A recent report in the New York Times stated that local TV newscasts are expanding. According to Bob Papper, a Hofstra University professor who surveys local television staffs, “the average amount of news went up 18 minutes per weekday in 2010. I suspect we could see an even bigger jump in 2011.” While it’s always good news when companies are hiring, I wonder whether expanding the amount of TV time dedicated to the news is good?
Fear sells. Watch any broadcast and you’ll see a relentless negativity in their storytelling. Given the reduced resources most TV stations have, often the same stories get recycled over and over again pounding in the idea that the world is a very scary place. For our economy to recover people need to feel optimistic about both our overall economy and their own personal situation. They won’t spend money otherwise. How can we expect consumer confidence to increase when almost all of our newscasts are reporting only the downside of everything?
How is it even possible that there is nothing good happening in the world? I’m not suggesting that we have a Pollyanna-ish view of the world but where is the “fair and balanced” approach when it comes to reporting both the positive and the negative?
You can’t blame the TV station—they’re trying to attract advertisers and advertisers are looking for audiences. We’re the ones who are tuning in. CBS Sunday Morning is the only program I know of that even seems to have a mandate to look for the positive. Unfortunately their demographics don’t attract the same type of advertisers that the other, more negative, programs do—which means the show has less money to work with, limiting their ability to report on positive news.
In our work, we’ve found that limiting exposure to the news provides the biggest positive impact on a person’s perspective in the shortest amount of time. It’s up to us to let stations know how we want to hear the news. In the meantime, consider limiting your news exposure and challenging the fear-based conclusions so many newscasts seem to espouse. Remember “no news is good news!”