as Ms. Huffington eloquently avers, it’s time for the general public to know about such interesting and significant progress; and this kind of reporting might well multiply such corporate social responsibility efforts in the global business community. Our programs such as “Business For Peace” and “Women’s Career Advancement” have had special resonance among various audiences reached via social and traditional media.
When a heavyweight joins the “good news” ring, everyone — yes, including other journalists — should pay attention.