Balanced perspectives require balanced news

Australian bush fires. The assaniation of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. The impeachment and acquittal of President Trump. A contentious Democratic presidential primary. Fatal plane crashes. A deadly global pandemic leaving at least 119,000 people dead in the United States alone. An economic recession. Videos of deadly police brutality brought to light. Civil unrest nationwide. Peaceful protests in the streets.

We are not even halfway through 2020, and headlines about all of these events have dominated national papers. While these stories are unequivocally important to pay attention to, it is important to strike a balance between consuming negative and positive news. In the age of horse-race media, many national news organizations only focus on the atrocities—and even attempt to further dramatize them. Citizens must and should seek out positive news, especially within their immediate communities. If we don’t, we are not only at risk for consuming overly negative, sensationalized information, but we can also fall victim to adverse effects of constant negative news. 

In the wake of national protests condemning the onslaught of police brutality, many news organizations have focused reporting on violence and looting within big cities. Yet social media posts show that many of the protests have been peaceful, with demonstrators harmoniously coming together to support justice. 

Big network television organizations, such as CNN, often focus too much on exhibitions. Narrow shots of buildings on fire, broken storefronts, fireworks, and teargas are all shown on primetime television. In reality, while all of this is taking place in a small area of a city, peaceful demonstrations persist outside the small scope of destruction. To put this into perspective, 450 businesses reported looting in New York City. While this may seem like a big number, the city boasts a greater number of Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants, with 612 total locations, as of 2017. 

Junior Nathaniel Thrush thinks that the media is concentrating too much on the negative aspects of the protests. “I think there could be a lot more positive coverage of the protests, certainly from every publication,” he said. He also thinks that only reporting on violent events can affect the larger society: “Portraying everything as a war is pretty terrible,” he said. “And it polarizes everybody.”

Shashi Arnold

The lack of coverage of positive events cheats the citizenry of understanding a deeper truth about the current anti-racist movement. It isn’t only about protesting––which has sometimes evolved into looting and rioting–– it’s about coming together in support of black communities. Violence isn’t nearly the entire story. Tales of peaceful protests and vigils have yet to dominate news cycles in the same way. 

While many could argue that addressing violence is more pressing to the needs of society than videos of people singing, it is important to note that many people seek optimistic news to keep their spirits up during times of unrest. For example, an Instagram account with the username “Upworthy” is devoted to posting positive content and has 1.3 million followers and counting. 

Upworthy has seen tremendous growth within the last month, demonstrating that  the desire for positive news is greater than ever. Even more established media organizations, such as the Washington Post, are racing to meet demand. The Washington Post has created “The Daily Break,” a section that  draws attention to one inspirational story a day. They have also changed their once weekly positive newsletter “The Optimist” into an article that is sent twice a week. 

It’s no wonder that many seek positive news: Perpetually being surrounded by negative news can take its toll on the human psyche. Constant nerve-wracking and traumatic news produces stress hormones. When this happens so frequently, the body is unable to return to homeostasis, the ability of an organism to maintain internal stability, which causes further problems and affects both mental and physical health. 

A study from the American Psychological Association revealed that “news consumption has a downside” for many Americans, as it can cause anxiety, stress, fatigue, and less sleep. 

According to the Washington Post, rates of mental illness among Americans have been climbing within the past month, during a time in which every headline seems worse than the previous one. A poll released on May 26 reported that at least a third of Americans are suffering from symptoms of clinical depression and anxiety. 

In order to keep people happier and healthier amidst the age of social distancing, quarantine, and mass protests, we need to consume more positive news. Thrush thinks that if he consumed more happier news, he would possess a different political outlook. “I think I would be less pessimistic about the way the country's going,” he said. “Everything I read about [Trump] is negative. And anytime I see a positive headline, I am very skeptical.”

In difficult times such as these, it is important to seek out and highlight the positives. Not only will it offer a different holistic truth, it will also brighten  social and political outlooks and bolster mental health in light of so much societal trouble and turbulence. 

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