Normalizing negative news isn’t inherently bad

Photo by Maxwell Gawlick / The Peak

Written by: Shannon Foss, SFU Student

Bad news gets people talking because it has the shock factor, it’s tragic, and it’s probably something you can never imagine actually happening to yourself. Did you hear about the SFSS sexual harassment allegations? Did you follow the mother orca who carried her dead calf for days? I don’t recall “Running smoothly as planned” ever being considered newsworthy.

While it is important to stay informed, the decision to include and not include news stories in your personal feed is a political one. It’s also an easy decision to make when our media is  so encompassed by hate, money, and power.

The problem is, regular exposure to so much violence and negative news normalizes it, meaning each time we hear about a hateful crime or a disaster, it becomes less startling. The technology we use to consume this news diminishes it further, as consuming it through a screen puts a barrier between us and the events we read about.

This article itself may seem like negative news, so here is something positive about negative news: there are people and organizations like the Good News Network, Sunny Skyz News and Solutions Journalism Network. looking to bring more positive solution-based journalistic practices to news outlets. News doesn’t have to be an inherently negative subject in our media diet — it just depends on how it’s written and detailed.

But this is far from just the media’s fault. We as readers need to both think more critically of the sources and topics we read on, and follow up with calls-to-action. A call-to-action is an opportunity for a reader/viewer to engage and participate, through things like protests and petitions and sharing among certain group. This is something only made possible by technology and social media, and can counteract the distance that it causes between the screen and reality.

News and the things we consume in our media diet are more than headlines and distress. A regular stream of negative news topics is not inherently bad to have. Its effect on us and the world are determined entirely by how we read it, where it comes from, and what we do about it.