Is there a need for Indian media to regulate BAD NEWS in 2020 and beyond?

The current coronavirus environment especially over the last few months has taken a toll on people in India. The challenging situation has burgeoned into a catalyst for unhappy news. News about COVID-19, news about the deaths due to coronavirus, news about the apathy of migrant workers, news about corporate retrenchment, news about struggles and survival, and so much more is being relentlessly bombarded on every screen. The accumulative effect of this negative news or bad news in some ways is effecting people’s mindset, sense of security and overall confidence during the lockdown. So, with everything happening now is there a need for Indian media to regulate bad news? Does India need more good news in the latter 2020 and beyond?

Am sure it won’t hurt us Indians to get a measure of positive news in newspapers, on TV and in our daily dose of WhatsApp to help us tide over this gloomy crisis. It’s time to understand the role of both good news and bad news to reach the end of the tunnel where abundant sunshine awaits.

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Meaning of Good news and Bad news

Good news is something pleasant, fortunate, or positive. It may have come into existence from the time of The Gospel in Christian theology or maybe even earlier being spread by town criers and ballads. Good news creates a happy mood, optimistic attitude and a sense of contentment. Even reading positive news has scientifically proven to lift one’s spirits.

On the other side, bad news is defined as what is troublesome, unwelcome, and/or dangerous. It is the information that adversely and seriously affects an individual’s view of his or her future, producing a negative alteration in one’s expectations.

The birth of bad news

The earliest known example of bad news was an eyewitness account of the gory blood bath of the Battle of Flodden (1513) between the English and the Scots. 

From then till now, the art of spreading bad news has only amplified in proportion and got more accepted as a way of life. In order, to compete in media space bad news became the much-needed selling tool. Almost all the world’s major newspapers who relay news via print or online editions of their paper, adopt the methodology of conveying disturbing and dramatic news to sell their stories and increase viewership. Somewhere in this race to market news, good news became the tortoise and bad news the rabbit of Indian media.

In 2020, it appears good news has become a scarcer commodity. In our quest to be well-informed at all times, television, radio, and online content is exposing us to a great amount of disaster news and sometimes even fake news, which can cause anxiety, mood disorders and that can even lead to depression.

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India handling bad news in 2020

With Covid-19, India will be faced with a mental health crisis. The economic and daily life disruption caused by the coronavirus has led to an increase in the level of anxiety, alcohol dependence, and starvation. Burdens of loan and job losses in the lockdown, point towards a more difficult situation. There may be an increase in suicides attributed to economic hardships. If the farmers’ suicides were not an eye-opener, this could be. India has 16.5 suicides per 100,000 people. So, can dispersing more negative news increase the incidence? Can India handle a sustained surge of bad news in the coming months of 2020?

Why does Bad News win?

In 2019, the media showed a 28% rise from 2018, in negative headlines and resulting stories required to sensationalize the news. Media agencies for years relied on one attention-seeking success mantra – if it bleeds, it leads. They have delved into the human psyche well knowing the population is wired and habituated to live in a world filled with negative news. Time and again, it has been proven that people prefer negative news over positive stories. Negative news impacts the brain. It catches the reader’s attention faster, it prompts and entices people to act quicker in relaying the information, and it leads to individuals to further pursue more related news. Thereby, for any news outlet to remain in business, negative stories have become a mainstay journalism. Lately, as per Quora estimates, approximately 90% of all media news is negative. With the advent of digital news, even “clickbait”, stories are used to peak curiosity and make readers click, thus generating income for the website owners. 

Now is also the time to be more aware of the news circulating around – is it authentic? Websites like www.altnews.com do help to verify and authenticate the information.

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The Media Awakening – The need for good news

Having realized that anxiety caused by bad news affects around 28% of people, today newspapers have started ‘good news’ sections featuring positive news stories in their print/online publications. Besides, there are several websites that publish inspiring and positive news stories and instagram stars like Atul Khatri who promote ‘Only Positive News’.

Both in India and on an international level, encouraging alterations are being introduced. To name a few publications/websites who have started to run good news or inspirational stories are,  

Even Google searches for good news have started to grow. In December 2019, there were close to 78,000 searches for the words ‘good news’.

How can we ‘bad news proof’ ourselves?

To ‘bad news proof’ ourselves, means to increase happiness levels. Here’s 12 basic things we should do to play down negative emotions caused by bad news and instead increase happiness:

  1. Stop following negative news
  2. Follow websites that have inspirational or funny stories and positive quotes
  3. Remind yourself feel good stories reach a feel good factor
  4. Refrain from social media at least in the first one hour of waking up
  5. Read a book as time away from TV and computer screens
  6. Every day write down the one good piece of news you hear/read
  7. Begin your day with a 20-minute brisk walk to get the heart pumping
  8. When you befall unpleasant news dissuade immediately any further negative thoughts and instead replace with positive thoughts
  9. Avoid negative people
  10. Stay connected with the sub-conscious state of mind to find what you can do to turn around/ help in the event of some tragic news
  11. Phone a friend

A culture of hiding good news

In some cultures like ours, the phrase, ‘Nazar lag jaegi, keeps people from sharing good news. They have been conditioned to believe that the envious eye of someone could uphold one’s happiness so better to refrain from spreading anything happy.  Good news can be anything from an achievement or an act of bravery, to a government policy or pioneering solution. A good news article takes these little bits of achievement to tell a story. It aims to be objective and not biased. It propagates the person and his/her achievement. Now is the time to rid the adage and mindset about ‘Nazar lag jaegi and to make place for abundant inspirational good news stories to become a regular feature in the media. If not in equal proportion, the 60:40 ratio can be a good start.

Conclusion

People don’t favour bad news over good news. It is the media that has chosen to keep it that way because bad news is money. With a limited attention span of readers/viewers and their heightened ‘morbid curiosity’, most networks today prefer to invest their resources to track news on disasters, murder, sex, violence, crime, etc. Good news, on the other hand is perceived as common and is least noteworthy and even less likely to be newsworthy. Sometimes getting too much good news might make people distrust the ground reality. After all, we don’t live in a Utopian era.

Though good news might not quite pique the interest of the Indian public to the same degree, as bad news does, it surely has a better effect on the readers/viewers’ mood and overall mental wellbeing.

At this juncture we want the news channels to provide positive news reassuring government intervention to help the nation tide over this most unusual coronavirus situation. An overdose of continued bad news is not the need of the hour.

Yes, INDIA does need more GOOD NEWS in the latter 2020 and beyond…

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